Sunday, December 16, 2007

A Republican's analysis of Democratic candidate' campaigns

Republican Politics, American Style
Published on December 13th 2007 in Metro Eireann By Charles Laffiteau

I closed last week’s column with some comments related to the lack of propriety in American politics, alluding to Republican conservatives disseminating rumours that Barack Obama is secretly a Muslim and not a Christian, with at least one of them claiming his source was Hillary Clinton’s campaign. That opens the door for me to discuss the Democratic candidates for President and analyze their campaign tactics and issues of importance to them and other American citizens.
Before I begin I think it would be prudent of me to remind readers that I came out in support of Senator Barack Obama for both the Democratic nomination and the US Presidency at the beginning of this year, in spite of the fact that I am and will continue to be a lifelong member of the Republican Party. That I’m doing so shouldn’t be that surprising since Ronald Regan had a group called “Democrats for Regan” supporting him in 1980 and 1984. You may want to take my observations about the Democratic race with a grain of salt though, since I’m analyzing the candidate I support as well as those he is running against.
To begin where I left off last week, I initially found the editor of Insight’s claim that the source of the rumour was the Clinton campaign to be self-serving since they would love to tarnish her campaign for the Presidential nomination. But it now turns out that Judy Rose, the Jones County Iowa Clinton campaign chairwoman, was indeed circulating an e-mail message falsely stating that Senator Barack Obama was Muslim and was running for president as a “Manchurian candidate”. Clinton’s campaign denies any knowledge or involvement in Jones activities, but one still can’t help but wonder.
While illegal immigration is the top national issue for a majority of Republicans, Democrats see the top three issues as the war in Iraq, health care and the economy. My own sense is that these same three issues are the ones of most concern to the majority of American voters regardless of their political affiliation. The Iraq war is also of concern for most Republicans, but they see it as an essential part of the war on terror which is why all but one of the Republican candidates supports President Bush’s determination to continue to prosecute the war.
But unfortunately for the Republican candidates, between two thirds and three quarters of American voters believe this war was a colossal mistake and should have never been undertaken by President Bush. Thus I would expect that whoever the eventual Republican nominee is, he will immediately begin to soften his support for maintaining the status quo in Iraq once he has been nominated, lest he risk alienating a majority of the independent voters he will need the support of to win the November 2008 general election.
In a similar vein Hillary Clinton has already changed her stance on the politically explosive issue of illegal immigration, saying that she no longer supports the idea of giving illegal immigrants drivers’ licences for identification and crime reporting purposes. Mrs. Clinton’s statement that “As president, I will not support driver’s licenses for undocumented people and will press for comprehensive immigration reform that deals with all of the issues around illegal immigration, including border security and fixing our broken system.” is much closer to Republican positions on the issue than the sentiments of most Democrats and is an indication that she is looking ahead to the general election.
Mrs. Clinton says her strengths on security and foreign policy issues are due to her previous White House experiences and this is why she would be a stronger US commander in chief than her Democratic rivals. While Hillary did travel the world and meet heads of state as First Lady, her judgement remains suspect in my mind because of her vote to authorize the Iraq war, which was the politically popular thing to do in the wake of the 9/11 attacks.
This is also one of several reasons why polls in Iowa and nationwide suggest that many voters see Mrs. Clinton as calculating and more likely to say what she thinks a majority of American voters want to hear rather than what she really believes. Another reason is that without explicitly appealing to women to vote for her because she is a woman, Hillary frequently talks about what other women tell her about the importance of her candidacy as a woman. Hillary also makes frequent references to “the all-boys club of presidential politics” and is prone to using language that evokes gender stereotypes. I see this as a subtle but effective appeal to women to vote for her because she is a woman, despite her denials that she is playing the gender card.
In contrast to Mrs. Clinton, Senator Obama has assiduously avoided playing the race card in his appearances before predominately African-American voters, instead striking the same theme that he does with predominately white or Hispanic audiences, that he is a multicultural candidate with a unique ability to bring people together and break from the status quo. Not surprisingly Obama is also running behind Mrs. Clinton when it comes to endorsements from African-American politicians, endorsements that Mrs. Clinton courts but that Mr. Obama refuses to ask for. In his appeals to women voters, Mr. Obama likewise presents himself as particularly sensitized and equally committed to women’s issues because he was raised by a single mother. Obama also showed good judgement and political courage in his principled stand against the Iraq war and in his decision to support immigration reforms like issuing drivers licences to illegal immigrants.
These are the main reasons why Barack Obama appeals to me as a refreshingly honest Presidential candidate and Hillary Clinton does not. Thus Obama’s statement that “I believe I can bring the country together and overcome the special interests.” summarises his campaign’s theme; that he will be an agent of change as President, representing the interests of all Americans regardless of race, gender or ethnicity.

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