Hillary, Obama and the Decline of the Democratic Party.

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“When the chips are down and the decisions are made as to who the candidates will be, then the 11th commandment prevails and everybody goes to work, and that is: Thou shalt not speak ill of another Republican.” — Ronald Reagan

Lately I’ve been speaking to a good number of Senator Clinton supporters in my small South Texas town. What with the controversy surrounding Senator Obama’s pastor and Senator Clinton’s faux-pas in playing up the danger from her trip to Bosnia, there’s plenty to discuss for gossip mongers. And more often than not, I’m finding a great deal of enthusiasm for her campaign. However when asked, “would you vote for Senator Obama if he wins the nomination,” a frightening amount of people said no.

They said that they’d rather vote for John McCain or not at all. They said that if their candidate didn’t win they would lose their faith in the Democratic Party. I found this to be very disconcerting.

More disturbing is that I’ve heard the exact same thing from Senator Obama’s supporters.

I can barely recall the Clinton era but I like to listen to those slightly older than me talk about the hope and the change and the fervor of the Democratic Party in the 1990s. One of President Clinton’s first acts was the attempt to end the ban of gays in the military. They triumphed civil rights. Bill Clinton closed down the federal government twice in an attempt to stalemate then Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich and his Contract for America.

But the Democratic Party has had little to distinguish itself from the Republicans in the past decade. We rolled over when President Bush asked for emergency powers. We allowed Republicans and Fox News to issue in “the politics of fear” and use our panic against us. While Americans weren’t looking and Democrats were busy pinning American flag pins on their lapels, we lost control of the party.

Liberal became a dirty word. The Patriot Act was in and being patriotic was out. Questioning the government became second-hand treason and habeus corpus was only a memory. And all this was allowed to happen with barely a word of protest from elected Democratic officials.

Now, we have a historic election taking place. Voters are being registered in record amounts. Texas is holding a caucus for the first time since 1968. People are getting excited about the democratic process again. People are beginning to shake off that old cynicism and whether they support Senator Clinton or Senator Obama, they’re passionate about our government again.

We have an unprecedented opportunity to change the way politics have been operating since before I can remember. We can change the way campaigns are run and how money is raised. We have a chance to embrace two awe-inspiring candidates that could be lifting each other up and challenging each other to be better. With the way that the entire world has their eyes on these two candidates, the Democratic Party has the opportunity to sway voters on important issues like universal healthcare, education and relations in the Middle East.

So why is this not happening? Why are people so caught up in the person they are voting for that they are forgetting the party these candidates are supposed to represent? When did politics become more important than the issues to the Democratic Party?

The issue is clear: instead of only embracing a candidate, voters need to embrace the ideals that the candidate embodies. And those issues should be at the forefront of the Democratic Party: tax cuts for the middle class, higher education standards, funding for the research of alternative fuels. Party Chair Howard Dean needs to step in prior to the Denver Convention to gain control of the party. If he waits until July, then he may be faced with disenfranchised voters and the complete opposite of what the current political climate is: voter apathy.

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~ by atypicalsnowman on March 26, 2008.

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