Reverend Al Sharpton
Dear MoveOn members,
In addition to progressives who are already activists, my campaign is attracting new people to register, vote and participate in politics. Many potential Democratic voters are currently alienated, unmotivated, and politically inactive. But my campaign is changing their minds, attracting their attention, and getting them involved in the process. I believe expansion is necessary for Democrats to regain and maintain the White House, the U.S. Senate and House in 2004 and beyond. Thus, whether I am the nominee or not – and I am working hard to become the nominee – I believe my campaign is necessary to enable Democrats to win in November of 2004.
I have made it clear that if I do not win the nomination, I will support the Democratic nominee who does.
I have some policy differences with all of my competitors, but I have not said one negative word about any of my Democratic opponents. And while I can support most of the policies and programs proposed or advocated by my Democratic colleagues as better than what we currently have – and certainly better than what Bush and the Republicans are offering – my approach in this campaign has been very different.
I argue that we must first establish the premise in the Constitution that the American people have an affirmative “right to vote,” a “right to a public education of equal high quality,” a “right to health care of equal high quality,” and “equal rights for women.” That would obligate all future candidates to propose legislative policies and programs in fulfillment of the right. In other words, I believe, strategically, my opponents are putting the cart before the horse, while my campaign seeks to put the horse before the cart.
I believe the right to vote, the right to a public education and health care of equal high quality, and equal rights for women – none of which are in the Constitution - are human and moral rights that must be made legal rights in the Constitution. That’s why four of the ten planks in my platform are House Joint Resolutions 28, 29, 30 and 31, legislation that would make these rights - the vote, education, health care, equality for women – new amendments in our Constitution. Charlton Heston believes in an individual constitutional right to a gun. I believe in an individual constitutional right to vote, education and heath care. You can read more about the amendments and my campaign at www.al2004.org.
I’m running a grassroots campaign, and I would like you to join our effort as a Sharpton supporter and activist. However, even if you are supporting another candidate, you might still be interested in supporting my agenda. I want your congressional representative to feel this campaign! Therefore, as a direct Sharpton supporter or as a supporter of the Sharpton agenda, I urge you to call 202.225.3121 and ask your U.S. Representative to sign onto H.J. Res. 28, 29, 30, and 31 as co-sponsors of these human rights constitutional amendments.
Thank you for reading this letter and considering my candidacy.
Reverend Al Sharpton
June 17, 2003
These seven questions were among the most popular of over 1,800 posted and rated by MoveOn members on a MoveOn ActionForum. You can also read all of the interview responses on a single page.
1. PEACE (see what other candidates said)
The Bush administration has established the pre-emptive war doctrine as a cornerstone of its foreign policy. There is no end in sight to the ways in which this doctrine can be misused -- simply observe the lack of evidence to support the case for war in Iraq. In other words, barring a change in policy, any country can become the target of our military might. Furthermore, pre-emptive war only legitimizes military aggression by other nations as well. Will you repeal Bush's pre-emptive war doctrine?
--Ricardo Cisternas, Engineer (June 12, 2003; Carlsbad, CA)
Yes. It’s a dangerous and traditionally un-American doctrine. If we can pre-emptively attack Iraq using shaky intelligence – “facts” and “an imminent threat theory” that was not convincing to most of the rest of the world - what’s to stop Russia from attacking Chechnya, China from attacking Taiwan, North Korea from attacking South Korea, Israel from attacking Iran or Syria, or Pakistan and India from attacking one another. Within the framework of the UN, if an attack on the United States is imminent, we already have the right of preemptive self-defense under existing international law.
2. FREEDOM (see what other candidates said)
The enactment of Patriot Act I is a dangerous erosion of civil liberties in the United States. The proposed Patriot Act II is even more frightening. The purpose of both pieces of legislations seems to be the stifling of dissent rather than improving security in the U.S. If elected would you revisit the Patriot Act with the view of revising or repealing it? If we cannot speak without fear, we aren't living in a democracy.
--Bonnie Mulligan, Supervisor (June 11, 2003; Lanham, MD)
Yes, I would definitely revisit them. They seem to be a throw-back to the COINTELPRO days of J. Edgar Hoover, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Black Panthers - making legal today what was illegal then. These “Patriot Acts” appear to be using the legitimate fear of 9/11 to pass illegitimate legislation. This legislation is unpatriotic in the most patriotic sense.
3. RELEVANCE (see what other candidates said)
I think many people using MoveOn.org are concerned with the disastrous effects of the current administration. However, my sense is that most of mainstream America either does not see the faults or is too scared, for reasons related to Homeland and economic security, to question Bush's authority. How will you, the candidate, frame your message and reach out to mainstream America to show how the upcoming presidential election is relevant to their situation and demonstrate how the actions, policies, corporate influence and diplomatic laissez-faire of Team Bush is unhealthy for our country and our future?
