BOSTON—You got a glimpse last night of what the Democratic Party might look like if the Clintons and their soccer mom contingent at the Democratic Leadership Council dropped out of the picture. It’s a party in which people could stand squarely against the war (Ted Kennedy) and not face the mockery of the press (Howard Dean). And it’s a party in which an appeal to minorities wouldn’t be one more slogan affixed to a percentage point in a poll, but a serious call for inclusion (Barack Obama). And it’s one in which women would be treated as equal to men (Teresa Heinz Kerry).
Best of all, out of the shadows of Donald Rumsfeld’s New Europe comes Teresa Heinz Kerry’s Africa. At last, ever so slowly, Africa takes its place as a formidable player on the world stage. And the Africa described by Teresa Heinz Kerry from her own life is not the pitiful beneficiary of a charity drive, the recipient of a small batch of AIDS medicine, but a continent born of a continuing struggle against the colonial West. It’s a place where the true enemies of the people are the pharmaceutical companies headquartered in the U.S. and Western Europe; the oilmen from Texas and France; the mercenary generals from South Africa and the U.S., with their private armies roaming the continent in search of gold, silver, platinum, cobalt, and bauxite for their Western mercantile patrons; and the diamond merchants from South Africa, Israel, and Belgium, with their blood contracts from Fifth Avenue. That this Africa should find a place—even a tiny tentative corner—within the Democratic Party is something completely new. Here is a reason to vote—more than just to bash Bush.
But the tone for the evening also came from another quarter: a dead Republican president’s son. Ron Reagan’s simple, direct talk supporting stem-cell research, based on his family’s painful experience with Alzheimer’s, amounted to a strong call for decent health care. Devoid of ridicule and political sloganeering, the Reagans make the Christian right seem banal, irrelevant. If there ever is any improvement in this country’s health care system, it is likely to emerge from the experiences of individuals and families like the Reagans. The Democrats may not like Nancy Reagan, but they cannot deny what she has gone through. If anyone embodies truth to power, it is this former first lady. The Republican right dare not celebrate Reagan as an icon and then deny his life experience. They cannot deny his widow and this son.