Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Review of "Daybreak: Undoing the Imperial Presidency and Forming a More Perfect Union" – by David Swanson

Daybreak: Undoing the Imperial Presidency and Forming a More Perfect Union – by David Swanson

I want to live in David Swanson’s America.

David Swanson is an activist’s activist; I first became aware of him through the organization he co-founded, AfterDowningStreet.org. On May 3rd, 2005, through a link on Raw Story , I read about the Downing Street minutes, a recording of a meeting chaired by Tony Blair in which it was revealed that (as Rep. John Conyers wrote) “[the] British government and the United States government had secretly agreed to attack Iraq in 2002, before authorization was sought for such an attack in Congress, and had discussed creating pretextual justifications for doing so." I was just stunned, and even more stunned by the deafening silence from the mainstream media. Swanson and his co-founders were on it like white on rice, and I joined the group and bookmarked AfterDowningStreet.org as the ‘go-to’ website for information on the efforts to bring this into the light of day.

He has worked within politics, within peace groups, within labor groups, within communications groups, and his involvement in –and knowledge about – such a broad range of progressive issues and his hand-on experience with the inside workings of government and politics gives him a unique perspective on what is really going on in America; and, what’s more – what can and ought to be done to make it better.

I was thrilled to have David Swanson be the first person to review my book The Price of Right, and while it was not uniformly glowing I thought it was fair, made good points deserving of consideration and in general positive rather than negative, which is what one would hope for in a review, and I was glad to have it. One of his main criticisms was that, while I pointed out problems within our system, I did not present ideas for solutions to those problems.

When he was kind enough to send me his own book, Daybreak: Undoing the Imperial Presidency and Forming a More Perfect Union, to read and review, I saw why.

This book is sweeping in scope, and not only articulates the problems but nuts-and-bolts approaches to solutions to these problems from a progressive point of view. Swanson’s premise is that it is not a bad President or a corrupt party in power that is the root of our current trouble in America, but the imbalance between the so-called ‘three branches of government’, with an all-powerful, ‘imperial’ executive branch and a defanged, ineffective legislative branch, that has made the voice of the people unable to be heard.

Step by step, he outlines how the power grab by the executive branch during the Bush-Cheney regime has endangered, not only our present situation, but our future. The unprecedented powers that Bush and Cheney claimed for themselves – lying to Congress, starting a war of aggression based on those lies, ignoring the Geneva Conventions and habeas corpus, torture, illegal wiretapping, extraordinary rendition, abuse of the Justice Department – the list is so extensive as to be almost unbelievable; yet they have gotten away with all this and more; and they have yet to be so much as frowned at for these crimes – Congress (and the new President) seem to prefer to act like none of this ever happened, and want to ‘look forward rather than backward’. The reason that Cheney, Bush, et al. must be held accountable, Swanson asserts, is not, however, for revenge or retribution, which will not bring back one soldier or innocent civilian, but a far more important reason – to prevent future administrations from seizing those powers for their own use.

As much as the former administration abused the office, they could not have done so without the acquiescence of Congress, and this is what Swanson sees as a main point of his book. It is Congress that is the vox populi, and Congress which must stand its ground for the people if the American experiment is to succeed.

In this book, he clearly articulates, in very specific detail, not only what progressive values entail, but how they can be implemented. It is a radical approach, to be sure, and it’s difficult to imagine that these gigantic changes could happen in today’s climate of liberal timidity and conservative aggression. Some of these ideas are already on the progressive agenda – campaign finance reform, cutting the military budget, election protection, etc. However, Swanson goes further and dares to suggest solutions even many progressives would shy away from proposing - enlarging the House and eliminating the Senate, eliminating the electoral college, enlarging the Supreme Court and lessening its power, and tosses around other ideas requiring Constitutional amendments. As radical as these ideas may be, they are not idly thrown out – they are carefully researched and thought through. He carries progressive ideals to their logical conclusion, and it is only because we have gone so far in the opposite direction – towards corporatism and away from democracy, towards empire and away from a republic – that they seem so startling.

Swanson is more than an idealist – he has a firm direction and vision that he outlines in Daybreak, and has a history of successful and practical action working within the system as well as outside it. But, what is most important in my opinion, is that he works and fights for what he believes in, regardless of its chances of immediate success – and Daybreak is a practical handbook for change; the kind of change that is brought about by people who work towards their aim in the face of daunting opposition. Swanson is no stranger to that path, and this book is a call to those who are ready, with him, to ignore the ‘conventional wisdom’ and the naysayers, take on the big fight, and work for, not spare change, but real transformation – towards a ‘more perfect Union’.

Buy your copy of Daybreak here.

No comments: