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Something strange and tangy is happening in the Rocky Mountains. The Democratic Party is being reborn, with a raft of colorful candidates who have won the hearts of independents and moderate Republican voters, or so says an article in Time Magazine by Joe Klein – and convincingly so.
As the 2008 presidential campaign begins, there are lessons to be learned here for both national parties, but especially for Democrats, lessons involving both style and substance. The top-line Democratic candidates for President in 2008–people like Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, John Edwards–are a decidedly un-Western crowd. They tend to be coastal, urban, legislative. They tend to talk too formally–and too much about too little. They tiptoe and kowtow when confronted by the gothic array of Democratic interest groups. At a time when political pomp and blab have come to seem prohibitively pompous and bloviational, Rocky Mountain politics is fresh and innovative and fun. It might not be a bad idea for Hillary and Barack and the rest to pause for a moment before the big show starts and take a look at what’s happening just west of Iowa, in an electorally overlooked region of the country that just may hold the key to winning the White House in 2008.
Interestingly, this article paints the Western Democratic agenda in the same colors I’ve tried to apply to all Democrats. Colors of pragmatism and moderation. Take, for example, Buffie McFayden, a local state rep whose district had 12 prisons and a solid Republican majority that voted for her because “the right’s gone so far to the right, you can’t recognize them anymore. When the wingers accuse me of being a liberal, I say, Sure, if you mean that I’m in favor of staying out of people’s private lives and balancing the budget and I’m against stealing.”
Then there’s Barbara O’Brien, a candidate for Lieutenant Governor, who says, “I doubt you’d find a Democratic ticket like us anywhere else in the country. Bill Ritter is pro-life, and I’m not even a politician. I ran a children’s advocacy group and took positions that upset Democrats in the past–like, I testified in favor of a limited, targeted school-voucher program. But that’s the way it is out here in the West. People like their politicians independent.”
Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer (who earned bonus points with me for calling Hugo Chavez a thug,) is often mentioned as a presidential candidate. A cowboy to be sure, has a master’s in soil science from Montana State University and spent seven years building irrigation projects in Saudi Arabia. He speaks fluent Arabic and has a sophisticated grasp of Middle Eastern politics and the history of oil. He has an alternative fuel plan involving coal. Klein asks him how a Democrat could sell an energy pitch in a presidential campaign.
“I can do it in a 60-second spot,” he said. “Put me on the clock.” And he was off to the races: “Folks, we’ve got a problem. We Americans use 6.5 billion bbl. of oil a year. We produce 2.5 billion ourselves. We import 4 billion from the world’s worst dictators. We need to stop doing that. We can save 1 billion bbl. through conservation. Things like more efficient cars, homes and appliances. We can produce another 1 billion bbl. of biofuels with agricultural crops like corn, soybeans and canola. We can produce 2 billion bbl. a year turning our enormous coal reserves to clean-burning gas. We can achieve energy independence in 10 years, create a whole new industry with tens of thousands of high-paying jobs, and you’ll never have to send your grandchildren to war in the Middle East. I’m Brian Schweitzer, and I approved this message.”
For more, click here.
According to the Advocate, National Stonewall Democrats executive director Joanne Wyrick is concerned about the views of the DLC’s apparent new chairman, Harold Ford, Jr., on gay rights.
“His willingness to lightly amend the U.S. Constitution and to exploit gay families for political gain should alarm Democrats across the country,” she said in a press release. “The Democratic Leadership Council is in need of leadership that supports and affirms all American families.”
According to the NSD release, Ford has backed the proposed constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, civil unions, and domestic partnerships.
On Ford’s 2006 campaign Web site, the Senate hopeful stated that he would “continue to be pro-family, including supporting a constitutional amendment defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman, without taking away the civil rights of gays and lesbians.”
Writing for the DLC’s magazine, Blueprint, the former congressman stated that the Democrats’ win in Congress was because the election was won on ideas and not ideology. In the article, he calls same-sex marriage a “traditional wedge” issue like abortion and gun control that has “plagued our party in recent elections.”
The problem with this issue is you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t. From a political perspective, Ford would have no chance in winning a statewide election in Tenn. if he backed gay marriage. Then again, it is a safe position to take. An amendment to ban gay marriage or even to just define the term as between a man and woman will never make it through Congress. It takes too many votes and too many hoops to jump through to amend the constitution. So the question really becomes a mere litmus test for politicians in regions where the prospect of gay marriage is unpopular.
