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A Modest Proposal for Achieving Democratic Unity (Really)

BDBlue's picture

After reading VL's post, I got to thinking about something Chris Bowers wrote awhile ago about how if the Democrats lost this election, it would be a failure of the party and the entire party leadership should resign. I think this may be how we could achieve party unity - by holding party officials accountable for the failures of the party. The rewards for success will flow from winning and should take care of themselves. Although if the Democratic candidate wins in November, credit should be given where credit is due and that extends beyond the individual candidate.

Neither Clinton nor Obama is the perfect candidate. They both have strengths and weaknesses. We will be arguing over these for at least the next month. That's what primaries are for. Having said that, no candidate is ever the perfect candidate. John Edwards has weaknesses. Al Gore has weaknesses. Every candidate, every human being has strengths and weaknesses. There will never be a perfect, unbeatable candidate because there will never be a perfect human being.

While each candidate has weaknesses, neither of them is radically outside mainstream American political thought or appears to have any fatal flaws that should make them unelectable to the American public. Therefore, by definition, each of them is electable. What we will argue over in the primary is who is more electable.

We are facing what is perhaps the best political environment for the Democratic Party since Herbert Hoover. We have an unpopular war launched by an unpopular Republican president. We have a tanking economy with rising foreclosures, rising gas prices, a shaky and corrupted financial market and food rationing. We have a broken healthcare system and a growing chasm between rich and poor.

In short, the country is broken and the Republicans are the ones who broke it. What's more, the GOP is a party that is out of energy and ideas. It is losing Congressional elections or at least spending a fortune to win Congressional elections in districts that have long been safely Republican. They are running a candidate who is essentially promising more of the same to a country that less than a third of the people believe is on the right track.

Yet, in addition to people claiming they won't vote for Obama or won't vote for Clinton, I also get the sense that people are lining up to blame one or both of these individuals if the nominee loses. That is ridiculous.

Clinton and Obama have each raised more than twice the money as McCain, they've each gotten more votes in democratic primaries than any previous democrat in history. Absent some personal fatal flaw that has yet to emerge (DNA evidence proving Clinton really did kill Vince Foster, a photo of Obama worshipping at a radical, jihadist mosque) any failure in November will not be the fault of one or both of these two people, it will be the failure of the entire Democratic party. The choice between them is likely to come down not to voters, but to party leaders. Personally, I believe it isn't so much who is chosen, but how the decision is made that will determine whether the party splits. That is something within the control of party leaders.

Let's take for example Florida and Michigan. I may not be very happy that Obama hasn't done much to help resolve the issue, but that doesn't make the existence of the issue his fault. The decisions that have led us into this potentially self-destructive mess were made by party leaders. The solution to it will ultimately be made by party leaders. Obama and Clinton will have a say and, as potential party leaders themselves, should also be held accountable. But neither of them made this mess and if the party self-destructs over it, it would be unfair to blame only one or both of them.

I believe the best way to ensure post-primary party unity is for all democrats - regardless of who they support in the primary - to put the party leaders on notice that any failure to win the White House in November is a failure of the entire Democratic Party and as leaders of the party, the responsibility ultimately falls on them.

If Jim Clyburn wants to threaten the party with African Americans staying home if Clinton is the nominee, fine. But he owns that in November if she loses. If Chuck Schumer wants to back away from Universal Healthcare, undermining a key difference between the Democratic and Republican candidates, fine. But he owns that if we lose in November. If Howard Dean and other DNC leaders aren't brave enough to fix the MI/FL mess, fine. But they own that in November. If Donna Brazile wants to go on television and be a divisive ass, fine. But she owns that if we lose in November.

They do not get to separate themselves from the success or failure of their party. Their future is tied to the nominee's future. They should think twice before they do or say anything that weakens either candidate for November or fail to do everything in their power to unite the party after a candidate is chosen (which does not, of course, mean they can't take sides in the primary, it simply means to think before they say or do something incredibly divisive or that weakens the party overall).

Despite the current primary scuffles, the Democrats still have incredible advantages in November. No excuses. No scapegoats. We either win together. Or we lose together.

