Sunday, January 5, 2003

Contenders scramble: But which Democrat can lead the nation?
In recent weeks, a cornucopia of Democratic candidates have announced plans to run for the highest office in the land. Seizing on issues such as the weak economy and a president who is completely distracted with "regime changes" and the globalist desires of his warlords and campaign contributors, the Democrats are thinking, "Why not me?"
Fresh in the minds of all of these candidates is the 1992 election.
In early 1991, President George H. W. Bush was riding high in the polls after "liberating" Kuwait during the first Gulf War. At the time, the only Democrat who was thinking about challenging the president was former Mass. Sen. Paul Tsongas. All the other "heavy hitters," like Sen. Al Gore and Sen. Lloyd Bentsen, didn’t think Bush was beatable and sat out the primaries. Eventually, Bush’s numbers crashed after the economy continued to slide and the Democratically-controlled Congress tricked him into breaking his “No new taxes” pledge. Everyone knows the end result: Bush was clobbered, with the help of Ross Perot, and a glad-handing, sex-crazed governor from Arkansas, William Jefferson Clinton, played Fleetwood Mac songs and pied-pipered right into the White House.
But of all the candidates who have announced that they are running [or at least forming exploratory committees to raise and spend money to flirt with the idea] which can actually turn the economy around? Should Democrats take advantage of the 54 weeks before the first primary to find out what these candidates stand for and what they plan on doing differently than Bush or past candidates? As well, will the populist-progressive wing of the Democratic Party be told – once again – to cast aside their values in favor of a candidate who is more conservative or viable?
Thankfully,, a Cambridge-based Web site, and have compiled scads of information on almost all of the nation’s elected officials. The site uses a "VoteMatch" chart – similar to the little card libertarians hand out to assist voters in analyzing their political affiliations. Vote-Smart has downloadable PDF files of voting records.
The announced candidates, alphabetically, are Sen. Tom Daschle, SD, Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, Sen. John Edwards, NC, Rep. Dick Gephardt, Sen. John Kerry, MA, Sen. Joe Lieberman, CT and the Rev. Al Sharpton. Other candidates will probably come forward in the future. For now, this is what the Dems have to choose from. Not surprisingly, most of them score in the "moderate liberal" category according to VoteMatch. But a closer examination of voting records and positions reveal that some are very closely aligned with Republican President George W. Bush – bleak results for voters hoping for a progressive-populist candidate.
In the last few election cycles, decisions on international trade treaties have been controversial. The passage of NAFTA in 1993 and later, GATT and the World Trade Organization [WTO] in 1994, put forward by Clinton – with the help of Republicans – have led to millions of American jobs being shipped to Mexico and China, decimating many unions who have historically supported Democrats. These treaties have also devastated the manufacturing sector – a part of the economy relied on when economic times turn sour. Unfortunately for many Americans, that factory job down the street that a person could raise a family on has been replaced by that retail job [or two] that no one will ever be able to raise a family on. Another negative result of the trade deals is the loss of tariff tax revenue, which less than 90 years ago, once paid for the entire federal government.
But, if Democrats are looking for a candidate who is the champion of “fair trade” issues, their choices are slim.
Daschle, Kerry, and Lieberman have all been champions of the failed free trade cult, voting for NAFTA, GATT, and Fast Track authority to Bush and Clinton – usurping their own Constitutional authority as senators to negotiate trade deals. They all supported Permanent Most Favored Nation Trade Status [PMFN] for China, a repressive dictatorial regime that, frankly, should be on Bush’s list for “regime change” but will never be because of the cheap goods flooding our markets. Edwards, who was elected in 1998, didn’t have the opportunity to vote on NAFTA or GATT. But he did support PMFN for China. CNN suggested this vote could help differentiate Edwards from the other candidates in a move to the center, even though they all supported this vote. Gephardt, to his credit, is the best Washington-based candidate on trade. Gephardt voted against PMFN, against giving Bush and Clinton fast track, and rebuked NAFTA, assisting in organizing the opposition although according to John MacArthur’s book, "The Selling of 'Free Trade,'" did not fight as hard as he could have while the Democrats controlled the Congress. But like the others, Gephardt supported GATT. Since Dean is a governor, he did not vote on any of these treaties but he seems to understand the importance of the issues. During a September interview with the Texas Triangle, Dean said he leaned “towards the notion of fair trade,” but then added, “Free trade is good, but it has to be accompanied by environmental standards and labor standards in order to be fair trade. And if we don’t have that, free trade is probably going to hurt us more than it will help us in the long run.” On his Web site, Dean said, “Unfortunately, our free trade policies have also had the effect of hollowing out our industrial capacity, and most worrisome, undermining our own middle class.” Sharpton has been a long time critic of the trade deals and has seen first hand the damage the agreements have done to both urban and rural minority communities. Many of the factory jobs that fled across the border were filled by minorities who quickly found themselves in unemployment lines. In an exchange on FoxNews on Nov. 7, host Bill O’Reilly accused Sharpton of trying to move the Democrats to the left, Sharpton countered by saying, "I want to move [the Democrats] to the center. I think pro big business, pro NAFTA, pro GATT, pro what they’ve done to this country is not the center. That’s to the right,” according to transcripts published on the FoxNews Web site.
As Americans struggle to balance their own books, some have looked to the government for assistance, either through extended unemployment benefits, tax breaks, bankruptcy law revisions, minimum wage increases, or welfare benefits.
