|How Badly Do You Want to Win?
By U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky
June 6, 2003
Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky (D-Illinois) made the
following speech at the Campaign for America's Future
conference in Washington DC on June 4, 2003.
Do you want a different President in 2004? I'm asking
this as a serious question, not a rhetorical one. Do
you want it badly enough to actually do what is
necessary to win the election that will take place
just 17 months from now?
Everywhere I go, everywhere every Democrat goes, we
hear, "Where are the Democrats?" And I take that
challenge seriously, and many of us are working day
and night to make ourselves heard, putting together an
inside/outside strategy with members who are willing
to use tougher language and "creative" tactics in
coordination with outside organizations.
Yes, we need more Democrats who believe, as Paul
Wellstone said, that "the politics of conviction is a
winning politics," but I challenge you to do the same
by asking, "Where are you?" I say that as an activist
and organizer myself and with a great deal of respect
for the work that all of you are doing. I acknowledge
the magnificent visibility of the antiwar activities,
and the web-based organizing that has generated
millions of emails to Congress, the work of the
Anti-Tax Cut Coalition and others. I say that with
enormous respect for the work of organized labor
nationally and locally. I know we are all grateful to
President John Sweeney of the AFL-CIO and his
incredibly effective leadership.
Even so, there have been too few examples of
viewpoints, other than those consistent with the
Administration's, breaking through to the public. If
we are to win, it's clear we need to do more, do it
louder, do it faster and do it better. And if we
don't, in 2008 we will live in a country and a world
far different from the one we have had and the one to
which we aspire.
This President is seriously undermining the rule of
law and the Constitution of the United States,
precious civil liberties and doing it all in the name
of patriotism. So where are the lawyers and judges?
Why am I not hearing your protests, your emails and
phone calls, your letters to the editor, your calls to
talk radio, your high-profile law suits? This could be
a bipartisan effort, one that stretches from left to
right. Privacy is a major concern for average
Americans and Big Brother is mining our most private
information as we sit here. I realized how serious
this was when a woman asked me how she could get
another perspective on the Iraq war and I suggested a
few web sites. She asked me if she went there if she
would find herself on a list. In all honesty, I found
that I couldn't say with confidence, "Absolutely no;
this is still the United States of America and you can
look at anything you want."
Lawyers, judges, where are you?
Seniors, where are you? I want to see sustained, loud,
angry activity. After all, the Republicans still want
to privatize Social Security and Medicare and cut
Medicaid so they can give tax cuts to their rich
friends and destroy those basic programs to boot. It's
a twofer for them.
Even veterans are not immune. Many veterans have to
wait 15 months just to get an appointment. The drug
companies are conducting a $150 million campaign to
prevent any move to lower drug prices, allocating $9.5
million to public relations, even $1 million to get
rid of the national health care system in Canada. When
I was director of the Illinois State Council of Senior
Citizens, our group was chasing Dan Rostenkowski down
the street. Seniors, now is the time to get on your
running shoes. You should be chasing George W. Bush
and Dick Cheney and Tom Delay all over the country.
Environmentalists: Alaska is melting; the journal
Nature reports that 90 percent of all large fish such
as tuna, marlin, swordfish, cod and halibut are gone
from our oceans; fuel efficiency of our cars is at a
22-year low. It's now considered patriotic, for crying
out loud, to drive a Hummer. So where the hell are
you? I want to read about you or even join you
protesting at hearings in Washington or Big Oil
shareholder meetings. We need the activists and
scientists to challenge this aggressively anti-science
administration. Some things we may be able to reverse
when we wrest power over the planet from their
control. But extinct is extinct.
My sisters, where are the demonstrations against the
war on women that is being waged every day in every
way. Today on the floor is the bill to ban the
mythical partial birth abortion, which is a thinly
disguised assault on fundamental reproductive rights.
On his first day in office, President Bush attacked
the poorest most vulnerable women in the world when he
cut U.S. funds for family planning funds for
organizations that have the gall to counsel, refer or,
God forbid, perform abortions in countries where it is
legal (which it happens to be in ours, by the way).
Our women in the military can't, with their own funds,
have a safe and legal abortion at a military hospital,
even if they are in Iraq or Saudi Arabia. A rabidly
anti-choice man who thinks that women's health
concerns can be cured with prayer now heads up the
Food and Drug Administration's Advisory Committee for
Reproductive Health Drugs. They want to eliminate
Title IX, equal opportunities for women in education
and sports; they've done little to help victims of
sexual assault and domestic violence.
We all need to join in the efforts of organized labor
on behalf of ALL working families in this country.
This week we may be considering a so-called "Comp
Time" bill that shreds the basic concept of a day's
pay for a day's work, and makes the notion of
time-and-a half for overtime an idea of the past. Just
picture another four years of a Bush Administration
unfettered by concerns of re-election. Unions are not
in the 2008 picture. In 2008 there may not be any
public employees let alone public employee unions.
Everything will be privatized and contracted out.
Private sector unions will be under siege, constant
well-financed referenda will happen in state after
state, legal assaults and investigations will take
place at every level, and we'll always be the target
of well financed media campaigns.
I salute the leadership that the religious leaders -
clergy and lay people - have shown on the war. Don't
stop now. "God is a Republican" is a guiding principle
for this Administration. As long as there are
Congressional resolutions and official days of prayer,
the United States can continue to preemptively attack
any country it wants. As Senate Leader Bill Frist said
at a large gathering I attended, "All you need to know
is the difference between right and wrong, good and
Their God is homophobic and anti-choice. The Secretary
of Education Rod Paige said, "All things equal, I
would prefer to have a child in a school that has a
strong appreciation for the values of the Christian
community. In a religious environment the value system
is set. That's not the case in a public school where
there are so many different kids with different kinds
of values." The dangerous destruction of the wall
between Church and State is well underway. It is
religious leaders and the faith community that needs
to address this.
