Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Reconsidering Democratic Candidates for 2008 Presidential Election.

I really didn't anticipate having to take another close look at the field of presidential candidates. Until quite recently, I was hands down in favor of Barack Obama. Having seen clips of his speeches, I was convinced that he was presenting an element of sincerity not seen in any political campaign as long as I've been alive. But lately I'm not so sure. It's as if his handlers and advisers have taken him aside and warned him to curtail his true feelings. He sounds tentative and indecisive. He's not setting the tone of the dialogue at all, and I find that completely disappointing. Unless he resumes the spirit and attitude he had a year ago, there's no chance of him getting the Democratic nomination. The problem is that I don't have anyone to support in lieu of Obama.

I've heard a lot of good things come out of the mouth of John Edwards lately. I like his seeming commitment to environmental issues. I like the idea of ending the Iraqi war, and putting our resources into alternative energies. Our foreign policy cannot continue to be centered on oil dependency. Yet while Edwards hits a lot of the right notes in his speeches, I simply don't believe anything he says. I don't know whether its his southern accent, or if its his abysmal record of avoiding controversial issues between election campaigns. It's great to have and state convictions- but I have a hard time finding the real-life advances Edwards has made toward his stated agenda. I do realize his party was in the minority during his tenure in the senate. Still... he actually co-sponsored Lieberman's Iraq War resolution, and he voted for the Patriot Act. After his "retirement" from the Washington political arena, he worked for a Wall Street investment firm.

Of course the candidate to beat is Senator Hillary Clinton. In the opinion of some observers (including Alan Greenspan), she is married to one of the best Republican presidents we ever had. Unfortunately her family was attacked by a sustained campaign of false moral rectitude and righteously delivered character assassination. Certainly some of the irrational anger that was directed against her husband has rubbed off on her. She is the bogeywoman of the right wing. They constantly invoke her when they want to mobilize their political base. All the while I wonder why conservatives haven't embraced her. She began her political career as president of her college's Young Republican Club, and served as a volunteer on ultraconservative presidential contender Barry Goldwater's campaign. Hillary's been a tireless advocate for the American occupation of Iraq. Her early-90's failure to come up with a viable healthcare plan for the nation was so resounding that it virtually ended all serious discussion of the issue for over a decade. I would think that Hillary Clinton would be the perfect moderate compromise option, if she hadn't been so thoroughly vilified by the likes of O'Reilly, Hannity, Beck and Limbaugh. Of course it wouldn't hurt her chances if she had a penis.

So after you eliminate the big three, then who is left? There are the marginal candidates that don't have a chance in hell of winning the primary. Joe Biden is clearly the Republican-lite choice. He is basically Hillary Clinton in white male packaging. Bill Richardson is the stealth minority candidate (do y'all know he's part Mexican?). Then we have special interest favorite- Senator Chris Dodd from Connecticut. Dodd's been in bed with Enron, Morgan Stanley, Arthur Andersen, and the International Association of Fire Fighters (!) He'd most likely get support from NORML, due to his stated intentions to decriminalize marijuana. Bringing up the rear is perpetual also-ran Dennis Kucinich. He's both a consistent advocate for peace and the seeming embodiment of comic relief for the mainstream media. The last time Kucinich was taken seriously was when he was the boy mayor of Cleveland (1978).

Finally... we have a new face in the field- Mike Gravel, the former senator from Alaska. He seems to be elbowing in on Kucinch's territory as the lone voice of the far-left. He's taken some interesting positions including calling for the abolishment of the IRS, a national sales tax, a single-payer national health care system, equal rights for gays, nuclear disarmament, immediate withdrawal from Iraq, and term limits. But Gravel is primarily known for his support of direct democracy (the National Initiative). This entails allowing the people to cast votes in ballot initiatives at the federal level, effectively making them an additional legislative body of the United States. It would be naive to think that Gravel has much chance of winning the presidency, but he adds some fresh ideas to the national dialogue. Unfortunately the press tends to willfully ignore (or deride) proposals that they deem to be too distant from "the center". While I think he'd be a worthwhile alternative to Obama, I'm way too cynical to suggest him as a viable Democratic nominee for president.

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