But Washington Democrats haven’t always been helpful on these issues. Senators and Reps. headed home for the holidays without extending unemployment benefits and almost 800,000 people didn’t receive a check last week. Elected officials say they will work on the issue in the next legislative session but that remains to be seen since both parties are divided on how best to remedy economic problems.
On taxes, the democrats running do differ with the administration with all of them voting against Bush’s $1.3 trillion tax cut and the elimination of estate taxes. And, at the same time, each have promoted their own specialized plans for tax breaks, including payroll tax cuts and "middle class" tax cuts.
However, when it comes to bankruptcy laws, surprisingly, many of the announced Democrats preferred to support the banking industry – that regularly floods the economy with easy credit at astronomical rates – over people who need relief from the debts. Daschle, Edwards, and Lieberman voted for stricter filing rules which would basically keep people eternally in debt to the credit card industry without any regulation on how that industry performs its business. Kerry was one of a handful of senators who voted against the measure. Gephardt has no record on the matter, according to Vote-Smart. Dean also has no information available on the issue. But Sharpton aggressively campaigned against the issue, noting that a rider was put into the Senate version of the bill would allow police to search homes without a warrant.
Admittedly, supporters of Clinton’s 1995 welfare reform bill say it has had mixed results. Some say it is because the program is laxly administered. Others say, the economic downturn has pushed many former welfare recipients from the jobs they were filling [at the same time jobs low-skill, decent-wage work was being sent overseas]. But to rank-and-file Dems, welfare reform is considered one of the most disgraceful things promoted by Clinton. But he wasn’t alone. Daschle, Kerry, and Lieberman, all voted for welfare reform while doing nothing to rein in billions spent on corporate welfare and subsidies, International Monetary Fund spending, or foreign aid. Edwards, who was not in office in 1995, has no record on the issue. Dean, as well, was unable to vote on the federal legislation, but did testify before the Senate Finance Committee in favor of continuation of the law, according to a National Governors Association press release. But in implementing the law in Vermont, Dean guaranteed that health care, child care, transportation and job training were provided to people in the program, according to a profile in the Columbia University Record. Sharpton has always been against welfare reform, saying in a piece from Delaware Online, "When they [white politicians] talk about their welfare reform plans, they are talking about theory. When I talk about welfare reform, I'm talking about something I lived. I know the humiliation of having to go down and stand in line to get the welfare cheese and the welfare peanut butter."
On wage issues, the democrats again are pretty good. Gephardt has always promoted "a living wage" although he has not specified what it should be and all the senators running voted “no” to killing an increase in the minimum wage. Sharpton’s National Action Network has been active in the living wage cause and Dean has a very good voting record with the local AFL-CIO.
In stepping away from the economic issues, liberal democrats will also be a little bewildered at what they will find. On almost all the issues surrounding the war on terrorism, whether the fascistic USA PATRIOT Act, the wasteful Star Wars program, or the Iraq war resolution, Democrats have been lockstep with the president.
Daschle, Edwards, Kerry, and Lieberman all approved the USA PATRIOT Act and two other bills which gave sweeping wiretapping authorities to law enforcement officials. They also all voted for expanded military spending, Star Wars, and for the president’s Iraq war resolution. Kerry did vote against Star Wars in 1998, but flipped and supported the program in 1999. Gephardt also voted for the USA PATRIOT Act. While Dean and Sharpton have not voted on military or terrorism issues, they have taken political positions. Dean, trying to have it both ways, told the Iowa City Press-Citizen on Sept. 24 that “he would endorse a pre-emptive strike against Iraq if it can be proven that Saddam Hussein has access to weapons of mass destruction and the means to discharge them,” but later told the Boston Globe he was against pre-emptive strikes, and has since been touted by liberals as the peace candidate. Sharpton, on the other hand, has been actively involved in the anti-impending war movement, speaking at rallies in NYC and DC. Sharpton has also had a long history of bouts with the military industrial complex, including protesting the Navy’s test bombing in Puerto Rico which landed him in prison for a short stint.
Wildcards: While most of the issues here are Washington-based, or the results of voting records, there are a few wildcards in this emerging campaign that need to be considered.
The first is Sharpton himself. While the "experts" will write-off any chance at the nomination, his power during the primary process cannot be rebuked. South Carolina, the third primary state, is a heavy minority state and if he spends enough time there – with a crowded field – he could win. [Barring any attempts by Donna Brazile to siphon votes from Sharpton with minority “favorite son” candidates, as she has already threatened to do.] There will also be other primaries in which he can compete including New York, Georgia, and Florida. As well, if he tears a sheet out of the Jesse Jackson 1988, Jerry Brown 1992, Pat Buchanan 1996 campaign playbooks, and campaigns on a populist theme about working class issues, he could become a powerful force in Iowa and NH. People forget that Buchanan won NH in 1996 with about 23 percent of the vote in a crowded field by hammering away at the globalists in Congress sending jobs to Mexico. There is still a receptive audience to these issues, years later, if a candidate focuses on them. If Sharpton comes in fourth or better in either contest, he could survive to South Carolina and beyond.
Dean’s pro-gun position and support for single-payer health care system will open many doors for the relatively unknown governor. Both issues are very popular with grassroots support, albeit most often, on different sides of the political aisle. However, with independent voters, a key to almost all the primaries, their opinions can vary. If Dean can last through the early primaries or take similar strides that Sharpton needs to take, he could see his support galvanize in the south and industrialized mid-west. As well, by clarifying his war position, he could easily be seen as the "electable" default peace candidate, which will play with primary voters in the west.

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