One can officially back such an amendment and be reasonably sure he/she will never have to vote on it. Afterall, we can’t all be from Massachusetts or San Francisco.
At the same time, I believe the “leave it to the states” approach of Howard Dean and others is a cop out. Better for the government to get out of the “marriage” business all together, officially recognize civil unions, and respect the First Amendment by discontinuing any official church sanctions of marriage.
Various news outlets are reporting Harold Ford Jr. has been offered the chairmanship of the Democratic Leadership Council, a centrist “think tank.”
Specifically, Radar Online reports:
Young, black, and good-looking, Harold Ford is the kind of comer that the Democratic Party latches onto. But last November, after losing the closest Senate race in Tennessee history to Republican Bob Corker, the 10-year congressman suddenly found himself out of a job. So, many wondered, where would he end up?
Radar has learned that Ford has been offered the chairmanship of the Democratic Leadership Council, the centrist think tank founded in the mid-’80s by Al From and other New Democrats as a tool for cultivating like-minded candidates, particularly at the presidential level.
According to a draft memo that sources provided to Radar, Ford has agreed to replace Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack as chairman of the influential organization. Vilsack, a centrist with little national name recognition, recently announced that he would run for president in 2008. After interviewing a number of high-profile candidates for the job, DLC honchos decided that Ford would be the ideal choice to run the group. In the Jan. 8 memo obtained by Radar, Ford seemed to eagerly anticipate the prospect. “I have enjoyed our conversations and am excited about becoming the Chairman of the DLC,” Ford wrote to Al From, the DLC’s CEO. “Your stewardship of the organization over the years has made the DLC one of the premiere Democratic think tanks.”
I think this is a great move on the part of the DLC. Not only does Harold Ford, Jr. have political instincts and charisma not seen since Bill Clinton, being black adds an extra level of credibility to the organization that has been criticized over the years for being some sort of “white men only” club. In return, the organization that helped launch the political fortunes of the Clintons, Al Gore, John Edwards, Howard Dean, Eliot Spitzer, and others will give Ford an extra dimension of bona fides as a conservative southern black Democrat.
On the topic of the DLC, their magazine Blueprint has some excellent pieces in it this month, starting with one by Dan Gerstein, a Joe Lieberman campaign insider who explains how the Lieberman-Lamont senate race provided a nearly pure real-world test of two competing approaches to Democratic politics:
From my perspective, what purportedly started as a revolution — the blog-driven Lamont uprising — turned out to be a revelation about the rival forces vying to shape the party’s direction in the post-Clinton, post-Bush era. This clash, which has been brewing for the past six years, as Democrats have been stewing over two straight presidential losses, is not ideological so much as tonal and, in some respects, temperamental. It is, in essence, a fight over how we fight politically, a struggle between two starkly different approaches to campaigning and governing.
On the one side stands what might be called the school of polarization. The Democrats in this camp have been radicalized by their anger at President Bush’s policies and leadership, which they tend to view as venal and illegitimate. They believe that the Democratic leadership in Washington has been far too accommodating — some would say feeble — in its opposition, and that the only way to win electorally and legislatively is to fight ire with ire.
These polarized Democrats, who fueled the rise of Lamont’s candidacy, have gone past disagreeing with the Republicans, to despising them. They no longer see Republicans as the opposition, but as the enemy. And they believe that the end of defeating this enemy justifies just about any means.
On the other side stands the school of problem-solving. The Democrats in this camp are also deeply troubled by the direction of the country under Bush and strongly disagree with most of his policies. But they don’t believe the way to move the country forward — or to earn the voters’ trust — is simply to repackage the hard partisanship and divisiveness of the Bush years in blue wrapping.
Instead, these problem-solving Democrats, who rallied to Lieberman’s side in the general election, subscribe to the politics of results. They believe that, in a closely divided and increasingly independent-minded electorate, the best strategy for winning elections is to offer winning ideas. That means showing the American people that we not only relate to the challenges they face, but we have effective plans for meeting them.
Gerstein goes on to talk campaign strategies and the various smears against Lieberman that emanated from the left.
Harold Ford, Jr. offers up a well-reasoned piece of his own on how the Democrats won in 2006, not on ideology, but on ideas. Read it here.
