Thursday, March 27, 2008

Immovable Objects

The supporters of the Democratic candidates for President seem to be engaged in WWI style trench warfare. Both sides are dug in and are lobbing attacks at the other from long distance. The vitriol, anger and bitterness that is on full display every day on the Internet is starting to show up in the most recent poll numbers. A poll that I saw showed that almost 30% of Hillary Clinton supporters said that they would not vote for Obama if he were the nominee and 21% of Obama's supporters said the same thing about Clinton. This election for President should be a slam dunk for the Democrats, but they are in the process of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.

In an article I wrote on 2/18, I outlined the reasons why Clinton's supporters are more likely to swing the election in McCain's favor than Obama's supporters. The current numbers certainly back that up. Does this mean that the Democrats have lost the election before it has even started? Not necessarily, but it's going to take some bold steps in order to ward off a defeat. The first thing that has to be done is that the super delegates need to make a decision before the convention. Open warfare between the two candidates cannot be allowed to continue after the final primary in Puerto Rico. Whomever the candidate is to be, he or she must be chosen in June. That will allow the candidate time to try and salve the deep wounds in the party. Not since the '94 campaign of Gary Hart against Walter Mondale has the Democratic party seen such an upheaval (Mondale went on to lose in a historic landslide against Reagan). The current atmosphere of division cannot be allowed to drag on into the convention in Denver. If it does, the candidate who is eventually chosen will be, for all intents and purposes, beyond repair.

The DNC then has to come to an agreement about how to seat the Michigan and Florida delegates. While both states broke the party rules by moving up the dates for their primaries, the voters in those states must feel like they have a voice in the process of selecting the nominee. Once a candidate is selected, figuring out an answer to the dilemma of these two states must be the top priority of the party. While the Democrats can win a general election without winning Florida, they would be hard pressed to put together a scenario whereby they could win without carrying either. The current Clinton plan of allowing the results to stand as they are in untenable in a race that has yet to be decided, but once a candidate has been named, a resolution should be swift and equitable.

The next bold choice that has to made is that of Vice President. In '94 the Democrats made the bold choice of picking a woman for the slot and at the time it was hailed as a master stroke. Revisionist historians may now try and paint a different picture, but I remember the pundits at the time saying that the move was so strategically sound that the Republicans had all but conceded that they would have to seriously consider adding a woman to the ticket for the next Presidential election. This election has to be about something more than partisan politics. John McCain is seen as someone who has broad appeal to moderates on both sides. In order to be able to compete with him the Democrats need to make a VP choice based not on party affiliation, but on the ideal of non-partisan politics.

There are two people who I think would make ideal choices VP for the Democratic party. the first is Chuck Hagel, who is the senior Republican senator from Nebraska and a decorated Vietnam veteran. He has also been a consistent critic of the Bush policies in Iraq. He was one of the few Republicans who crossed over the isle to vote for the Democratic sponsored bill to bring the troops home from Iraq. He is from a very red state and won his last election with over 80% of the vote. He might be able to change, what is a very safe state for the Republicans, from the Red category into the swing state category. He has already said that he will not run for re-election in Nebraska and therefore is not beholden to constituents or donors. The nomination of a Senator from such a overwhelmingly red state would be a huge signal that the Democrats want to get past the gridlock that has basically stalemated Washington D.C..

Another interesting choice of running mate would be Mike Bloomberg, the billionaire mayor of New York. Bloomberg, who was a Democrat but changed to the Republican party when he first ran for mayor, ran for office as an independent during his last campaign. Given the fact that the economy is going to be the biggest issue for voters this fall, having someone with the business acumen of Bloomberg could be a big asset to the ticket. Bloomberg did flirt with the idea of running a third party candidacy for the presidency, but ultimately decided that the couldn't win in that contest. He is considered a moderate by most observers and certainly has the background that would serve him well on the campaign trail.

Those are my recommendations to the Democratic party. Of course they won't listen to me, but in order to compete with John McCain, the Democrats are going to have to think outside the box. Politics as usual will not win the day. And one more thing, to all those supporters of each candidate who say they are going to vote for McCain if their candidate doesn't win, I have only one question. Do you really want a continuation of the policies of the last 7 years? If you agree with the basic ideals of the Democratic party and it's candidates, then there is only one answer to that question.

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