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amberglow's picture
Submitted by amberglow on

give it to Obama, voters be damned.

They're clear on wanting this over.

(and they will be held accountable--but not Congressional leaders, tragically--at least Dean will lose his job if we lose in Nov)

BDBlue's picture
Submitted by BDBlue on

All I'm saying is that they should be held accountable for the results in November if the Dem lose, regardless of who the nominee is. They don't get to aim all the fire at Clinton or Obama and then back out of the room slowly. Because the failure will be a failure of the party and the party must take responsibility for that.

Also, I think it's a good signal to send even if the Dem wins. Because the Democratic Congress could not wait to kneecap the Democratic president in 1992 by exercising every one of their prerogatives and privileges. A reminder that they and the nominee - and democratic president - sink or swim together is a good thing, IMO. Especially as certain members are already backing away from UHC. Idiots.

amberglow's picture
Submitted by amberglow on

that they want him and will ensure he gets it--whether they end up losing their jobs or not--or losing the election or not...That's like 100 million in the kitty for the whole party.

Submitted by Paul_Lukasiak on

While each candidate has weaknesses, neither of them is radically outside mainstream American political thought or appears to have any fatal flaws that should make them unelectable to the American public.

In a perfect world, both Obama and Clinton are electable. But in a perfect world, based on her qualifications and experience (or to be more precise, Obama's lack of same) Clinton would be the nominee.

But its not a perfect world. And Obama has a "flaw" that Clinton doesn't have -- he remains a cypher to the American public. Clinton fatigue has one big advantage -- criticism of Clinton is treated like ambient noise...in one ear, and out the other.

But people are going to be soaking up information about Obama -- and the GOP will make sure that most of the infomration defines Obama in negative terms.

And neither the Democratic Party, nor the "netroots", will take the steps necessary to stop the Right Wing Smear Machine from having its way. The party is too full of people who care more about their own access to the media that the Party itself, and will not take a consistent stand against smears.

And our progressive "Leadership" didn't exist even before the whole Obat schism --- A list bloggers refuse to allow their voices, and their message, can be influenced by anyone in any kind of organized fashion. Sure, ad hoc efforts will happen, but you need structure and discipline to fight a structured/disciplined enemy -- and "as a progressive I won't allow anyone to tell me what subjects to write about, even if its only once or twice a week" is the rallying cry of A-List progressive bloggers.

IMHO, Obama is the next McGovern -- except that he won't take Massachusetts. Maybe Hawaii.

BDBlue's picture
Submitted by BDBlue on

Which is that ultimately the Democratic leaders will be choosing the nominee and ultimately they will need to defend the nominee from the right-wing smear machine. If you're right and Obama is doomed (and I'm very sympathetic with your position, as you know) and the party leaders pick him, then they should be held responsible. The information you have, they have.

Similarly, if they pick Clinton and then let the netroots throw a fit and weaken her by declaring her illegitimate and continue to stand silent in the face of misogynistic, hateful media and she loses, then they need to be held responsible.

I'm going to do everything I can to try to persuade the Democratic leadership to select the candidate that I think is the best one (I've already sent them an email telling them no $ from me until Florida is resolved because my parents live there). But ultimately they're going to make the decision they make. I think the best way to ensure that every single Democratic leader puts party success in November over everything else is to hold them accountable for their decision, how they make it, and how they handle the fall out.

amberglow's picture
Submitted by amberglow on

most are all safe for their lifetimes, and no primary challenger can get close unless there's a crime or scandal.

They don't listen to us anyway. They do what keeps them safely in power or in office. McCain might be the one that does that for them this time, tragically.

amberglow's picture
Submitted by amberglow on

i don't buy that Perot took voters evenly from both parties in 92--at all. I really really can't buy it.

He clearly was aiming for Republicans and not for Democrats--he had no social platform, and was all fiscal stuff and numbers and deficit and budget. Someone like Anderson might have taken from both parties--not Perot. We didn't have any desire to leave the party--we wanted an end to 12 years of Reagan-Bush backsliding, and we wanted progress--it wasn't a fiscal policy election for us Dems---the deficit wasn't even that big a deal--it was the recession and the GOP's utter cluelessness and corruption about real life, and exhaustion with them overall.

amberglow's picture
Submitted by amberglow on

this kind of thing wouldn't have happened--93-- Political Memo; Republicans Forget Clinton; the Big Worry Is Perot == http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.ht...

