Sunday, February 17, 2008

Take a Position, Any Position!

An article in the New York Times yesterday tells us that Al Gore, Nancy Pelosi and several other prominent Democrats plan to remain neutral throughout the rest of the primary process: While this may make sense as they do not want to make enemies with the potential candidate, it is somewhat troubling that timidity continues to rule the day so often with Democrats. Pelosi who was once considered too liberal to lead the Democrats in Congress has been largely ineffective and tended to give too much away to the President losing almost every battle she decides to fight. This seems emblematic of a party that can't seem to find a heart, or any consensus, on what it is they stand for and who they stand with. At least the Republicans wage battles over ideas and what their central ideological positions are. I think it's time for the Democrats to do the same (and not just debate electability and the fine nuances of specific issues in perpetuity).
Obama at least talks about changing the tone in Washington and challenging Democratic orthodoxy. Gore and Pelosi appear to me to be symptomatic of the problem with Democrats since Clinton (and earlier to be honest), which is a lack of resolve and integrity as regards their positions and platforms. I would love to hear a politician with the resolve to say "we need to raise taxes to deal with the deficit, etc." Gore, while since proving himself a man of integrity and principles, lost an election that he should have won in a landslide simply by running on the record he and Clinton amassassed over 8 years. Instead he couldn't decide if he was a new democrat, a populist or an alpha male on the prowl. In the debates, which he should have easily won, he first came off as a rapid dog in heat, then a timid lamb who couldn't find a substantive differences between Bush and himself then a populist who stood with the people against power.
Kerry suffered from similar problems after being anointed by the mainstream media, after they dismantled the candidacy of Howard Dean with a video clip taken completely out of context. Certainly Bush used dirty tactics, including the Swift Boat debacle the media failed to adequately covered, but Kerry never made it clear what he stood for and this is symptomatic of so much of a Democratic establishment that would rather not lose by failing to take any strong, potentially unpopular positions than to win by standing for something: and I mean anything!
Democrats have become like the left since the fall of capitalism -- in making their only position that of negation -- but they further have taken Republican cynicism as their calling: believing that winning at any costs trumps actually believing in something or fighting for it. I think this is why Obama has inspired so many and why the establishment is so scared of actually giving him a chance. I just hope all this talk of superdelegates and neutrality from up high doesn't end up as the latest wrong moves that have cost Democrats and this country for too long . . .

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

The Election

As the election season heats up, I thought I would add my rather inconsequential two cents on a relatively daily basis; focused on the discourse and media coverage of the campaign. Today's New York Times op ed by the milquetoast David Brooks

seems rather reasonable on the surface. Yes Democrats are making promises they can't keep and will have tough decisions based on the rising deficit and faltering economy upon entering office (if we win). But, there is of course a solution that could help cut those deficits (which were surpluses when GWB entered office, lest us forget). It is simply to turn back the clock and, along with McCain in his original votes before moving right and trying to rewrite his personal history, get rid of the irresponsible Bush tax cuts that simply gave more money to the wealthiest Americans. Democrats should restore the inheritance aka "death" tax, close the loophole for hedge fund managers (who make in the tens and hundreds of millions and pay 15%) and return the system to its more progressive roots (we have essentially ended up with a de facto flat tax today). Of course, the "tax cut" tango must be challenged -- tax cut from the left, tax cut from the right, tax cut for a boom, tax cut for a bust -- and we might remember that there are alternative economic policies available to anyone with a little imagination or a history book that goes back over ten years. As the income gap continues to increase, our education system continues to fail us and the baby boomers shuffle towards retirement and old age someone better realize the times they are a-changing (again) and forge a new path . . .