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the Des Moines Register

What Kind of Party Do the Democrats Want to Be?

David Goodner

The outcome of tonight's Iowa Caucus will do more than determine who will become the next President of the United States of America.

Tonight's outcome will also determine what kind of party the Democrats want to be.

On one side is Hillary Clinton, the Washington insider, hawk, and centrist. If Iowa Democrats support her tonight, they will be signaling to the world that the Democratic Party remains stuck in an outdated center-right coalition model of governance. To defeat Regeanism in the 1990s, former president Bill Clinton and the DLC took the Democratic Party to the right and compromised with conservatives to gain office. Although Bill Clinton is usually thought of as a liberal, he doubled America's prison population, kicked millions off the welfare rolls, signed NAFTA into law, and rehabilitated American imperialism with his so-called "humanitarian" military interventions in Bosnia, Kosovo, and Serbia (interventions that actually increased the suffering and misery in those countries). His economic sanctions against Iraq killed at least 1 million Iraqis, about as many as Bush's war for oil has.

Hillary Clinton today is an advocate of that center-right coalition model. Under this view, liberals do not have the votes by themselves to ever hold the Oval Office. The mythical moderate voter, the mythical conservative American, must be appeased if a Democrat is ever going to be elected.

John Kerry also ran for president under this model of liberalism in 2004, and he lost because of his "Bush-lyte" approach. Kerry did not represent a genuine, legitimate alternative to the Bush Doctrine, and voters decided to stay with the status quo.

But this model of liberalism is facing challenges from a resurgent progressive movement in this country. Issues like global warming, universal health care, cutting the Pentagon budget to pay for new domestic spending, and withdrawing from Iraq are all mainstream issues that a majority of Americans support.

Presidential candidates like John Edwards and Barack Obama are both offering up a progressive liberal model of governance to Democrats and to the rest of the country. A model that is against lobbyists, special interests, and corporations, and for change and human rights. Although both Edwards and Obama are the sons of Bill Clinton and his legacy more than they like to admit, a vote for either of them is a vote for realigning the Democratic Party with the leftwing pendulum shift occuring across the political landscape in this country.

I'm caucusing for Bill Richardson tonight because I think his blend of experience and change is better for this country and the world than either Edwards or Obama. But if Richardson is not viable, I will caucus for Obama. Richardson's precinct captains "have been instructed to direct supporters to Obama in the places where they fail to reach the 15% threshold for viability," according to Chase Martyn for the Iowa Independent.

"Obama is on track to win Caucus 2nd Tier Support", including Dennis Kucinich supporters and possibly even Joe Biden's camp, according to Beverly Davis over at the Huffington Post.

If Edwards or Obama carve out a clearcut, first-place finish in Iowa, and the other gets second forcing Hillary to accept third place, then the Democratic Party will be well on its way towards a progressive realignment consistent with the leftwing pendulum shift occuring all over America. If Hillary wins Iowa, or if a plurality occurs and a virtual three-way tie is the outcome, then the Democratic Party's progressive realignment will be stuck uncompleted and half-done.

That would be a major setback for progressives and all Americans of conscience concernced with social justice and human rights. Iowa Democrats should be united against Hillary Clinton and the outdated corporate, centrist model she represents.

After the Iowa Caucus and the rest of the primaries, the Democratic Party should unite around a progressive vision for change. Personally, I'd like to see Obama in the Oval Office, because his youth, judgement, background, and oratory can help lead America into the future. But I'd also like to see a fiery John Edwards in the Vice President slot. Although the VP is traditionally an honorary post with little power, current Vice President Dick Cheney has shown what the number one can do with his office. A pro-union, angry Edwards could still take it to the corporations as Vice President.

The next Secretary of State has got to be Richardson. Ending the war in Iraq, solving the Israeli/Palestine conflict, working with Iran, Syria, North Korea, Cuba, India, China, Russia, Venezuela, Pakistan, and all the war-torn, poverty-stricken countries in Africa, will require the best negotiator and diplomat America's got. And that's Richardson.

The next president should also bring University of Michigan professor Juan Cole into his or her cabinent, as an ambassador or an advisor or something.

Iowa Democrats, independents, and disenfranchised Republicans. Tonight is our night. Let's take the Democratic Party back from the corporate centrists who have struck a deal with the devil, and usher in a new progressive era for the benefit of all.

David Goodner's blog titled "Straight Out of the Cornfield" in the features left-wing street journalism from an Iowa City native son. Goodner is a senior at the University of Iowa majoring in international studies and human rights.

Copyright © 2008 The Des Moines Register

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