How Did We Get Here?
Six months ago you could ask any Democrat from Santa Barbara to Portland, Maine, and they would have said the same thing regarding the eight or so candidates seeking the 2008 Democratic nomination:
“I’ll take any of them!”
But “time changes everything” as the old song goes, and Chris Mathews was right when he quipped to Keith Olbermann during primary campaign coverage mid-season, “Democrats fall in love, Republicans fall in line.”
And now, like jealous lovers, the Obama and Clinton supporters look at each other with the kind of juvenile contempt we only save for high school crushes that go awry.
Typically, my fellow Dems are filled with sour grapes and tending toward being above it all once again. They fold their arms and sit back and wait for their candidate to do something overtly political (imagine that, from a politician!) or to say something untoward, that, no matter the context, violates their sense of the ideal, whatever that is, and boom! They’re outta here. I want to blame the right wing press for taking a race that had nothing but cohesion, nothing but solidarity, nothing but common ground between the candidates, and making a horse race where there really wasn’t one. But shame on the Dems, as usual, for falling into the trap. And a trap it certainly was. For in such a hostile environment, from the other side as well as their own, sooner or later something is going to be said that can be misconstrued, or a minor point of reference turned into a mountain of doubt.
To me, all the primary season on the Democratic side has accomplished so far is to shamelessly neutralize the Democrat’s toughest campaigner and greatest weapon while threatening to marginalize a majority of voters, i.e. women.
Hillary Clinton won 17 million votes. She won big powerhouse states like New York, Texas, and California. To not put her on the ticket is mindboggling and would, to me, be evidence that the dems are more interested in their own brand of bland reactionary politics than they are about winning. It’s easier, it’s safer, and doesn’t involve the messy chore of taking responsibility for actually governing the country.
Do rank and file Democrats take issue with Hillary on health care? No. Child Care? No. Is she weak on the environment? No. Foreign policy? No. Do they think she’d be a tough and reliable commander in Chief? Certainly. Can she claim an authentic connection to the economic successes of her husband’s administration? Of course she can. And yet the Democrats that I talk to here in and around the Capital of the Empire are more concerned about a sound bite from Geraldine Ferraro or the chimera of racial tension in the campaign – a totally fabricated notion – rather than the history of substance and advocacy demonstrated in Clinton’s record. Hillary Clinton is not a racist, period. I, for one, am astonished by the mere suggestion. If Obama doesn’t pick Clinton as his running mate it will be the biggest mistake since Kerry picked Edwards, who withered in his debate with Cheney, or since Gore picked Leiberman, a Republican in Dems clothing, since McGovern picked Eagleton, since Muskie cried.
The most interesting, and yes, ominous, stat to come out of the primaries was from South Carolina. In South Carolina, only 6% of Obama voters chose “Most likely Candidate to beat the Republicans in the fall” as their reason for voting for him. Memo to Obama: The Repubs have spent the last 20 years purging their party of moderates. They even floated a candidate last election against their own Arlen Specter! Because he’s not right wing enough!! Republican moderates who had not already been purged by the Republican Party itself were ousted last election and replaced with Democrats. So if Obama’s administration is going to accomplish anything, he better have a big plurality in the House and the Senate when he takes office. As far as the election goes, we’ve seen high-minded Democrats try to keep above the fray and ignore the Right Wing Smear Machine to their peril. McGovern, Carter, Mondale, Dukakis, and Kerry, move over.
Regarding Hillary, she’s tough in ways most recent Dems have not been. She hits back when she gets hit. That’s what the Dems need. But she swung too far right of her center position to woo Republican women and fence sitters. This is the secret Obama and Hillary share, that they are positioning themselves to scoop up the disaffected Republicans who can’t vote for an evangelical, and to whom McCain is too flakey. But she may have turned off more Democrats in the process than the Repubs she attracted. On a positive note, in New Hampshire, where the voters are 40% Independent, Hillary scored big with women who were going to vote for McCain. So perhaps there’s a method to her madness.
I’m all for Obama, and can’t wait to cast my vote. But this generation of Republicans can’t be negotiated with. And all of Obama’s sweet talk about ending the partisan divide is bullshit. The only way to end it is to vote the Republicans out, lock, stock, and barrel. I have personally been yearning for Clinton to be let loose on the Repubs in a general election, for years. She lets no slight go unanswered. She can dish it out, and she can take it. Can Obama do the same? We don’t know. He needs someone who will cover his back.
Why We Wring Our Hands…
I don’t know, you tell me.
Dennis Kucinich, a true and respectable progressive, gets up in Congress and reads 35 counts for which president Bush should be impeached and not one of those counts is open for debate…among Democrats!
At a minor league baseball game last week, I was clinging to the backstop yakking with some former Democratic operatives, who still keep their hands in the game, about the potentially thousands of Republicans who should go to jail for voter fraud and Hatch Act violations alone during the last eight years. Incredibly, one of them said, “It would take the entire next term to hunt down all the criminals, a waste of time, we’ve got to move on.”
That attitude is a big reason why we lose. FDR and Bill Clinton had a similar problem in their first terms, i.e., how to get rid of old school Democrats who were accustomed to losing big elections and big policy initiatives, content to feather their nests and not get in the way of the Republican machine, even when it had gone off the tracks, and replace them with New Dealers, and in Clinton’s case, New Democrats. Today, as then, it won’t be enough to oust the failed Republican partisans, but the complicit Democrats must go as well. Most voters on the democratic side are completely disgusted that their party hasn’t gone on the offensive, enforced the laws of the land pertaining to our liberties, and restored their confidence that the Democratic Party still has some core beliefs it’s willing to fight for on their behalf. They want the Dems to attack, and take their lumps when they lose, but get the ball rolling. Pelosi, Reid, and Hoyer, please, bugger off!
This disgust among Democratic voters could turn huge swaths of voters who are about to deluge the system with their votes for the future into cynics. If Obama had lost the nomination, those bright enthusiastic and idealistic voters he tapped would have melted away and never come back. Once again, the Dems face doing the same thing to Hillary’s supporters if they leave her off the ticket. The argument that she is too polarizing is absurd. Anyone who isn’t going to vote for Hillary probably wasn’t ever going to vote for a Democrat, or a woman, anyway. If the Democrats want to be the majority party, they had better learn how to suppress the more fickle side of their nature and come together.
My response to these simpering knobs at the ballgame was simple, “If Nixon had been impeached and gone to jail for the rest of his life as he should have we might not have had Iran/Contra, or this mess we’re in right now. If we don’t go after these sons of Tricky Dicky, they’ll all be back again someday. We can deal with them now, once and for all, or go through this crap again someday soon.”
Something to Think About
In 1792 Thomas Paine, our great philosopher of freedom, published part two of a little ditty he called, The Rights of Man, in it he observed:
“A constitution is not the act of a government, but of a people constituting a government; a government without a constitution is power without a right.
“All power exercised over a nation, must have some beginning. It must be either delegated or assumed. There are no other sources. All delegated power is trust, all assumed power is usurpation. Time does not alter the nature and quality of either.”