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Democratic Voices

February 23rd, 2007

Selecting Good Candidates Takes Time

The front-loading of the Presidential race by both major political parties is not a positive development. The selection of Presidential and Vice Presidential candidates should be a long and deliberate process. Ideas should be given time to develop, spread and be tested. The candidates should be running on ideas. We need time to evaluate the candidates.

Presidential candidate selection front-loading has started the political season very early. The early start will help offset some of the negative consequences of front-loading the primaries and caucuses but not all of them. While it gives us more time to get to know primary candidates, the early selection (of Presidential candidates) will likely result in very negative campaigns. Making politics dirty and negative is often used by the Republican Right to lower vote turn-out.

The remaining electorate is much more favorable to the viewpoints of the Republican Right than are those of the general public. In 2004, the Republican smear tactic of “swift-boating” became a permanent and very negative part of the American political vocabulary. Unfortunately, it worked well in 2004. The long time span when each Party’s candidate will be known in advance of the general election will give “fear, smear and distortion” tactics time to disillusion more voters. This is not good for the mainstream voters of either Party, independent voters or American Democracy.

The American voter reacted badly against Republican “swift-boating” in 2006. Republicans using these tactics lost most of their races in 2006 with the notable exception of Republican Senator Corker in Tennessee. Republican smears along with serious race-baiting against Congressman Harold Ford were the main reason Corker won. Republicans in 2008 will likely follow this example rather than learn for the national picture. Most Republican figures like President George W. Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, Governor Perry (TX), Senator Lott (MS), Senator Sessions (AL), Senator Chambliss (GA), Senator Cornyn (TX), Speaker Hastert (IL), Congresswoman Foxx (NC), Congressman Pitts (PA), Congresswoman Blackburn (TN) and many others seem to be wedded to the “swift-boating” approach to politics.

The media created non-controversy over Senator Biden’s comments about Senator Obama on the day Biden announced his Presidential candidacy shows why decisions about candidates should not be rushed. The current dust-up between the Clinton and Obama campaigns over comments made by David Geffen is another example of a media obsession with political personalities over political policies. The media is not very efficient in conveying the policy differences between candidates. Writing about personalities and tactics is easier and the media often takes that easy approach. Long campaigns are necessary to overcome the media bias against reporting on policy details.

Front-loading gives big money far more early influence than it should have in a functional democratic process. The early withdrawal of former Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack because of huge demand for political money is unfortunate. Vilsack is a man of ideas. His candidacy would have been beneficial to the Democratic Party and American politics. His campaign was always facing very long odds but a positive factor because of the policy ideas Vilsack advocates. On issues from opposition to the Iraq War to energy independence, Vilsack is worth listening to and his Presidential campaign gave him a potential important national vehicle to discuss them.

New faces and new ideas will have a more difficult time being heard in American politics because of Presidential campaign front-loading. Candidates besides the three frontrunners (Clinton, Edwards and Obama) have important ideas to offer. Biden, Dodd, Richardson, Kucinch and the other candidates are all men of vision, experience and knowledge.

The ideas of unsuccessful Democratic hopefuls like Howard Dean and Dennis Kucinch were positive developments arising from the 2004 Presidential race. The Democratic Party would probably not have selected Dean as DNC Chair if he had not run in 2004. Dean and the rest of the Democratic National Committee adopted a real 50 state campaign strategy in 2006 as a result. We now have far more Democratic Governors, more Democratic state legislators and a Democratic Congress.

This writer wanted to wait until Vice President Gore made an absolutely final decision about becoming a candidate or not before making a final decision of who to support in 2008. I am now strongly backing former Senator and 2004 Vice Presidential candidate John Edwards because the process was moved forward and condensed. Edwards is the candidate talking about addressing issues that matter in the big picture like poverty, healthcare and middle-class economic opportunity. All the current Democratic Presidential aspirants are good choices and will be easy to support if they get the Democratic nomination.

Written By Stephen Crockett and Al Lawrence (hosts of ).
Mail: P.O. Box 283, Earleville, Maryland 21919. Phone: 443-907-2367
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