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The Battle for the Soul and Spine of the Democratic Party

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Howard Dean in the 2004 campaign; Al Gore as the effective leader of the Loyal Opposition; and now Barack Obama challenging the tired and decadent national security establishment — these are the first true voices of 21st century politics.

If you believe supporting the Iraq war for five years was right; that America is safer under George Bush; and that special-interest lobbyists are the heart of America who do not buy laws with money, Hillary Clinton, the leader of the old establishment, is your girl (as she said).

The old establishment is composed of the Democratic pollsters and consultants who told Democrats to support the Iraq war and, only days ago, to let Republicans gut the American Constitution. The old establishment parades to the cable networks and editorial boards on behalf of their candidate, telling the world that the Democratic nomination is over and decided.

Rubbish. Looking at polls today, it is very possible that Hillary Clinton loses Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada and could even come in third in more than one of them. In this case, either one of her opponents sweeps Super Tuesday after she comes in second and third in the four preliminaries, or we are headed to a brokered convention, which is far more possible than the pundits think.

More important, the voices of the 21st century politics have common denominators that now threaten and frighten the old thinking and now fossilized establishment, from national security to national politics.

Dean in 2004, Gore, Obama and others all opposed the Iraq war, all support a new foreign policy paradigm that challenges conventional notions and speaks truth about how to truly defeat bin Laden without America excusing repression, corruption and arms sales to those who turn arms over to terrorists.

The 21st Century Democrats support integrity and trust in government and promote reforms of campaigns, elections and ethics laws in government. No 21st Century Democrat would make the proposterous claim that special-interest lobbyists are just plain old Americans who never buy legislation; no 21st Century Democrat would spend five years supporting the Iraq war; no 21st Century Democrat would say America is safer under George Bush.

For the 21st Century Democrat, killing bin Laden is not controversial; writing op-eds that escalations can win the war in Iraqi is not sound military policy or basic common sense.

The great fault line is not left versus right, it is truth versus falsehood, clarity versus illusion in national security, and courage versus fear in our politics. It is reform versus corruption in our government, and campaigning that values people as much as money, and uses the new means of communication and organizing to promote the next era of progressive patriotic reform in America.

In my view, the authentic leader of the 21st Century Democrats is Al Gore. If he does not run, Barack Obama is making a bid for this role; John Edwards and Bill Richardson could still seize this mantle.

Make no mistake: Hillary Clinton, based on current polls, could lose Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada. Those who falsely claim she has it locked up are themselves locked into the decadent and fossilized media and political establishment, which is as old think as the equally decadent and fossilized national security establishment, embodied by Messrs. O’Hanlon and Pollack.

There is a battle for the soul and spine of the Democratic Party, to earn the right to lead the nation — which will never be done by aping Bush, but only by standing up to him now, speaking truth, showing courage, and demonstrating the clarity to make a 21st century challenge to a 21st century nation.

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Brent Budowsky is a regular columnist on He served as Legislative Assistant to U.S. Senator Lloyd Bentsen, responsible for commerce and intelligence matters, including one of the core drafters of the CIA Identities Law. Served (more...)

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