We’re also treated to an excerpt from a book titled, “The Way to Win: Taking the White House in 2008” by Mark Halperin and John F. Harris. In it, the authors describe two strains of presidential politics practiced in the past two decades. One is a Clinton Politics of centrist inclusion, the other a Bush Politics of polarization. The big question, they write, is which will prevail in 2008? But even more interesting is their take on how brutal the 2008 election will be:
The die is cast: The next presidential election will take place in a Freak Show environment more virulent than anything Bill Clinton and George W. Bush ever faced. With 16 straight years of polarizing presidents, new bloggers and websites popping up daily, a poisoned tone in Washington, unshackled interest groups, campaign finance laws that help channel money toward shadowy sources, and the further decline of the Old Media’s commitment to serious news coverage — with all that, plus a wide-open race with no incumbent president or vice president running — the 2008 election is sure to be one in which nearly every hand reaching for the brass ring will be wearing brass knuckles.
Read more on that here.
Save Elmer has a three part piece on the Democratic party and the Iraq War resolution that is actually worth your valuable time. Parts 1 and 2 are already up. The piece shreds many of the dogmatic beliefs of the far left in regards to the Democratic party’s role in the Iraq war, and despels many myths concerning John Kerry, Hillary Clinton, and the DLC.
Alan Freeman at ScrippsNews says Rahm Emanuel has emerged as the Democrats’ “Not-so-secret Weapon”
Since the days of Lee Atwater, the ruthless GOP campaign organizer for the first President Bush who is credited with destroying the campaign of Democratic candidate Michael Dukakis in 1988, the Republicans have gained a reputation for hardball tactics. Karl Rove, who shepherded George W. Bush’s political career from the Texas governorship to the White House, gained an aura of infallibility as the Republicans racked up success after success in congressional and presidential elections.
The Democrats, by contrast, have languished, riven by ideological and personality divisions and a sense that they were simply not as tough as the Rovians when it came to fighting election campaigns. Until Rahm Emanuel, that is.
Morton Kondracke believes Dems, GOP should heed voters’ call for moderation.
The November election returns — and subsequent polls — ought to serve as a caution to both Democrats and Republicans that the public really does expect action, not continued warfare. And the facts of political life make action impossible without cooperation.
According to Andrew Kohut, director of the Pew Research Center for People and the Press, “the Democratic win is not a sign of political realignment. … A small Democratic turnout advantage notwithstanding, the electorate remains about evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans.”
“The outcome of this election,” Kohut noted, “was determined by the shifting sentiments of independents and moderates. It is no exaggeration to say that the views of the least ideological voters decided this election for the Democrats.”
According to exit polls, self-identified independents split 49 percent to 46 percent Democratic in 2004, but 57 percent to 39 percent Democratic in 2006. Self-identified moderates split 61 percent to 38 percent Democratic in 2006.
“No evidence suggests the country is moving culturally or ideologically to the left,” Kohut concluded. “The potential exists [for Democrats] to make the same mistake that was made in 1994, when the GOP victory was viewed as signaling that the country was moving to the right.”
US News and World Report has a two-parter on the Blue Dog Coalition and the House New Democrat Coalition (DLC). Here are some excerpt from both:
Veteran liberals such as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Charles Rangel, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, hold the party’s reins, but their power is likely to be tested by a group far removed from the party establishment-conservative Democrats who are flexing newfound muscle. Eighteen of 41 incoming House freshmen joined the New Democrat Coalition and/or the Blue Dog Coalition, caucuses of pro-business and fiscally conservative Democrats, respectively. Both were born in the wake of the 1994 Republican revolution. Moderate New Democrats claimed the mantle of pragmatists like Bill Clinton. Pro-technology and free trade, the New Democrats boast a few more members, but the budget-minded Blue Dogs may have more bite. Now 44 members strong, this conservative caucus looks to be a cohesive voting bloc on fiscal issues. It also claims some freshman stars, like former NFL quarterback Heath Shuler of North Carolina and former sheriff Brad Ellsworth of Indiana, both of whom won in GOP strongholds. Fourth-term Arkansas Rep. Mike Ross, cochair of the Blue Dogs, says party leaders recognize them as a “force to be reckoned with,” adding, “We didn’t defeat Republicans with liberal Democrats. We’re in the middle … and that’s where we’re trying to bring our party.”
