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Framed: Democrats Are Not Traitors

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Democrats Are Not Traitors

The following attacks require an immediate response:

Certain Republicans believe they can vilify Democrats by arguing that the Constitutional protections for our freedoms have prevented and will prevent our government from detecting and thwarting terrorist attacks. They believe that they can paint Democrats as traitors for resisting their attacks on the Constitution.

Democrats must respond to this pernicious meme by reframing the argument from the war on terror to the War for Democracy. This is the war to defend American freedoms from all enemies, and it is characterized by adherence to the essential freedoms of a democracy as represented in the Constitution of the United States.


If you or someone you know encounters any of these attacks, please go immediately to Forward Framing for repairs. The Constitution defines what it means to be an American. Anyone who does not support the Constitutional guarantees of freedom is un-American and certainly not a patriot. They have no standing to question your patriotism—or anyone else’s.

If you can reframe any of the above yourself, do so!

Example of use (don’t emulate):

Here are additional quotes from Donald Rumsfeld’s speech to the American Legion:

In response to Rumsfeld’s address, see Keith Olbermann’s response in this Countdown Commentary.

The Problem

Certain Republican-leaning pundits and others accuse liberals of being un-American, traitors or unpatriotic because we are resisting efforts to undermine guarantees of rights in the Constitution of the United States. This is intended to rally deeply patriotic Americans to vote Republican by painting Democrats as weak, on the premise that voters favor those who will strongly defend U.S. citizens from physical attacks.

If Democrats fail to answer these accusations successfully, then we stand to lose not only the short term prospects of taking back Congress in the next election, but of further cementing in the public’s mind that liberals are all of these repugnant things: un-American, unpatriotic, spineless traitors. This problem is made worse by past failures to aggressively defend liberalism and the patriotism of liberals.

The Cost/Benefits of Responding to Attacks on Our Patriotism

The primary cost of responding to these attacks is that many people view negative responses as unattractive. Successful response to these accusations requires a negative response because any positive response (like pointing out what good guys we are) will be seen as further confirmation of our weakness. In the short term, this means that many people who are predisposed to think badly of us will think very badly of us.

The benefit of responding is that we can get a small short-term boost and a large long-term boost. In the short term, it will eliminate the advantage that Republicans have with people in the middle by reminding them that patriotism is not solely a Republican preserve. In the long term, it will help repair the damage sustained to liberalism by repeated republican attacks, which will strengthen Democratic candidates across the board.

Realigning the Frame

Adherence and support of the rights guaranteed by the Constitution is the most important defining characteristic of Americans. All important officials in this country swear to uphold the Constitution when they are sworn into office. The rights in the Constitution are the rights that the original founders of the republic fought and died for in establishing the United States. All of the brave soldiers who fought in the United States military over the last two-hundred-plus years fought for those rights. Immigrants to this country must learn about these rights (and other factors) before they can become citizens.

An attack on the rights guaranteed by the Constitution is un-American by definition. Patriots are those who defend our country, which is literally defined by the Constitution. To attack the Constitution in any material way is to attack the United States and is a treasonous act on its face.

Therefore, anyone who seeks to limit the rights enumerated in the Constitution is, at best, unpatriotic, and at worst both un-American and a traitor. In fact, in that they don’t want to put themselves in harms way to defend our inalienable rights, they are cowards.

The Republicans, lead by George W. Bush, have attempted through numerous legislative initiatives to restrict or eliminate rights guaranteed by the Constitution. The President has also violated these rights in many cases, going so far as to ignore and abridge rights guaranteed by the Geneva Convention and order (or accept without stopping) torture of persons, both U.S. citizens and non-citizens, under U.S. control.

When you talk with anyone admitting to be a Republican, you need to find out if they understand and accept the degree to which the Bush Administration and his Republican backers have attacked the fundamental rights of Americans.

Rights Enumerated in the Constitution

Balance of Power

In addition, the basis of government in the United States was constructed to achieve a balance of power between various stakeholders. This includes a balance within the branches of the federal government, making each of the three branches (executive, legislative and judiciary) independent. It also includes a balance between federal, state and individual power. It also includes a balance between governmental power and the power of the press.

Ways in Which the Current Administration Has Weakened the Constitution and Violated the Laws

The most fundamental way in which radical Republicans have violated the Constitution is by a continued program of undermining the balance of power. They have used terrorism to give the President unprecedented powers to do virtually anything he wants.

This is similar to the power in ancient Rome given to a “dictator.” In Rome, the dictator was appointed for a limited time to solve a crisis, and was expected to return power to the Senate when that crisis passed. In some cases, dictators did their job and returned power. In other cases, they stayed on and tried to keep power until they died. Democracies from ancient Greece on have done this, sometimes with disastrous results. The German Reichstag appointed Hitler dictator. This is the danger of dictators, a danger that is incalculably more dangerous in the modern world with the power of electronic surveillance. It is not clear that a dictator in the modern world could ever be forced to give up power and return the country to democratic rule.

The Bush Administration and its supporters have also used their majorities in Congress to abuse the rights of the minority by threatening to end Senate rules that permit that group to filibuster legislation they oppose. They have also used their power to try to pack the Supreme Court (and lower courts) with biased appointees, threatened to de-fund courts that don’t agree with them, and launched public attacks on the power of the courts (by labeling judges they oppose as “activist judges.” These efforts are designed to weaken the judiciary so that Republican control of the other two branches will be unchecked by a truly independent judiciary.

Other areas where radical Republicans have attempted to restrict rights guaranteed by the Constitution:

In all of these, the abuse of prisoners taken by the U.S. under the label of “enemy combatants” is the most troubling. This is because it not only violates the Constitution and represents criminal behavior by the executive branch, but it also creates a publicity nightmare in the international community, where the U.S. has long been seen as the gold standard in human rights. The current administration has traded all this for a type of treatment that produces, at best, questionable information. In fact, generally, all of these violations are illegal, ineffective and unnecessary. The United States is not under any threat from terrorists to its existence. As Joseph J. Ellis pointed out in an op-ed in The New York Times, on January 28, 2006:

My first question: where does Sept. 11 rank in the grand sweep of American history as a threat to national security? By my calculations it does not make the top tier of the list, which requires the threat to pose a serious challenge to the survival of the American republic.

Ellis goes on to list the War for Independence, the War of 1812, the Civil War, World War II, and the Cuban Missile Crisis as examples of serious challenges to our survival as a country. He goes on to say:

Sept. 11 does not rise to that level of threat because, while it places lives and lifestyles at risk, it does not threaten the survival of the American republic, even though the terrorists would like us to believe so.

(Quoted from How Would a Patriot Act? by Glenn Greenwald, pages 99-100.)

What Progressives Value and Want

Fairness. The standards of conduct should work for all people. Neither males nor females should get preferential treatment by governments or institutions open to the public. Sustainability. Our beliefs and values about sex must be sustainable in the modern world. Consistency. The rules should be internally consistent so that they work regardless of the situation. This implies flexibility that takes into account real-life situations.


Counter—Phrases To Use in Place of the Banished Terms

These phrases are cleared for the list of policy terms. Feel free to add and elaborate.

What does treason mean? See "treason" vs. TREASON by Clammyc for definitions of “treason” by various pundits.

Potential Ads


Other Resources to Draw On


Remember: In order to be a patriot, you need to defend the fundamental American freedoms as represented in the Constitution. Anyone promoting the curtailment of those rights is attacking the United States and is un-American. Do not accept the implication that they are more patriotic than you and call them on their unpatriotic behavior.

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This page was last modified 20:00, 8 January 2007 by Rich Wingerter. Content is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License.

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