Friday, March 28, 2003

"I Heart Hart"

It is my distinct pleasure to welcome a new blogger onto the scene - Gary Hart. That's right, I said Gary Hart.

Does this mean we can finally add Hart to the list? Not quite. Although he's officially fundraising - and now officially blogging - he's not yet officially running.

So Mr. Hart, whenever you're ready to make it official, you just go ahead and let 'ol DemWatch know.

posted by Scott | 3/28/2003 | |

Tuesday, March 25, 2003

2004: The Ralph and Al Show?

If there ever was a time that Liberal America needed to set aside petty grudges, it is now.

The Democratic Party, and indeed the whole of the American Left, are under assault. The Right has claimed major victories on national defense, trimming the tax burden, and returning Washington to a civil society. Many people, even a significant number of Republicans, know this to be a sham. When asked how we can protect ourselves from terror, Tom Ridge's answer is duct tape and plastic sheeting. When asked how the country can afford a war-time tax cut without even an idea of the financial costs of war, the administration balks, with different officials offering different answers, none of them officially sanctioned. When asked how civil Washington can be while powerful advisors like Richard Perle are clearly engaged in profiteering, the questioners are branded terrorists.

Tom DeLay accuses Howard Dean of treason and it's echoed by major conservative pundits. Death threats are made against Tom Daschle for criticism of the administration and the Justice Department shrugs. Radio talk host Michael Savage flirts with the idea of pre-emptive imprisonment of Americans against the war, claiming a grand conspiracy between Democrats, Communists, Iraqi Nationalists and Radical Islam.

It does not help the cause of Liberal America, however, when a blowhard like Michael Moore takes the stage at the Oscars and spits his way through a borderline incoherent rant about George W. Bush. It's true, Michael - when you've got the Pope and the Dixie Chicks against you, you're in trouble. But it's equally true that when the Hollywood left jeers your anti-Bush diatribe on national television, you're REALLY in trouble.

DemWatch is not my personal sounding board, though, and I assure you that this does indeed have something to do with the 2004 Democratic primary.


In recent weeks, Ralph Nader has come back onto the political radar, making it increasingly clear that he's considering a run for the presidency in 2004. A burgeoning "Draft Nader" movement has sprung up, complete with a website and Jesse Ventura's former campaign manager Doug Friedline in the role of National Political Director. With recent and upcoming appearances in South Carolina, Missouri, Massachusetts, Michigan, and Ohio (all relatively early primary states), one wonders if he's not thinking about jumping into the Democratic field.

It is true that there would be a good deal of animosity towards a Nader candidacy among still-bitter Gore supporters. However, that could possibly be overlooked if Nader "repents" for his spoiler role in 2000 and promises to swear off an independent campaign and endorse the eventual candidate should he lose the primary. There would be precedent for such a move on Nader's part. In 1992, he ran a write-in campaign for both the Dem and GOP nominations. Could it be time for Ralph to go legit?

My personal guess? Don't bet on it. But Nader's surprised us before and he could do it again. And witness Utah, where the state Green Party has recently collapsed and realigned itself with state Democrats. Nader's recent open letter to Pelosi and Daschle, urging them to stand up to Bush may be a sign that he's ready to set aside his differences with the Dems to focus on his larger quarrels with the Bush administration.


The only thing that would be worse for Democrats than another vote-siphoning Nader candidacy would be an independent run from current Democratic candidate Al Sharpton. According to comments he made recently in South Carolina, Sharpton would consider a third-party run should he not win the Democratic nomination.

As many have noted, Sharpton scares the Democrats. Some claim that the party is so scared that it encouraged a Carol Moseley Braun to undercut Sharpton's support from the black community. By all accounts, this is probably true. So the real question here is not whether the party leadership is trying to railroad Sharpton, but why.

There is a group, which includes some incredibly bright Democratic talent - not fringe conspiracy theorists - like Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr., that sees the anti-Sharpton campaign as possibly racially motivated. Here's the idea: A strongly liberal black candidate can win the Democratic nomination, but certainly not the general election. Therefore, get another black candidate in the race, they'll split the black vote, and a liberal-to-moderate white candidate will win the nomination.

It's plausible. As Rep. Jackson pointed out, this is what was done to his father in 1992, with Moseley Braun in the Doug Wilder role. But is that what's going on here?