"... Mr. Perot, in his zeal to compete with Mr. Dole as President Clinton's fiercest critic, has neglected the Republicans lately, the party has reason to be more worried about him than the Democrats do: a recent survey by President Clinton's pollster showed that most of the 19 million people who voted for Mr. Perot last year were Republicans, and that they had little interest in returning to the fold. Evidence on a Speedboat

At the summer meeting here of the Republican National Committee, even the gleeful trading of stories about Mr. Clinton's foibles could not mask an undercurrent of nervousness -- one participant called it panic -- over Mr. Perot. The suspicions escalated recently when Mr. Perot surfaced on his speedboat with David R. Gergen, a onetime adviser to Republican Presidents who now works for Mr. Clinton. The two boaters insisted that they were coincidentally in Bermuda on separate vacations.

"The Democrats' fondest dream is for Perot candidates to run as independents in 1994, splitting the vote and allowing liberal Democrats to slip in the back door with 43 percent of the vote," said Haley Barbour, the Republican chairman. "My Democratic friends have all worn out two sets of knee pads: they're down on their knees praying for the Perot candidates to run as third-party candidates."

Mr. Barbour was not as eager to discuss his own party's even bigger fear: that Mr. Perot will again run as an independent Presidential candidate, siphoning votes from Republicans. Then there is their second-biggest fear: that Mr. Perot will join the Republican Party and run for President, complicating the party's efforts to reclaim the White House and possibly destroying the prospects of veteran Republicans (Mr. Dole comes to mind) who have thirsted for the Presidency. Divided Over a Stand

Perhaps with his own possible candidacy in mind, Mr. Dole dismissed Mr. Perot as someone who could not win Republican primaries. But he said another independent campaign by Mr. Perot would be worrisome because winning back Perot voters was "going to be very difficult." ..."

amberglow's picture
Submitted by amberglow on

from there too-- ""The principal reason why Perot was a serious factor was that Republicans felt betrayed by Bush on 'no news taxes,' " said Morton Blackwell, the Republican committeeman from Virginia. "He was a place for people to cast a protest vote. In 1996, we'll reunite the economic conservatives and the social conservatives.""

Republicans were pissed at Bush for "read my lips" and the economy (and bec he wasn't Reagan, too)--Democrats liked Clinton.

BDBlue's picture
Submitted by BDBlue on

Were looking for a way to weaken Bill. Bush would've won if not for Perot. Clinton didn't really win.

I understand where you're coming from, but I'll take polls before I'll take Republican National Committee notes.

amberglow's picture
Submitted by amberglow on

how reliable? I remember 92 vividly--i actually felt like we would win for once, and everyone mocked Perot--and knew he hurt Repubs more than us--Repubs knew it too. Dems were not going for him--definitely not the base.

This is interesting--and it sounds like Obama's rhetoric in many ways. --- http://www.hks.harvard.edu/case/3pt/mulf...

and from there--"... Let me answer the second question first. I think demographically the Perot voter is disproportionately young, the strongest group in '92 was first time voters, based on age not just alienation; Perot's weakest groups were the elderly and southerners. They tend to be working class people, blue collar; I think Reagan Democrats in some instances but curiously the proportion of vote going across the political spectrum -- liberal, moderate, conservative -- was uniform. The way we would explain that is dissatisfaction, not with an ideology, but with a process, and that's the best way to understand the Perot voter. ..."

amberglow's picture
Submitted by amberglow on

"... the CNN/Time poll put Perot ahead for the first time nationally, 33 to Bush's 28 to Clinton's 24.

