Friday, November 28, 2014

Response to Democracy For America's Poll Question

I received a survey recently from Democracy for America, which, if I am not mistaken, is the PAC founded by Howard Dean--progressive, mostly within the Democratic party tent. They asked me to pick my three preferred choices, from a list of about 15, for the Democratic nomination in 2016.  My first choice was Hillary Clinton, my second was Kirsten Gillenbrand (an agreeable Hillary surrogate, should HRC decide she can't run or some such thing), and my third was Joaquin Castro (he must be too young to run for President, but I like putting his name out there).

No mention in my ballot of the two whom I knew were the preferred votegetters of this group's members (and who got the most votes in the end, Hillary being third), Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.  Warren has flat out, repeatedly, said she is not running.  Bernie has hedged on that and now does seem to be about to run, I am guessing because of the renewed war footing Obama has recently placed us on, in both Iraq and Afghanistan.   But let's be serious:  Bernie has no chance of winning the Democratic nomination--he's not even a Democrat--and even less chance (a negative probability, if such a thing were to exist) of winning in a general election.

If anyone should understand this, it's Howard Dean, who was branded a slightly-left winger (i.e., a wacko) and couldn't make it out of New Hampshire as a party favorite.   The Democrats have had one national candidate since FDR who dared to tell the truth and was more than a little left-of-center:  his name was George McGovern, and he won 17 electoral votes out of 538, against one of the most cynical, corrupt Presidents in modern history (Richard Nixon, for you young people unaware of history)--and McGovern was an authentic WWII hero, a decent man, a loyal American, and they threw everything in the book at him.  Those who saw Barack Obama as such a person were either reacting in fear or deluded by hope--they never looked at the reality of his political stances, which were, again, slightly left-of-center (if one insists on a single left-right spectrum, something I resist, but will accept for purposes of argument). Sanders and Warren have no chance of being elected in these United States--maybe in some other, hypothetical one, with a fair electoral process, equal access to media, and less vested-interest talking heads getting in their way, but not this one.

Anyway, the folks at Democracy for America were nice enough to come back to me a few days later and ask me to explain my choice.  Here is my verbatim answer to them: 
Hillary Clinton has the best chance to win the general election, and that is the objective--to win, and win big (so as to win back Congress).
She can be a leader to unify the Democrats, if she has the right program, which in my view should be the following:*
1) A Constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United, and support for a variety of measures--such as ease of registration, Federal control over redistricting abuse, absentee or early voting- to open up and facilitate popular (as opposed to elitist) participation in the political process;
2)  A new set of environmental measures suited to addressing the challenge of climate change;
3) Investment in infrastructure, education, and retraining for a competitive future economy;
4) Settling the long-term budgetary issues of the retirement and healthcare programs in a way that deals equitably with each generation's concerns and assures the programs' long-term survival; and
5) She should announce--before her nomination acceptance speech, maybe when she has the nomination locked up, that she will serve for one term only!
The only problem for some will be her close relations with business and with the military-industrial complex (she is a hawk, no doubt).  The key will be her strong stance for helping the middle-and lower-classes economically and to propose a clear plan to wind up the war in the middle east (if it is still going on in 2016).
Obviously, serving for just one term will break the glass ceiling, she will avoid nasty comments about being old, and avoid the Second-Term Syndrome (which has affected every Presidency in 50 years).  The Democrats can have their battle over future leadership four years later, having accomplished a great deal in her single, historic term in office.  I call it "The Polk Option", after Pres. Polk in the 1840's who did something comparable.
I am Ready for Hillary!  
*And I have a catchy name for the program:  "Vision 20/20"
(as in, seeing things clearly, getting it done by 2020). 

Attentive readers will recognize many of the same points in the above that I made in my previous post on "The Polk Option" earlier this year--I have not changed my mind one iota on this topic, and I am willing to spout freely on the subject as long as space permits, to anyone who might listen.  My next recipients of this unsolicited advice will probably be James Carville--a noted, though untitled, Clintonian--and Stephanie Schriock, a journalist/political advisor/Emily's list director whom I like a lot, and who is rumored to be in contention to be Hillary's campaign manager.

I am not asking for Hillary to announce her one-term plan so early, or as a condition for my support (though I will enthusiastically support the idea if I hear it is being considered):  She should think--and discuss with her advisors--about the optimum timing for such an announcement (above, I suggest either her nomination acceptance speech, or to keep things interesting once she has wrapped up the nomination).  I do feel very strongly that this is the right thing for her to do, the politically most advantageous approach, and one that will cost her none of her effectiveness as President--it will help her win a big majority in Congress, which she will need to accomplish her reforms.

I do ask--require--that she have a plan for what she wants to accomplish as President, in order to earn my support, and for me to feel it appropriate to advocate her Presidency to anyone else.  I also am concerned about the ISIS/Afghanistan moves President Obama has made recently--not their validity in the sense of the war against the pathological ISIS, or the intransigent reactionaries of the Taliban--but the political box they may end up putting Hillary into if the wars do not go well enough to permit Obama to begin pulling back by 2016.

Finally,  I would like to provide a little historical backup for my contention above that the last President who has had a successful second term is Eisenhower--in the sense of being able to continue effectively the policies and approach of the first term.  It's probably out of the question now for Obama; though I feel he can still accomplish a great deal, possibly more than he has in the first six years, whatever he does from here on would be as the result of a complete change of approach, one in which he may have already made a few dramatic steps.  The clock is ticking, though, and Congress is against him.
JFK - didn't make it to a second term
LBJ - the second half of his second term (counting the 1 1/2 years from '63-'65 as his first) was totally ruined by the Vietnam War morass he allowed the US to sink into
Nixon - didn't make it through the second term (Watergate)
Ford - not re-elected
Carter - not re-elected
Reagan - Iran-Contra was just the clearest example of a second-term Presidency with lights on, nobody home (the man was senile in his second term, face it)
Poppy Bush - not- re-elected
Clinton - Didn't get much done in the second term, except surviving impeachment and getting some backlash support in the '98 midterm elections.
Dubya - To my way of thinking, he was not nearly as odious in the second term as in the first, but his popularity hit the skids by 2006 and never rebounded.  Plus, he presided over the collapse of the economy into the Great Crater--if you call that presiding.
Obama - Political pattern paralleling Dubya, only for the other party.  Gets zero credit for the slow but steady recovery of the economy from the worst recession since the '30's (or early '80's, if you want to argue the point). 

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