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Monday, March 2, 2015  |   Madison, WI: 7.0° F  
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Citizen Dave: Where's the left's equivalent of Paul Ryan?
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No other way to say it: Paul Ryan is a right-wing extremist.

His budget plan would essentially turn back 80 years of national consensus and replace Franklin Roosevelt's America with Calvin Coolidge's. He has a 100% voting record with the National Rifle Association, and is a hero among those who oppose reproductive rights.

And yet Paul Ryan is on the national ticket of one of the two major parties in the United States. If the polls are to be believed, he is a whisker away from being the next Vice President, and no matter how things turn out in November, at only 42 he'll be talked about for president at least as long as Harold Stassen was. Harold Stassen. Just Google him.

So, here's my question.

What if there were a Democratic politician who was unabashedly for the elimination of assault rifles and handguns? What if she was for complete funding of the reproductive choices of all Americans so that poor women had the same options as middle class women? What if that same candidate supported a death with dignity act that allowed people with incurable diseases to make their own decisions about how and when to end their lives? What if she supported the extension of Medicare to all Americans? What if that candidate understood the fact that global warming is a threat, that it is almost all human-caused, and that we need a massive effort, including a sizable carbon tax, to do something about it now? What if that Democrat thought we were spending way too much on the military and not enough on schools and intended to do something about it? What if she thought we should return to a progressive income tax and eliminate the special treatment of capital gains so that people who worked for their money didn't pay any more per dollar earned than people whose money worked for them? And what if that candidate thought that two people who loved each other and wanted the state to recognize their bond should be allowed to do that, and rather than just saying she believed it (as Obama has), actually did something to make it happen (as the president has not)?

I could go on, but you get the point. That candidate would be considered by the dominant strategists in the current Democratic Party as not a viable choice. And yet that candidate would have strong views that were the mirror opposite of Paul Ryan's and, in most cases, somewhat closer to the mainstream than his.

For all the well-deserved bashing that Ryan is taking from my party, the Dems need to ask themselves why they won't encourage the growth of unabashed liberals the way the GOP has allowed far-right politicians to blossom.

I'm not arguing for further polarization in politics. I'm arguing for an honest, principled debate between people who don't apologize for being conservatives and people who don't apologize for being liberals. A good debate, an election, and then the compromises that move a working democracy forward.

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