Both Pelosi and President Bush met with caucus members before Congress reconvened. Pelosi has doled out key assignments as well, putting seven Blue Dogs on the House Appropriations Committee, which controls congressional purse strings. Conservative Democrats are the driving force behind three key initiatives in Pelosi’s touted 100-hour plan: implementing pay-as-you-go rules requiring Congress to offset new spending, adding transparency to the earmarking process, and promising members adequate time to review a bill before a vote. more
The caucus of conservative Democrats, the Blue Dog Coalition, has become something of a pet favorite among Democrats. Some of the brightest stars in the freshman Democrat class, like former NFL quarterback Heath Shuler of North Carolina and former Indiana Sheriff Brad Ellsworth, have signed on to the caucus, swelling its ranks to 44 members.
With blue dogs showing the party it can win in traditionally Republican districts, the caucus has enjoyed a surge in popularity. But its ranks have become increasingly exclusive.
“We could have twice as many [members] as we have right now,” Rep. Mike Ross of Arkansas, cochair of the Blue Dog Coalition, told U.S. News. “But we’re not looking for quantity, we’re looking for quality.” more
Many thanks to everyone who commented on my last Cindy Sheehan post – even if you disagreed. It added a little controversy that has been missing on DonkeyDigest for a few months.
Here is what others are saying about the matter.
The Augusta Chronicle: Cindy Sheehan was on no one’s ballot in November. But she seems to think she’s running the country now. Cindy Sheehan thinks she was given a mandate on Nov. 7 to personally see to it that the U.S. presence in Iraq ends immediately. Her arrogance never seemed restrained but certainly wears no bridle today.
Columnist Doug Patton: Fans of the 1980s sitcom, “Family Ties,” will recall the characters of Steven and Elise Keaton, liberal former sixties activists raising their three children, including son Alex, whose “rebellion” against his parents’ liberalism manifested itself in staunch Reagan conservatism.
In one particularly poignant episode, Elise and Steven, who have settled into an idealistic but decidedly middle-class lifestyle, reconnect with a radical former comrade from their college days. Their old friend has not changed a bit, and when he proposes starting an “underground” newspaper like the one on which they worked together in college, Steven, desiring to relive their glory days, readily agrees. However, when he submits to his friend an article about the Democrats’ chances of recapturing the White House in 1984, he is scorned for having “sold out” to the establishment. The friend protests that Steven no longer is calling for the destruction of the entire political system.
“You sound like a member of the PTA,” the friend observes, to which Steven Keaton sheepishly replies: “I am a member of the PTA.”
I thought of that episode when I saw antiwar protester Cindy Sheehan disrupting the press conference of U.S. Rep. Rahm Emanuel, D-Ill, chairman of the House Democratic caucus and one of the chief architects of the Democrat takeover of Congress. Emanuel was outlining his party’s plans for lobbying reform, but Sheehan and her followers had only one thing on their minds as they chanted, “De-escalate, investigate, troops home now!” Unfortunately for the Democrats, a whole lot of those people comprise the activists of their party.
Cindy Sheehan and her activist followers are likely to be terribly disappointed by the leadership of the 110th Congress. There will be individual members, particularly in the House, who will try to fulfill the heart’s desire of the deeply liberal base of the Democratic Party, but the leadership knows better than to try to do everything at once. And that won’t be enough for the Cindy Sheehans of the world.
Blogger Welshman at ePluribus Media: I am critical of a story that is about to break that I feel certain will get the cheers on our progressive blogs – the stupid, unthinking and politically naive cheers. On this, the day before Pelosi picks up the gavel for the first time, and at a press conference of the Democrats who wanted to unveil their first initiative to meet what was at the very top of the exit poll list of voters’ concerns, it is hijacked by peace protesters.
And the progressives will cheer.
…the quiet majority of Americans are always a bit nervous of protests. A handful shouting in a room does not usually win their approval. But why choose the Democratic press briefing? What have they done – what could they possibly have done yet – to warrant the need for their feet to be held to the fire in this particular way and for a few people to stop them getting out their message?
This is just more of the negativity that will kill the Dems in two years time that underlies my comments about the approach to issues on progressive blogs.
Cindy Sheehan… it is not you that was voted into office. Nor is there evidence that the grassroots got these good people into power alone. It was achieved because a a group in the centre ground got fed up with Bush. They are as skittish as a thorough bred race horse in their affiliations. You do not have the experience to know how not to frighten them off. Frighten them off before the Democrats have even taken their seats.