--Karen Zgoda, (June 12, 2003; Brighton, MA)
My campaign is based on fighting for human and constitutional rights. I believe that the vote, education, health care and equal rights for women are human rights that should be put in our Constitution as legal rights. That’s why I support Joint House Resolutions 28, 29, 30 and 31, which would add these rights in the form of new amendments to the Constitution. Fighting for human rights and constitution amendments would allow Democrats, Republicans and Independents to agree on the goals – that every American should have equal access to the vote, that every American should be given the opportunity and equal access to a high quality public education and health care, and treating every American, including women, equally under the law – even if we disagree on the means of achieving the goals. Our disagreements on the means should not keep us from agreeing on the goals – and, therefore, supporting the amendments. Human rights and constitutional amendments are non-partisan, non-ideological and non-programmatic.
4. TRUTH (see what other candidates said)
I would like to know when a Democratic candidate will summon the courage to publicly question the honesty and truthfulness of President Bush. The barrage of spin alluding to intelligence failures and misleading advice of Bush's confidants belies the fact that he alone is ultimately responsible for his words and decisions. Will any candidate demand the truth and an end to this conspiracy of deceit?
--John Kowalko, Machinist (June 12, 2003; Newark, De.)
I have challenged this Administration - one of the most closed and secretcrative in our history – to explain the apparent discrepancies in its words and deeds. It said Iraq was an “imminent” threat to U.S. national security. That appears not to have been the case. It said U.S. intelligence “knew” that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear weapons. We now know they desired, but didn’t have, nuclear weapons. And I assume we have inspected first the places where our intelligence said such WMD would most likely be found. They have yet to find any – even though President Bush mistakenly said we “found” some – i.e., the trucks! We “know” the Bush Administration misused, misled, exaggerated and maybe even lied about some information – e.g., the uranium from Niger tale. So, yes, this Administration has a lot to explain to the American people and I’m going to continue to press them to explain it.
5. SOCIAL PAIN (see what other candidates said)
The present Administration and Congress have enacted huge tax cuts and extreme military spending which may well limit the ability of government to address social needs (health care, education, affordable housing, poverty reduction, etc) for some time to come, as well as entrap future generations in debt. Meanwhile, social ills become more acute. How will you balance fiscal responsibility with the growing needs for health care reform, reinvestment in education and affordable housing, etc?
--Cindy Maxey, organizer, health care justice organization (June 11, 2003; Cleveland, OH)
First, I would repeal virtually all of President Bush’s tax cuts, since they mostly benefit the rich in a way that will not benefit the rest of us. I am not concerned per se about deficit spending in our present economic circumstance. But I am concerned about the current deficit spending that is primarily the result of tax cuts that will not result in creating a significant number jobs and balanced economic growth. A $50,000 debt is a $50,000 debt, but there is a difference if one $50,000 debt is the result of gambling and the other is the result of paying for an education. Education is likely to have a positive return, while gambling likely will not. Bush’s tax cut “gamble” is touted to result in over one million jobs being created – but his first $1.35 trillion tax cuts was to create 890,000 new jobs. Instead, we’ve lost 2.5 million private sector jobs. Contrast that with the 22 million new jobs created during the 8 years of the Clinton Administration.
6. ENERGY (see what other candidates said)
Without dependence on fossil fuels, the air and water would be cleaner and we could free ourselves from our poisonous and deadly entanglements with Middle-Eastern oil dictators. What is your view? Can you show the imagination, innovation and determination needed to serve our country through serving the environment?
--Hilary Jirka, Merchandiser (June 12, 2003; Chicago, IL)
Yes, converting our economy to renewable fuels as rapidly as practical and feasible would be one of my top priorities. I believe that protecting the environment is also labor intensive. Thus, creating a clean, safe and sustainable environment would also create jobs, not cost jobs.
7. ENVIRONMENT (see what other candidates said)
The Bush administration is engaged in an all out war against the environment. Nothing is safe in this assault - not our national parks, wilderness areas, endangered species, the water we drink or the air we breathe. The administration's energy and land use policies are based on the recommendations of private corporate supporters rather than on government-funded studies, their own appointees in the EPA or on public opinion (in keeping with the general disregard for civil rights, more and more often, public comment is not being taken into consideration - sometimes not even being allowed in environmental disputes). The short-sighted policies of this administration could have devastating effects on our country and our planet. Can the Democratic candidate assure us that he will support progressive environmental policies here at home, and assume a leadership position in the global effort to protect the environment?
--A.L. Zuckerman, Associate Producer (June 12, 2003; New York, NY)
Yes, strengthening and enforcing our environmental laws would be one of my top priorities. For me, the scriptural mandate that “the earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof” is a religious and spiritual mandate to be good stewards of what God has given the human race for sustenance, beauty and enjoyment. Protecting, preserving and sustaining it must be one of our highest priorities.