Three days after that, Marlin Fitzwater called him a dangerous monster. A couple of days after that, stories began to appear on his early release from the Navy. Then Marilyn Quayle made her first forays against Ross Perot; she seemed to be the advance guard of the Republican attack forces. In her first comment to the press, she said Perot was trying to buy the election. In her second one she said that he was a snake-oil salesman. A few days after that, Ross Perot hired Ed Rollins and Hamilton Jordan, and a week after that, the Wall Street Journal began its stories about his private detectives investigating marital infidelities. A week after that, it was Perot's investigation of the Bush children. The Los Angeles Times weighed in with the fact that a naval officer in command of the fleet Perot served in said he was emotionally maladjusted. The New York Times revealed that Perot had negotiated with the Reagan administration on various foreign policy things. On July 11, Ross Perot gave the NAACP speech in which he referred to "you people" and "your people."

A few days later, Ed Rollins quit, and on that same day, the Washington Post showed that Perot had fallen, and the polls now showed that Clinton was ahead 42, Bush 30, Perot 20. On July 16, Perot was out, and on July 17, the day after he withdrew, Bill Clinton went up 14 points, Bush 3 points. ..." -- http://www.hks.harvard.edu/case/3pt/pero...

Except for the NYT tying him to Repubs, all the attacks were from Repubs.

this too, from right below that-- "... Ed and Hamilton came on roughly 30 days before Ross withdrew - really, less than 30 days. As soon as they came on board, the Republican "non-orchestrated attack" - two-thirds of which was orchestrated, I think - occurred. Ed and Ham were trying to come up with a game plan to recommend to Ross. It was a very chaotic time.

I never succeeded in getting Ross to sign off on the strategy that I thought was winnable. I was pushing very hard to go on television, to define Ross before the Republicans could define him, and all of those things. Perot had it in his mind that that approach was politics. Communicate directly with the American people on television, and they wouldn't care much for all that other stuff anyway. Keep in mind, all the time I'm telling him he can't do it his way, he's going to the lead in the national polls. ..."

joc's picture
Submitted by joc on

A few days later, Ed Rollins quit, and on that same day, the Washington Post showed that Perot had fallen, and the polls now showed that Clinton was ahead 42, Bush 30, Perot 20. On July 16, Perot was out, and on July 17, the day after he withdrew, Bill Clinton went up 14 points, Bush 3 points. …” —

Doesn't that show that Perot was taking more support from Clinton than Bush?

amberglow's picture
Submitted by amberglow on

Bush didn't rise bec the GOP was all unhappy/disappointed with him to begin with.

It wasn't Democrats who had left and were now coming home to Clinton so much as the GOP and media wholly focusing on Perot and the GOP's massive attempts to destroy him.

The Dems weren't trying to destroy Perot, and never even bothered really. The GOP was the threatened party.

BDBlue's picture
Submitted by BDBlue on

is to counter my fear that some Super Delegates will be willing to risk November (or convince themselves they aren't risking it) in exchange for access to Obama's money in terms of fundraising and registering voters (see http://www.mydd.com/story/2008/4/25/1958...).

There might be good reasons for the party to go for Obama, but I want it to be because it's good for the party in November and not because some Super Delegate thinks it will be better for him personally. I don't want Senator Joe Blow to support Obama because he has a tough re-election campaign and wants access to his fundraising and who, you can bet dollars to donuts, will blame everyone (Clinton, Obama, voters) but himself for Obama's loss. No, sir. You choose him, you're responsible for the results.

Similarly, I want the same standard applied to choosing Clinton.

It seems to me the only way to ensure that party leaders make winning in November their number one priority, which it absolutely must be because we can't have another four years of this, is if the Democrats don't win, they will be expected to take responsibility for the loss along with the candidates. I don't want to hear how Obama ran a weak campaign or Clinton weakened him or, if it's Clinton, her negatives were too high and she was polarizing.

Bullshit.

There is a way through this mess and I expect them to find it and then pull together and win. To me, that's how we get party unity, by insisting that the people making the decisions put the best interest of the party ahead of everything else, knowing that if they get it wrong, they're the ones on the hook.

Otherwise the Democrats in Congress will do what they always do, which is put their own self-interest ahead of the party. Jesus, I'm still pissed at Chuckie Schumer and Jay "Full Immunity" Rockefeller for undermining UHC already. We aren't even in the White House yet. Focus, fellas.