Blinded by the right

by Beacon Staff • October 5, 2005

Democrats seem compelled to move more and more to the right in preparation for future elections and they haven't exactly been covert about it either.,"If the Democrats are interested in winning elections in 2006 and 2008, they may want to begin by winning back a core demographic of their voters-the left.

Democrats seem compelled to move more and more to the right in preparation for future elections and they haven't exactly been covert about it either.

Case in point: Sen. Hillary Clinton (CQ) (D-NY), the early frontrunner for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2008, has made a point to shed her liberal image. In May, she appeared in D.C. with conservative former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (CQ) to promote health legislation. The next month, Clinton did the same with Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.). (CQ)(0)

Clinton-like most of the prominent Democrats-has continually refused to call for the end of the occupation of Iraq. Earlier this year, she told NBC's Meet the Press, "I think it [pulling out of Iraq] would be a mistake ... We don't want to send a signal to the insurgents, to the terrorists, that we are going to be out of here at some date certain." (1) This is the same basic rhetoric that the Bush administration uses, and shows just how out of touch Clinton is with her base.

Sen. Joseph Biden (D-De)(CQ) is another potential democratic 2008 presidential candidate who in 2002, like Clinton, voted to give Bush authority to invade Iraq. Biden has also insisted on "staying the course" in Iraq, saying in a July speech to the Brookings Institute (CQ) that he would "fight terror as hard as Bush." (2)

This trend toward the right is not a new phenomenon for the Democratic Party?. Under the leadership of President Bill Clinton (CQ), the United States moved to the right in many substantial ways. During his two terms, Clinton made drastic cuts to welfare, bombed Iraq and passed the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)(CQ)(5). These policies were largely supported by the Republicans in Congress, and angered progressives enough that during 1996 presidential elections, bumper stickers read, "If God had intended us to vote, he would have given us candidates."

Partisan liberals often blame anti-corporate activist Ralph Nader (CQ) for Al Gore's loss in 2000. It was Clinton's conservative-leaning policies, however, that prompted a third party movement.

In 2004 the left was once again left out. The majority of the Democratic presidential hopefuls voted for the war, the USA Patriot Act, and against gay marriage, including Senators Joe Lieberman (D-CT), John Kerry (D-MA) and John Edwards (D-SC). Liberal voters hoping for change were once again left with few viable options.

Based on the early indications for 2008, it doesn't appear likely any big-name Democrat with a reasonable chance for victory will take an outright stance against the war. This is not only going to alienate liberal voters, but it also may prove to be a strategic blunder.

According to a CNN poll from Sept. 21, Bush's approval rating is at a mere 40 percent. Only 33 percent of those polled approve of his handling of the war, with 59 percent calling it an outright mistake.(CQ) (4)

Given the growing displeasure with Bush, why do the Democrats continually aim to appear more in line with the president?

Their reasoning, it would appear, is that that the minority party needs to win over moderate republican voters in order to win elections. Republicans do not appear to be catering to the wishes of the left, however, nor do they seem too worried about winning over any liberal voters. They take care or their base-or at least they try. It certainly worked for them in 2004, and it could work for the Democrats in 2008.

The smart move would be to take a decisive stand against Bush on his policies and turn the public's frustration with the administration into a progressive effort to fix the country.

The neoconservative movement-especially with its effect on foreign affairs-is too strong to be countered with an ambiguous platform that offers no substantive change in terms of policies. The fiery rhetoric of our conservative leaders needs to be rebuffed with clarity and vigor.

Sen. Clinton would be better served to spend her time with peace activist and gold star mother Cindy Sheehan (CQ) than she would with Gingrich.

The onus falls on the voters as well, who must make it clear to potential candidates that the status quo is unacceptable, and that they will vote for a candidate who will end this war, restore our civil liberties and insist that we spend less on bombs and more on important social programs.

What this country needs is the anti-Bush, not "anybody but Bush."

If the Democrats do not soon realize this, they will not only lose elections, but also their usefulness as an opposition party.

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