Let 's face the truth. Democrats can 't win by becoming Republicans, by placing tactics ahead of heartfelt values. George W. Bush and Karl Rove are pros at that game; in the past decade the Bush-Rove team have won election after election with one ethic: the ends justify the means. In the process they have duped the religious right, moderate Republicans, and most of the electorate--everyone but their rich patrons. In one of the great paradoxes of American politics, the Bush Administration, who came into office promising to "usher in an era of responsibility " is immoral; their only ethic is "what 's in it for me. "
Many would argue that what the Democrats need to do now is win; that they must do whatever is necessary to take back the House or Senate. From this perspective, the tactics-first position makes sense. However, recent demographic data indicate that the overwhelming majority of Democratic loyalists are values-based.
The reality is that the tactics-based wing of the Democratic Party --the Clintonistas --represents a minority of Democrats. But, it 's extremely powerful, represented by the Democratic Leadership Council, the campaign of Hillary Clinton, and the role of Rahm Emanuel as chair of the DCCC, among others. Therefore, tactics-based Dems have a disproportionate impact on Party decisions, which explains actions that enrage the rank-and-file: the muddled stance on Iraq and the choice of Governor Tim Kaine to deliver the SOTU rebuttal, to name only two. At least 75 percent of the Democratic rank-and-file are values based; they expect their Party 's positions to be based on principle, not on expediency.
The deep conflict in the Democratic Party isn 't over issues such as Iraq or free trade --although these are important --it 's more elemental. It 's about core values such as honesty, responsibility, equality, opportunity, and community.
The practical problem is how to do this. In an era where many Americans regard all politicians as crooks, where they make little distinction between Democrats and Republicans, how do Dems develop a distinct identity?
The Democratic Party needs to take two actions. The first is to diminish the influence of the tactics-based, Clintonista wing of the Party. Of course, this is much easier said than done as Clintonistas have infiltrated every Party organization. The most prominent candidate for the 2008 Democratic nomination for President will be Hillary Clinton --a major proponent of tactics-based morality.
The second action would identify a Democratic Party spokesperson that, in the public eye, is a person of unmistakable integrity. Dems need someone who can stand up and say, "If you want the truth, vote Democratic. " The only national Democratic that has both the reputation, and the charisma, to take this role is Barack Obama. He has succeeded because of his integrity. A skinny, mixed-race kid with the name Barack Obama would not have become a US Senator if he didn 't have a good rep.
The Dems recently selected Obama to be their point-person on the issue of corruption. It 's only a small step from that assignment to becoming the standard bearer for honesty; to the position, "Those of us in Washington need to tell the truth. The public needs the truth about Iraq, the state of homeland security, and America 's economic future. Reinstate Democratic control of the Congress and we promise to conduct the hearings that will let you know the truth. "
Obama can pull this off. The Democrats need values-based leadership and Barrack Obama can provide it. He can be the point-person for a revitalization of FDR 's Party based upon telling the truth.