Saturday, January 12, 2008

Why so many Democrats are moving beyond Clinton.

Having your hard drive crash and having to send your computer out for repairs does have a way of letting one think a bit and oberve the news from a different perspective. We do have a Mac that is not connected to the internet but my wife decided that it would be a lot more trouble to take it over here, hook it up to the internet and then unhook it and take it back to the room it is in once the repairs were completed.

I've been watching a bit of an unfolding story in the Democratic party. Since Hillary Clinton bounced back and won the New Hampshire primary over Barack Obama, it is Obama who seems to be on a tear, having won a string of endorsements (from the culinary workers union, a big deal in Nevada, just the day after the New Hampshire primary, followed by 2004 nominee John Kerry and today by our own Governor and arguably the highest profile female Governor in the nation, Janet Napolitano (who got her big break when she was appointed as U.S. Attorney for Arizona by Bill Clinton and has since been a friend of Hillary Clinton, but called Hillary on Thursday to say that while she still respects her that Napolitano felt that Obama was the best choice for Arizona, the Democratic Party and the United States.)

The bigger story here is about the soul of the Democratic party.

It is not about ideology. It is true, as I wrote in the last post, that Clinton certainly opened the door for a strong challenge from the left by her hawkish pro-Bush administration stance on the war and other ares where she has tilted towards the right, but let's be honest-- Democrats, even liberal Democrats, have been willing to vote for centrists from within our own ranks. Janet Napolitano is a prime example of that. For that matter, it is also not even about ideology in terms of our opponents: polls have consistently shown that Hillary Clinton has far higher negatives than even the most liberal of Democrats-- Republicans, and what is more important, independents don't like her because of the hyperpartisanship that whether fairly or not the Clintons engender (and which we've seen more of with the Bush administration.) That also has nothing to do with ideology (for example Bill Clinton, a DLC endorsed Democrat, ran a much more conservative administration than most Democrats would like and agreed with Republicans on a wide range of things, going along on everything from missile defense to signing the welfare reform bill to NAFTA.)

What it is about, is that people want to see something different. It does not matter to me whether Barack Obama is right about one specific item (though on the issue that matters most to me, his pledge to work towards getting us out of Iraq carries much more credibility than anything that Hillary Clinton says after supporing the war for so long), what matters to me is that he is a 'big-picture' kind of guy, of a type we've not seen in this age of pollsters, focus groups and minute parsing of 'swing' voters by organizations mostly headquartered in Washington.

And right now that's something we can use, a visionary who can bring people together, not a myopic, detail-oriented candidate who just thinks in terms of what is printed out on some report.

Finally, there is the matter of that Iran vote and a subsequent incident in Iowa. Hillary Clinton did have a chance to prove earlier this year that she had learned about greasing the skids for war, and vote against an aggressive resolution aimed at creating tension with Iran. Now, I'm not going to rehash the fact that Clinton voted for the resolution, which many in the anti-war movement were using a test to see if she had really learned anything from Iraq. What I'm going to point out is how tone-deaf Clinton has become. Not only did she completely miss how focused the left was on that particular vote but also, as I wrote in this post: Does Hillary understand that this is a nation sick of war? she answered a voter's question by suggesting that he was a plant (someone told him to ask a question about the Iran vote). Of course this was ironically not that long before it did turn out that as a matter of fact Clinton did have some questioners who her own staff people told what to ask. But as I wrote back then,

Referring to her recent vote in the Senate supporting the Bush administration in its attempts to get us into a military confrontation with Iran, as well as her 2002 vote in favor of going to war in Iraq and her continued refusal to admit being wrong about that vote, the attendee, Randall Rolph asked,

"Why should I support your candidacy, if it appears that you haven't learned from your past mistakes?"

Sen. Clinton's response was particularly concerning to me as a Democratic voter:

After defending the vote, Clinton finished by saying about the question, "somebody obviously sent it to you."

Rolph responded, "I take exception. This is my own research. Nobody sent it to me. I am offended that you would suggest that."

"Let me finish," Clinton answered, "I apologize. I just have been asked the very same question in three other places."

What concerned me then and concerns me now was not the specifics of the question, and not even the fact that she thought a legitimate questioner was a plant. it was how after being asked the same question three times, she could still underestimate the importance of it and how passionately a lot of people felt about that.

Obama may not be right about a lot of things. But one thing I think he can do-- he can tell if people are really concerned about an issue and address it.


Robert Rouse said...

I believe Janet Napolitano would be an interesting pick as a running mate for Obama. Right now, I think he might actually go for Bill Richardson, but either way would add even more to the historic implications of an Obama presidency. When you add a female or Hispanic VP into the mix, it goes through the roof.

thephoenixnyc said...

I agree. Its time for a change. The 90s are over. The 2000s are almost over. We are stuck in a morass or worse.

But, with a two party, non-parliamentarian govt change is unlikely. The days of a sweeping new-deal like Tsunami are over.