Sunday, May 07, 2006

Interesting Op-Ed by Markos Moulitsas, founder of Daily Kos.

Hillary Clinton has a few problems if she wants to secure the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination. She is a leader who fails to lead. She does not appear "electable." But most of all, Hillary has a Bill Clinton problem. (And no, it's not about that. )

Moving into 2008, Republicans will be fighting to shake off the legacy of the Bush years: the jobless recovery, the foreign misadventures, the nightmarish fiscal mismanagement, the Katrina mess, unimaginable corruption and an imperial presidency with little regard for the Constitution or the rule of law. Every Democratic contender will be offering change, but activists will be demanding the sort of change that can come only from outside the Beltway.

Hillary Clinton leads her Democratic rivals in the polls and in fundraising. Unfortunately, however, the New York senator is part of a failed Democratic Party establishment -- led by her husband -- that enabled the George W. Bush presidency and the Republican majorities, and all the havoc they have wreaked at home and abroad.

Moulitsas was a part of the net-based Dean movement in '04. He argues that Dean's success ("Had Kerry not lent himself millions to reach the Iowa caucuses, and had Dean not been so green a candidate, Dean probably would have been the nominee.") signals a change in the Democratic party.

No longer would D.C. insiders impose their candidates on us without our input; those of us in the netroots could demand a say in our political fortunes. Today, however, Hillary Clinton seems unable to recognize this new reality. She seems ill-equipped to tap into the Net-energized wing of her party (or perhaps is simply uninterested in doing so) and incapable of appealing to this newly mobilized swath of voters. She may be the establishment's choice, but real power in the party has shifted.

Our crashing of Washington's gates wasn't about ideology, it was about pragmatism. Democrats haven't won more than 50 percent of the vote in a presidential election since 1976. Heck, we haven't won more than 50.1 percent since 1964. And complicit in that failure was the only Democrat to occupy the White House since 1980: Bill Clinton.

Despite all his successes -- and eight years of peace and prosperity is nothing to sneeze at -- he never broke the 50-percent mark in his two elections. Regardless of the president's personal popularity, Democrats held fewer congressional seats at the end of his presidency than before it. The Democratic Party atrophied during his two terms, partly because of his fealty to his "third way" of politics, which neglected key parts of the progressive movement and reserved its outreach efforts for corporate and moneyed interests.

While Republicans spent the past four decades building a vast network of small-dollar donors to fund their operations, Democrats tossed aside their base and fed off million-dollar-plus donations. The disconnect was stark, and ultimately destructive. Clinton's third way failed miserably. It killed off the Jesse Jackson wing of the Democratic Party and, despite its undivided control of the party apparatus, delivered nothing. Nothing, that is, except the loss of Congress, the perpetuation of the muddled Democratic "message," a demoralized and moribund party base, and electoral defeats in 2000, 2002 and 2004.

Those failures led the netroots to support Dean in the last presidential race. We didn't back him because he was the most "liberal" candidate. In fact, we supported him despite his moderate, pro-gun, pro-balanced-budget record, because he offered the two things we craved most: outsider credentials and leadership.


At a time when rank-and-file Democrats are using technology to become increasingly engaged and active in their party, when they are demanding that their leaders stand for something and develop big ideas, Clinton's closest advisers are headed in the opposite direction. But big ideas aren't Bush's problem -- bad ideas are.

Yet staying away from big ideas seems to come naturally to Hillary Clinton. Perhaps first lady Clinton was so scarred by her failed health-care reform in the early 1990s that now Sen. Clinton shows no proclivity for real leadership as a lawmaker.

Afraid to offend, she has limited her policy proposals to minor, symbolic issues -- such as co-sponsoring legislation to ban flag burning. She doesn't have a single memorable policy or legislative accomplishment to her name. Meanwhile, she remains behind the curve or downright incoherent on pressing issues such as the war in Iraq.

On the war, Clinton's recent "I disagree with those who believe we should pull out, and I disagree with those who believe we should stay without end" seems little different from Kerry's famous "I actually did vote for the $87 billion before I voted against it" line. The last thing we need is yet another Democrat afraid to stand on principle.


Can Hillary Clinton overcome those impediments? Money and star power go a long way, but the netroots is now many times larger than it was only three years ago, and we have attractive alternatives to back (and fund), such as former governor Mark W. Warner and Sen. Russell Feingold.

Feingold's probably too liberal to win, but Warner looks pretty good, assuming he's less boring than he seemed in an interview I watched a while ago. He's a real moderate who was extremely popular as governor in a red state.


Ezzie said...

Again, though, the far left of the party wants the rest of it to be held to the views of the extreme - which will only come to haunt them come election time. If Kerry was viewed by many as extreme, what would Feingold be viewed as? Even Warner? Clinton is too far to the right for Moulitsas? That doesn't bode well for the Democratic Party.

Jewish Atheist said...

I don't get it Ezzie... are you saying Warner is to the left of Kerry?? And Moulitsas specifically said he didn't support Dean because he was liberal but because he was an "outsider" and a leader. Nobody said anything about (either) Clinton being "too right." (Although it's clear to me that they are both towards the right end of the party.)

Shlomo said...

The center of the Democratic Party is a big ZERO and Hillary and Bill are 0+0= more 0. Bill is a peacemaker who likes to appease the opposition and Hillary IS the opposition!

I still have no idea what the 'far left' is to conservatives, but I have an idea that it means anyone who doesn't concede 100% to their outlook. It's a religious mindset that says "if you don't agree with me you must be a radical extremist."

If advocating corporate responsibility, public education, and health care for everyone makes me 'extreme', then what does it make those who aren't?

Laura said...

SL said: "If advocating corporate responsibility, public education, and health care for everyone makes me 'extreme', then what does it make those who aren't?"

Exactly my feelings. We have to stop running from the "L" word. Liberalism means all those things above and more. The reason Dems keep losing is because they run away from the Liberal label and end up sounding like their opponent. Provide some opposition for chrissakes!

And Hillary is a mistake. SHe's an appeaser. I agree - we need someone from outside the establishment who isn't afraid to stick to their beliefs rather than move toward the right to avoid being called Liberal.

Ezzie said...

JA - The problem the Far Left has w/ Clinton is she's too far to the right; the problem most of the US had with Kerry was that he was too far to the left. Feingold is farther left than Kerry; Warner I don't know enough about, but I wasn't saying he's farther left than Kerry. Merely that anyone Kos backs is going to get a whole lot of support from the far left fringe, which will backfire later on.

Shlomo said...


Please define 'far'for uas and what values the 'far' left espouses that are so radical.

I have yet to hear this 'far' definitively explained by anyone. The claims of 'extreme' and 'far', I believe are hyperbolic terms used to create a psychological divide.

So Ezzie, please explain to everyone what far left' means. I anxiously await your non-response.