Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Bloomberg: The Mark Warner Paradigm

By Bernie Quigley for The Free Market News Network 6/20/07

Mike Bloomberg is old school from the time when politics formed around New England's ethnic and religious tribes as in the movie "Miller's Crossing." He and his family are highly respected here in the Boston area as authentic and original and trustworthy people; in a word, formidable. I've felt from the beginning that Bloomberg was acting as a concerned citizen, as it was said that he would only enter the Presidential race if both parties failed to put up worthy candidates. He's one of the smartest men on earth and he's not going to throw away a half billion bucks.

Interesting that he says today that he is no longer a Republican but did not yet declare himself to be an "Independent." His staff says he will not say what he’s going to do until February when the other two parties have declared their candidates.

If Bloomberg decides to make an independent run for the Presidency it could well awaken a permanent third party and one of the other parties will head to Palookaville. The conditions are perfect. The Republicans have at the moment the most to lose, as nominally this represents a division in the Republican Party, leaving the Religious Right and the Old South Republican wing to dangle. The loudest squawks have come from the torture buffs in the Republican nut-job wing.

But the Democrats have a lot to lose as well. They have made great strides gathering independents in ’06 and have brought a new face and a new beginning to Congress. But they have squandered the energy and already alienated the independents who brought them to the new Congress. Pundits say that new energy in the voting public could well go to Bloomberg. All those gains could now disappear.

Which is too bad. This dynamic new crowd of Democrats, which includes Iraq war veterans like Patrick Murphy and Joe Sestak of Pennsylvania and Carol Shea-Porter of New Hampshire were just starting to get their stride. They were on a good track until the consultants took over the show and started this absurd early primary season and the American Idol Presidential lineup. Most in the mainstream are already sick of hearing about these people.

If Bloomberg does go ahead with his new party his tag team will certainly include his California bud, Arnold Schwarzenegger in some capacity – Secretary of State maybe. They are two of the country’s most savvy politicians according to Time where they made the cover this week. Warren Buffett has called for Arnold as VP candidate on a Bloomberg ticket. No question, the political season has changed and almost overnight.

In California today Bloomberg is saying: "Any successful elected executive knows that real results are more important than partisan battles, and that good ideas should take precedence over rigid adherence to any particular political ideology."

Likewise, Arnold's key phrase is "post partisanship." It is the new season and the new tune, and the Democrats are still playing the odd, whiny and inauthentic grocery-store music of Celine Dion.

But Bloomberg’s theme isn’t his own, and post-partisanship isn’t Arnold’s either. Five years ago you might have heard these same sentiments from the Governor who was considered one of the best in the country and one of the best in post-war politics; Mark Warner of Virginia.

Warner invented Mike Bloomberg. He invented Arnold Schwarzenegger. His decision not to run for President left a big hole in Democratic politics.

Warner might have transformed contemporary Democratic politics. Harvard educated and Yankee-reared, he campaigned vigorously and joyfully at Virginia’s NASCAR track and Appalachia’s Big Top churches, where Nantucket liberals fear to tread. But I can see Mike Bloomberg welcomed there as well.

In Warner's tenure as Governor, Virginia could be seen as a Petri dish for a new political sensibility. He proved beyond any doubt that the South and all of the red states could be brought back home to the Democratic Party by a genuine, enthusiastic and sincere politician with excellent management abilities, who respected his fellow Southern citizens as he found them.

As Governor of Virginia and as a Presidential candidate, Warner abandoned the politics of confrontation and established a new model, reaching across the isle to create working relationships with Republicans and ignoring ideology and issues-oriented strategies which often alienated mainstream voters and filled Republican ranks in the Old Dominion.

In an early foray into Iowa, Warner refused to enter into the politics of polarization when reporters pressed him into positioning on the most contentious issues. He once answered, “97% of what I do is management.”

It’s a management thing. The Democrats needed to understand. There is the essence of the new paradigm of what could have been the Democrats’ auspicious political future. When Warner dropped out of the Presidential race, the same management-based, bi-partisan political model was adopted here in New Hampshire by our Democratic Governor, John Lynch. He was reelected in this reddest of states with 80% voter support.

What Arnold brings to California today is new energy to face the new century. He defies the tradition-bound and calcified parties and pushes ahead with his own home-grown environmental treaties in utter disregard for the federales and the inch-worm bureaucrats at the EPA. And to his Republican friends who say that green power will slow business, he responds that green business is good business and forward-looking and alive states will include clean-energy entrepreneurs and be part of the ascending economic arc of the new century.

These are new ideas which are now awakening in the new century and leaving the hide-bound behind. It is good that Arnold has adopted them.

But they are not Schwarzenegger’s ideas. They are Mark Warner’s ideas. When Arnold was pushing his line items against the tide in his first term, Warner was up here in New Hampshire promoting green entrepreneurs and talking up these exact, same ideas. He had made them begin to work in Virginia and could well have made them work across America.

Now these ideas which were leading to a new Democratic awakening are entirely identified with Bloomberg and Arnold.

What happened? The Democrats’ dynamic new people and ideas were driven out by that destroyer of world; the middle-minded minions of the rank and file.

Bloomberg is a master. No one has ever changed the political landscape so dramatically by dropping so few crumbs. And the framing is brilliant: He is now making it crystal-clear that he will undoubtedly act, but he is giving the two parties time to shape up. He brings a decent and civil warning.

There is still time; the Democrats can still turn to their First Tier: Warner, Jim Webb, Kathleen Sebelius of Kansas, Mike Easley of North Carolina, Wes Clark, Ed Rendell of Pennsylvania, John Lynch of New Hampshire, Joe Sestak and others. But they have to look within themselves and ask what is it that compels them to send forth the middle and the middlin’ (Celine Dion?) when the best and the brightest are left on the sidelines.

The Democrats have to let go the current crowd and gather and spread in the South and Southwest and heartland as Warner and Wes Clark have done, as per the prognosis of Mudcat Saunders and Steve Jarding, in their book Foxes in the Henhouse. They need to move the headquarters of the Democratic Party away from Nantucket Island and Bill Clinton's NY penthouse to Richmond or Austin if they ever want to participate with the real people of our country again.

And this could be their very last chance.