Friday, November 23, 2007

DEMOCRATS UNITE! Team of Rivals approach is the answer!

There are moments in history when drastic times demand drastic measures. It appears we have now entered into just such a time. With the last eight years of the Bush administration, we the American electorate, have capitulated our interests and our rights. We have allowed the dynastic rule of the Bush family and their sycophantic cronies to manipulate our policies to enrich their patrons at the expense of both our national interest and our stature in the international community of nations. Despite a litany of failed or poorly executed policies, that were the result of installing too much power in any one political party, we failed to depose the emperor with no clothes, G.W., when we had the chance in 2004. Instead we showed our displeasure by swinging the legislature to the Democrats, retching the legislative majority from the Republicans in a desperate attempt to see-saw the balance of power with the hope of righting the nation’s ship, that seemed destined to be scuttled by the ineptitude of its skipper’s prowess. History reveals that a government with a balance of power between the two political parties serves it’s constituency far better than one that is predominantly ruled by one party or the other. It seems that one party dominance gives license to unchecked pork barreling, and rampant ideological excesses and can be ruinous to the interest of the country. Despite the shift in power to the Democratic leadership in the legislature and with the realization of a lame duck Bush presidency, we remain quagmired into paralysis by a lack of real leadership. With such an important election ahead of us, we must use extraordinary means to assure that real leadership is allowed to rise to the surface, as it inevitably does in times of need, and forgo political business as usual.

We need a change of direction in this country and a change of vision to lead us into the next century. Leadership requires sacrifice even at the expense of ego and personal gain. In the history of this country perhaps no individual represented a more subdued ego and artful ability to bring together disparate rivaling factions at a time of major crisis than did Abraham Lincoln. In 1860 the Republican party was hardly yet the party of Lincoln. As historian, Doris Kearns Goodwin so masterfully recreates in her wonderfully relevant “Team of Rivals : The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln” the party had a formidable group of experienced, esteemed and politically powerful candidates for their nomination that year. The team included the esteemed William Henry Seward, thought by most to be the likely nominee; Edwin Bates, a strong regional character and Salmon P.Chase the powerful and ambitious former governor and senator of Ohio. The rise to the top of the unlikely rail-splitter from Illinois, Lincoln, was ultimately achieved by his shrewd and astute understanding of politics as much as it was by his being able to be perceived as a singularly uniting candidate that could stand for a compromise to the many varied constituents. When he was ultimately nominated to almost everyone’s surprise, he immediately went to work on healing the wounds that derisive political elections can produce. Ultimately, when he became the President elect, he used his great skills as a leader and conciliator to engage his former adversaries into serving their country with their distinctive talents within the confines of his cabinet.

Today, the Democrats have a similar dilemma. We as a country are faced with a myriad of issues that require real leadership and vision. We desperately need someone who can rally a “team of rivals”, as did Lincoln, to succeed with the tasks that lie ahead. We have seen the results of a Clinton presidency for the eight years prior to George W. Bush. While it was certainly a less acrimonious reign then the present administration, it had a chance to set policies that could have been visionary in health care, the environment, social security, international diplomacy, national security and education but generally provided less than stellar results on these issues. Why? Because despite William Jefferson Clinton’s considerable personal charm, his ability at being a conciliatory leader who could get past personal slights or disagreements for the sake of progressive reform was sorely lacking. Instead his policies became opinion poll driven and lacked any sense of personal commitment or vision..Like a rudderless ship his administration’s direction was subject to the winds of approval ratings and lacked the determination or will to really accomplish major policy goals and fundamental change.

The current front-runner of the Democratic party, Hillary Clinton, has campaigned using precisely the same tactics that served her husband’s popularity so well. She has become the artful dodger of the political process. Her answers during the debates are designed to carefully avoid taking any stand at all, so as to be sure not to alienate anyone. She has managed to skillfully avoid having to be daring, bold, progressive or committed to anything of real substance. He stand on the war is ambivalent at best. Her commitment to health care reform, while once a mantra that she carried the torch for within her husband’s administration, has now fallen victim to the industries lobbying efforts. Her waffling approach to major issues confounds any clear window into her true intentions or understanding of what she actually does stand for. In almost all opinion polls to date she is an alienating candidate that when pitted against the very uni-dimensional and polarizing Rudolph Guilliani loses to him in the general election! Can we afford to have her become the standard bearer for the Democratic party at such a critical time?

It seems that the remaining Democratic field has a distinguished group of candidates, many of whom might not be able to garner enough votes to be President on their own, but who each offer a distinct choice and vision as well as a chance for true change. Most of the candidates do not have enough support individually to fight the formidable Clinton. Dynastic politics in this country are making it difficult for new comers to challenge the well oiled machinery that is developed from previous tours of duty within American politics. This was true of the Bush family dynasty and is also true of the attempted Clinton family dynasty. Perhaps now is the time for Lincoln’s “team of rivals” approach to securing the nomination?

The unfortunate truth is that if the remaining Democratic candidates, Obama, Edwards, Biden, Richardson, Dodd and Kucinich do not band together before the primaries have proceeded to the point where Clinton’s nomination is assured, than the Democratic party runs the risk of losing four more years to the ideologues that predominate the Republican party nominees. Can we really afford to let that happen?

The Democrats need to show some leadership, some self-sacrifice and some creative thinking. They should unify the party behind a set of stated policy goals that all of the candidates can publicly support. After these goals have been hammered out from the differences between candidates, they must then unanimously pledge their individual support to the newly unified platform of principals and affirm their support for whoever is fairly chosen to run for the Democratic nomination as President on those principals. Once the party is united behind a thoughtful and compromised approach to the problems at hand, the remaining candidates should offer their services in a unified pre-election cabinet that would allow the American people to see that the formidable skills of this team approach will not be squandered by petty politics or ego driven one-upsmanship.

It is the history of the Clinton’s to punish those who get in the way of their ambition and reward those who support their ambitions despite otherwise unsavory conduct. Even with Ms. Clinton’s recent success in crossing party lines to accomplish tasks during her term as US Senator, one gets the feeling that this was all done to set the stage for her ascendancy to the Presidency and not a true heartfelt change in the politics of retribution. This approach is not conciliatory and so the chances of this “team of rivals’ approach to be realized under a Hillary Clinton nomination is highly unlikely. As the Clinton’s owe much to those advocates who have stayed true to their ambitions, we can expect more of the same under a second Clinton presidency. Why repeat the past? That is why the remaining candidates must subdue their own egos and find common ground to unite under a platform of forged principals and approach this nomination with a “team of rivals” approach before the nomination is lost to Ms. Clinton.

This approach is a return to sanity. It allows for differences in opinion but galvanizes the party from the fractured assembly it has become into a force that can effectively compete with the more unified approach of the present Republican party. This may be the only way for the Democratic party to assure victory in November. Democrats unite!!!

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