Disability rights activists, immigrant advocates,
housing advocates, civil rights leaders, GLBT
activists, all warriors for social and economic
justice, thank you for what you do. And now we need to
do more, do it louder, do it faster and do it better.
Clearly they have a number of tools at their disposal
right now that we don't have.
They control the White House and are placing
ideologues at every level of the Administration, the
Senate and House and much of the judiciary.
They control much of the media and that creates a very
effective echo chamber for all their initiatives and
smear campaigns. The June 2 ruling of the Federal
Communications Commission lifting most restrictions on
consolidation will allow the Foxification and Clear
Channelization of even more.
They have most of the money, and their corporate
agenda and tax cuts for the rich ensure that fact will
They lie with impunity. Let's fact it. They're liars.
They lied about the reason they took our sons and
daughters to war. They spend millions of dollars in
campaign ads saying they are for a prescription drug
benefit under Medicare. They call their dirty air
legislation "Clear Skies" and their plan to give the
timber companies our trees, "Healthy Forests." They
call their job-killing economic program a "jobs
program." They say they are for peace when they are
for war. Millions of children are left behind under
their miserly "No Child Left Behind" education bill.
They tout a child tax credit and then silently drop it
in favor of more tax cuts for millionaires.
And perhaps most important, they are unafraid and
unabashed and unapologetic about pushing their
right-wing agenda, no matter what. They are always
playing offense. I used to think, oh they can't be
serious about this or that - another huge tax cut,
eliminating Title IX, continuing tax breaks for
companies that move their offices to Bermuda, locking
up immigrants indefinitely without due process, using
Federal dollars to build churches - it's just a trial
balloon. Forget it. They mean what they say and they
don't give up until they get it. This is where we come
If we are serious about getting rid of George W. Bush
in 17 months, then we have to make some decisions and
some commitments. During the war, a couple of nuns
came to see me in my Chicago office. They were on
their way to jail to serve a three-month sentence for
an aggravated misdemeanor for protesting the School of
the Americas in Fort Benning, Georgia. They crossed a
line in the road and now they were going to prison.
Think of it. Anyway, on their way to jail, they had
been arrested on Lake Shore Drive in Chicago in an
antiwar protest. The police got a bit carried away
even though the City Council had passed a strong
The nuns wanted to know what could be done to change
the state of affairs. I said I thought someone needed
to take voter registration forms to every meeting and
demonstration and get people fired up to vote. They
said that would be hard. Why? Because people were fed
up with the Democrats. I said, then they are going to
have to Get Over It, and you are going to have to help
them. Because like it or not, either George W. Bush or
the Democratic nominee, whoever he may be, will be our
All of you know who I'm talking about; I may be
talking about you. We should, by all means, be working
to promote a progressive agenda with each and every
candidate and to make the nominee as progressive as
But in the end, we are going to have to dedicate
ourselves to electing the Democrat. To do otherwise is
a luxury we cannot afford. I look forward to our
campaign for a universal health care plan or a real
education bill or labor law reform. We cannot even
have that conversation now. We are trying to hang on
by our fingernails to what we have now. And we are
The good news today is that we have them on the run on
several fronts. They were hoping that the conversation
this week would be about the flag burning amendment
that passed the House yesterday and partial birth
abortion. Instead it's about their decision to cut 6.5
million American families with 12 million children,
including families of service men and women, out of
their tax relief bill because they jeopardized tax
cuts for the rich. Some Senate Republicans realize
this level of greed may have been a tad too much for
most Americans, but Tom Delay, God love him, is really
steaming that Democrats are demanding action on the
issue. He says, "There are a lot of things that are
more important than that." Like more tax cuts for the
rich. He indicated that he'd think about it if it were
part of a package that permanently repealed the estate
The missing weapons of mass destruction are becoming a
real annoyance to them now, and the media is starting
to pick it up. More and more members of Congress, even
some Republicans, are asking for investigations.
Editorial boards are beginning to write about it.
We need to take advantage of these opportunities. The
polls tell us that the President is in fact
vulnerable. His re-elect numbers are not that great.
We have to do with fervor what we already know how to
do. We have to register base voters who have left us
at least in part because they think we don't speak to
them. And here you have another choice. You can bitch
that the Democrats don't speak to them, or you can
speak to them, one on one, door to door, worker to
worker, meeting after meeting, neighbor to neighbor.
Set a goal for yourself, personally, perhaps, 100 new
Democratic voters between now and Election Day.
Become part of a progressive echo chamber. When the
Republicans go after Tom Daschle or Nancy Pelosi for
being unpatriotic when they criticize the President,
Fox News and Rush Limbaugh begin spinning the same
line. We need to push back, writing letters to the
editor, calling talk shows, emailing Congress,
emailing Sean Hannity and telling him he's out of
line, calling them un-American for stifling dissent.
When Republicans launch a really bad proposal or
Democrats a good one, we need to have coordinated
efforts throughout the country. We need to use our
think tanks and grassroots and web-based organizations
in increasingly creative ways and coordinate that with
activities of the Democrats that are becoming more and
more vocal in the Congress.
You can tell the truth. We don't need to lie.
Democrats are better for their health and well being,
their kids' education and their family budget, and,
Republican propaganda notwithstanding, our national
security, stopping terrorism, and peace on earth.