There's another group which has a different idea. This group takes a look at Sharpton's career, warts and all, and sees an opportunistic loose cannon who cannot be trusted. As The American Prospect points out, many New York Democrats blame Sharpton for Mark Green's loss to Michael Bloomberg in the 2001 mayoral election. Living in the NYC metro area, this is a familiar story. For those of you in the rest of the country, the 2001 New York City mayoral election should have been a shoo-in for the Democrats. There was widespread discomfort with Rudy Giuliani's abrasive, thin-skinned, borderline authoritarian leadership. Amadou Diallo, Abner Louima, and Patrick Dorismond - all black men - were either killed or tortured by the NYPD under the Giuliani regime. Giuliani stuck with the accused cops in all three occasions, even as many cops shook their heads in disbelief. He'd also threatened to cease funding of an art museum for showing "offensive" works. None of this played well in a liberal city where the registered Democrats out-number Republicans five-to-one.

People were looking for serious change. Even the Republicans had drafted a Democrat to run for mayor. Prior to 2001, Mike Bloomberg was widely known to be a supporter, both financially and politically, of the Democratic Party. So a Democrat was going to win and it was unlikely that it would be the Democrat running as a Republican. As the Democratic field whittled down, two favorites emerged: Bronx Borough President Fernando Ferrer and New York Public Advocate Mark Green. Long story short, Sharpton backed Ferrer. Things got ugly between Ferrer and Green after a tight primary led to a runoff, which Green won. Ferrer and his supporters (read: Al Sharpton) refused to endorse Green for the general election. Green lost, Bloomberg became mayor. Go back even further, to the 1986 U.S. Senate race in New York. Sharpton endorsed the GOP candidate Alfonse D'Amato over (guess who) Democrat Mark Green, leading to a D'Amato win.

So what's the real answer? Both camps are probably both right, but there's an elephant in the room that no one wants to talk about. Well - my respect to Phil Ochs - I've got something to say, sir, and I'm going to say it now. Al Sharpton... wait for it... is a total asshole. And total assholes don't win elections. And if they do win elections, they're divisive characters whose main contribution is political constipation. Nothing can be agreed upon, no agendas can be hashed out, and nothing gets done.

But Al Sharpton is the worst kind of asshole. He's just now beginning to prove it to the whole of the United States. Sharpton doesn't care who becomes president. As he's proven time and time again, he doesn't even care which party wins the election. He's out to run a scorched earth, if I can't have it, nobody will campaign. New York City has allowed him to get away with this garbage far too long and it's now emboldened him to take his act on the road. The act is political extortion and the motivation is ego.

This belies the fact that I actually appreciate Sharpton's rhetoric. No group within the party base should be taken for granted. The Democrats have to be Democrats and not just Republicans in Democrat clothes. The Democratic Leadership Council has for too long wielded far too much control and steered the party into the wishy-washy center. All Democrats should have a strong voice in the party - not just white Southerners.


But Sharpton is too willing to go too far. For him to consider running third party, much less announce such consideration in public, shows that he's not out to get things done or influence the debate. He wants to be the debate. Talk of an independent run should he lose the primary is, in effect, Sharpton's patented brand of political extortion on a national level. The Democratic nominee cannot win with Sharpton also in the race. Therefore, Sharpton is sending the message to Democratic voters - no longer just party leaders - you had better give me what I want or else.

Ralph Nader is cut from a different mold, however. Nader's presidential runs have been completely from the outside - a dogged rejection of the two party system. He doesn't run from the inside and then opportunistically vow, "my way or the highway." He knows running as an independent may hurt the Democratic Party, but he doesn't care. Never did he pretend to be a part of it.


Psychological analysis aside, one thing is certain. A 2004 ballot that reads "Bush - [Democrat] - Sharpton - Nader" is a loser for Liberal America. With the nation in its current state, it's time for liberals to wise up, stand together, hold their noses if they must, and back the Democratic nominee for president, be it Lieberman or Kucinich, Dean or Moseley Braun.

posted by Scott | 3/25/2003 | |

Monday, March 24, 2003

You've gotta love when, in the middle of a war, you stop by your own "news" site to find that your last entry ends with "And the war hasn't even started yet..."

Politics haven't seemed quite as important over the last few days, but rest assured I'll be updating very shortly.

posted by Scott | 3/24/2003 | |
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