Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Democrats Have Something to Learn From the Liberals

In our 2006 Liberal leadership race, Stephane Dion set themself up as the agent of change - the opponent of the status quo - the fresh new breeze that would take Ottawa by storm and revitalize the party. Dion (or his supporters) sold us the line that Michael Ignatieff and Bob Rae were the old guard - the same old-same old backroom sleazebags who'd been in power far too long and needed to be unseated.

This became common knowledge even though it was so obviously untrue. Stephane Dion had been a cabinet minister for a decade. Michael Ignatieff hadn't even lived in Canada for 30 years. Bob Rae had only joined the Liberal party the year before. It was Mike and Bob who represented change, and Dion who was old guard. Mike and Bob were supported by the powers of the party, for sure, but they are both completely their own men. Bob, in particular, represented an activism and left orientation that would have been a significant change for the Liberals - it would have meant actually acting on what we say we want to do.

Since electing Dion leader, we have learned to our chagrin that those backroom boys sometimes know what they're doing when they decide who to support. Plus, they know what they're doing when they run an election campaign. Kicking out the experts and using amateurs has not worked particularly well for us Liberals, and now Dion is slowing asking the old guard to come back and help him out of the hole he has dug for the party.

Enter the American Democratic presidential primaries. Barack Obama and John Edwards have set themselves up as the agents of change - the champions of the working man - the opponents of corruption. They have tried to position Hillary Clinton as an old style corrupt politician, insincere in her policy statements, interested in only helping the rich get richer.

In reality, nothing could be further from the truth. Hillary has a far stronger track record than either Obama or Edwards in working to help average Americans.

She started her career on the House Judiciary Committee considering the impeachment of Richard Nixon. Throughout her career she has worked with the Children's Defense Fund, and currently sits on its national board.

While her husband was governor of Arkansas she transformed Arkansas schools, worked for women's rights, and led the American Bar Association's Commission on Women in the Profession.

When Bill Clinton was running for President he said he was "two fer" - that is, he and his wife for the price of one. She was a completely different first lady than anyone else. She is the only person to date who has taken on the health industry and tried to create universal health care - and while she failed, she moved the possibility further than anyone else. Besides health care reform, during her White House years she led efforts to make adoption easier, to expand early learning and child care, to increase funding for breast cancer research, and to help veterans suffering from Gulf War syndrome; she helped launch a national campaign to prevent teen pregnancy; she helped create the Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997; she was instrumental in designing and championing the State Children's Health Insurance Program, which has provided millions of children with health insurance; and she travelled worldwide to champion human rights (among other things).

For the last six years she has been a US senator. During this time she has been a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, working to improve the lives of US military personnel. She has initiated legislation to improve health care for the National Guard and Reserves; to tie Congressional salary increases to an increase in the minimum wage; to improve quality and lower the cost of prescription drugs; to protect the food supply from bioterrorism; to increase America's commitment to fighting the global HIV/AIDS crisis; to ensure the safety of prescription drugs for children; to help schools address environmental hazards; to expand access to child care; to improve the qualifications of teachers and principals; to increase access to family planning; and to improve the way elections are run and votes are counted.

Hillary is and always has been a dynamo of action working to improve the lives of Americans. Her track record is a stark contrast to the lackluster political careers of both Obama and Edwards.

What Democrats should learn from our mistake is: Don't be bamboozled the way we were. Look at the candidates directly, and not through the distorting glass of spin and media.

For example, here's the infamous "crying speech" of a few days ago (which doesn't actually involve crying at all). I think her words are more compelling than anything I could write:



Anonymous said...

I dont remember anything about Dion saying the words Change or old guard about anyone. Perhaps you are projecting or imagining. That's just not what happened.

wilson said...

Dion got it by accident and by Orchard.
Not anything Dion campaigned on.

Anonymous said...

Get real Wilson!
It seems one's memory fades post the green tidlewave..