Thursday, May 18, 2006

Old Dems, New Dems and Fighting Dems

- May 18, 2006, for The Fighting Dems web site

When Tammy Duckworth won her Illinois primary last month it made headlines at the Daily Kos and at WesPAC, General Wesley Clark’s web site, but there was otherwise sparse recognition of the brave army officer who lost both her legs in a Blackhawk helicopter in Iraq.

The next day comprehensive articles began to appear and in one article in The New York Times, Major Duckworth was named. The article said the success of women in the recent primaries was an important indicator of how Senator Clinton of New York would fare in 2008 in her Presidential race.

It was a startling piece of reportage. All roads lead to Hillary, even those through combat, camaraderie and rehabilitation. Until recently, the press could think of little else. Twice in one month CNN ran a story about Senator Clinton not running for President. “Will Hillary not run for President?” A non-story about nothing. A runaway horse which the press couldn’t get off. I was reminded of the old Saturday Night Live routine: “General Franco is still dead!” And when the Times recently ran a story about Mark Warner, the recently retired governor of Virginia, on the cover of their Sunday magazine, the editors declared him to be “the anti-Hillary.” There are only two topics today in Democratic politics; the things that are Hillary and the things that are not Hillary.

Up here in the New England hills there was some controversy week before last when the popular Boston Globe columnist Ellen Goodman (who once proposed a contract when a boy kisses a girl, with an amendment clause for each and every additional foray into the jolly mayhem) wrote a column telling John Kerry not to run again. It kind of mystified us for awhile. But she is only clearing the decks of her local commitment, ramping up for Hillary.

This is not an issue of press hordes blindly following the one after the other off the cliff. It does have prompting from Republicans – all leading contenders like to say (some gleefully) that they expect to be running against Hillary in 2008. Indeed, Rupert Murdock’s Fox New Network, which has raised its stock in maligning her over more than a decade, is holding a fundraiser for her this summer. But the press, in the notable phrase of the great Watergate investigation, follows the money. And the money is going to Hillary.

Recently, Markos Moulitsas of the Daily Kos, who coined the phrase Fighting Dems and has heavily promoted them on his blog, suggested in an op-ed article in The Washington Post that there are now two Democratic Parties; old Democrats, and he mentioned Senator Clinton and John Kerry, and new Democrats (he mentioned Russ Feingold and Mark Warner, who have recently scored one and two in his monthly survey of readers). Kos has actively promoted the new wing of the Democratic Party, featuring a new Fighting Dem every week.

“Hillary Clinton has a few problems if she wants to secure the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination,” wrote Kos. “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.)”

Hillary Clinton leads her Democratic rivals in the polls and in fundraising, said Kos. 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.

It comes down to this: Elvis will not leave the building. He is bored. He is vain. In my opinion, he has become a political cult figure as used to be called in politics a “cult of personality.” He likes being famous, but he lacks that quality of character of a Reagan, Ford or Carter, to know when the work is done and turn homeward. It is the problem of an aparatchik; one who has no home but his cause, his work, his popularity and fame. No place to go when his life works is finished. When Bill Clinton finished his second turn as President he saw it as only the beginning. It was his grand delusion shared by many of his followers. But now he is taking all the air out of the room and sending his proxies to the talk shows to debase mainstream Democrats. And he is taking all the money out of the room as well.

I felt a sea change in politics a few months back when reports of the Fighting Dems first began appearing on Wes Clark’s web site. I’d been in the room with General Clark when he signed the book to enter the primary in New Hampshire and volunteered for him all through his campaign. General Clark brought integrity and character to the Democrats. Frankly, he brought a sense of adulthood, duty and responsibility that somehow had drifted over the generations. Now others like Paul Hackett, Tammy Duckworth and Andrew Horne – seven of them in Texas, and others all over the country - were bringing the same bright and positive charge to the table.

But other good men like Tim Dunn, who attained the rank of Lt. Colonel serving with the Marines in Kosovo, Desert Storm, Desert Shield and the Iraq War were beginning to turn back. He pulled out of his race in North Carolina’s 8th district, and one of the reasons was lack of funds. In the same period, major fundraisers in the state were holding fundraisers for Hillary.

At a recent fundraiser in New York held by George Soros for Wesley Clark, someone asked the General how much money he hoped to raise.

“As little as possible,” he said.

Clark said to hoped to keep WesPAC going and wanted to make enough money to cover his costs. But he said, candidates should not be raising money for 2008 until the 2006 races are over in November, as it draws funds away from local races.

The Democrats have lost sight of this, blinded in part, by the prize at the top. The Republicans have not.

The day after Markos had his op-ed in The Washington Post, something very interesing happened. After ignoring bloggers like Kos and denying their influence for years, his comments the day before in the Post were reported as front-page news in The New York Times. Suddenly, people were listening. And now they will continue to listen.

Next month, Jim Webb faces a primary race in Virginia. Webb is a fascinating man who once wrote the most well-known novel about Vietnam, Fields of Fire, after serving in Vietnam as a Marine. He was also Secretary of the Navy and has done all kinds of things. And he comes with a big noise. If you go to his website a speech opens upon you. He is possibly the most effective public speaker since Malcolm X. He will eat George Allen, his opponent in the general election, alive.

Many of us here in New England and the Northeast tend to forget our war dead and overlook our soldiers. A tour of an undergraduate college today in the northeast would show far greater interest in Bart Simpson than Stonewall Jackson, Joshua Chamberlain or Robert Gould Shaw, who’s monument is passed unnoticed on the Boston Common. It has given us issues of authenticity and when someone like Kerry postures as a warrior, it strikes a cord of disbelief. Jim Webb, like fellow Fighting Dems Andrew Horne in Kentucky and Tammy Duckworth in Illinois and Eric Massa in New York are soldiers who bring a sobering sensibility to the Democratic Party. They bring a character-based sensibility to politics, honed in duty, sacrifice and civic responsibility.

These people have always been here. It is the Democrats who have turned away. The Fighting Dems, with Jim Webb as Pathfinder and Gatekeeper, awaken a new political front. Once again, others will follow their lead.


Anonymous said...

Maybe someday we will evolve to a point where Democrats aren't considering "legitimate" unless they have served in the military.

You see, we may be evolving beyond Elvis, but we obviously haven't evolved THAT much. Same old crap, dressed up differently.

Anonymous said...

Hey what a great site keep up the work its excellent.

Anonymous said...