Based on a few profanity-filled comments I received yesterday concerning my last post on Cindy Sheehan, I thought I would do the proper thing and add fuel to the fire. You really didn’t think I was going to apologize did you? LOL! Onward…!
I was over at Democratic Underground yesterday where the “Sheehan has hit the fan,” so to speak. Many there applaud her for interrupting the Democratic press conference. Others feel as I do. But there has been an interesting question raised there that I will answer here and there: Did Sheehan hijack that press event because it was Democrats holding it or because it was the far leftwing’s most reviled congressman Rahm Emanuel who was conducting it? My answer is both… and more. She did it because it was a United States Congressman from an American political party representing the United States of America. I don’t believe, as some on DU assert, she picked out Emanuel’s press conference because he initially backed the Iraq war. If that were the case, she’s going to be a very busy girl protesting Democrats and heckling them at other events. At times, she may be required to be in two or more places at one time if her goal is to protests Dems who supported the Iraq war. But I don’t think that is the case.
After a very noble and worthwhile beginning, her world has become a place where America is the enemy and it really doesn’t matter to her who is running the show here – Republicans or Democrats. Her goal has grown way beyond ending the Iraq war. It has now become altering the very structure of the United States government. Of course, she isn’t the mastermind here. She isn’t that smart. But she has become the willing pawn of a much larger movement.
Now before you accuse me of falling off the rightwing deep end and using that Republican “Cindy hates America” cliche, humor me for a few minutes. World Can’t Wait, a fringe left communist revolutionary organization (FACT), has been whispering in her ear for some time now (FACT). Last October, they published a top 10 list of Why people shouldn’t put their hopes and money into the Democrats, effectively admonishing World Can’t Wait supporters (and that includes Sheehan) not to support the Democratic party. It didn’t name specific Democrats, but it was specific in who not to support – The Democrats! There is a partial answer to the question – Sheehan was targeting the Democratic party and in doing so, she was targeting America. How so? Read on…
World Can’t Wait is truly a snake in the grass organization and it is a shame Sheehan has involved herself with it. One of the group’s leaders, C. Clark Kissinger, is involved with the Revolutionary Communist Party, a Maoist vanguard party, and was the national secretary of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), which, in 1969, became the Weather Underground, an organization whose purpose was to “carry out a series of militant actions that would achieve the revolutionary overthrow of the Government of the United States (and of capitalism as a whole).” He was a strong supporter of Iran’s Islamic revolution in 1979 and supported Bob Avakian’s work to build a real communist party in the U.S.
In August 2005, Kissinger wrote an article titled Getting Real About The Democrats in which he blasted the Democratic party, naming in particular John Kerry, Hillary Clinton, Nancy Pelosi, and Harry Reid as Democrats not worthy of the left’s support. He accused the liberal Reverend Jim Wallace of being the Democrat’s “Secretary of Religion” and implied Wallis was being used by Democrats for some ultimate theocratic goal.
Remember – Kissinger works with World Can’t Wait. And so does Sheehan.
But if you’re a logical person, you’re probably thinking this is only guilt by association. What has Cindy personally done that proves she is no friend of the Democratic party and should not be treated as such? For starters, Sheehan threatened to run against Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein in California but instead opted to support the Green Party candidate Todd Chretien in that election. Chretien, a leading member of the International Socialist Organization and frequent contributor to CounterPunch wrote an article in July of 2004 praising those who voted for Ralph Nader in 2000 and declaring that “progressives” shouldn’t squander what they started in 2000 by voting for John Kerry in 2004:
Medea Benjamin… and many other liberal and progressive leaders tell us that a Kerry regime “would be less dangerous” than Bush. This may or may not be true… But, even IF Kerry is “less dangerous,” he will be MORE capable of wreaking havoc on Iraq, Palestine, Venezuela, abortion, gay rights, civil rights and unions IF we sacrifice our political movement to getting behind him…. Tragically, rather than building on the great start we made in 2000… many of the very same people who helped that effort are trying to wreck it this time around (by) condoning, if not actually leading, a campaign to vilify (Ralph Nader and Peter Camejo) as “Republican dupes”…
I could go on about her, delving into some particulary unsavory alegations about her personal character, but I won’t. Frankly, one’s personal conduct, as long as it is legal, has never been an issue with me. Sheehan has enough political baggage to warrant writing her off.
UPDATE: See Democratic Underground come unhinged over this piece. Denials, justifications, and personal attacks.