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Thursday, April 17, 2003

4 Star Democrat

I have written a few blog posts in the last couple of months about General Wesley Clark, (here, here, and here) mostly as a jumping off point about the absolute necessity for the Democrats to drop the silly notion of the 2002 elections that they will be able to set aside national security in favor of preferred Democratic domestic issues if they vote with the President on foreign policy. Once again, they failed to appreciate that the Republicans will portray their opponents in what ever way suits their game plan regardless of their actual record or personal history. There is no margin in trying to appease them because they will only move the goal posts or lie outright if that's what it takes to stay on message.

Bush has a formidable advantage going into this election and it's not just because of incumbency and money but because many in this country are drawn to the nostalgic martial spirit that is being marketed and sold by the Republicans like it was Classic Coke. Patriotic symbols of strength and superiority make them feel secure at a time when the world seems confusing and chaotic. Questioning of authority is deemed unsafe for any number of reasons, not the least of which is the resulting harsh criticism by those in power.

George W. Bush will be marketed in 2004 as a visionary foreign policy genius and battle hardened commander who is the only man in the race who is seasoned and experienced enough to win the war on terror. He will be wrapped tightly in the flag with brass bands and yellow ribbons and allusions to the great victories of WWII. He will speak of high hopes and serious challenges and he will wield his great personal defeat of Saddam as a weapon against any little pissant who has the balls to suggest they should replace him before he’s even begun to smite evil once and for all. (Oh yes, and we need more religion and tax cuts too. Cue "I'm Proud To Be An American.")

The media, having already learned that patriotism sells, will be signing on to the George W. Bush campaign not so much because of explicit political bias but because the image the Republicans are selling is an image that Americans want to buy. Mostly, that comes down to Good America, Strong America.

I believe that Democrats should give no ground on this. We represent real American values and we have every right to use the traditional language and symbols of patriotism to express that. We are the ones who stand for the Constitution and the American system of justice, which we hold so dear that even in times of war we do not waver. We are the ones who believe in the sacred American values of Liberty, Equality, Opportunity and Democracy and we are the ones who work to ensure that every American, not just the privileged, share in them. We are the ones who have faith that America is strong enough to survive any challenge without sacrificing those values. The flag and Sousa and apple pie and love of country are not the exclusive property of the Republican Party; they belong to all Americans. We should take them back.

I believe that the best person to make the argument that Democrats are Americans too is someone who defies the phony liberal stereotype manufactured by GOP Inc. I think that many Americans could have their eyes opened to the true patriotism of the Democratic Party if that case were made by someone who spent more than 35 years maintaining American security. If that someone was so excellent that he began this career by graduating first in his class at West Point and ended it as the Supreme Allied Commander of NATO, the Democrats would have the perfect symbol of patriotic leadership as well as someone who has the demonstrated ability to maneuver the political shoals of the Pentagon and Washington without the taint of partisan politics.

I want the Democrats to nominate the candidate who can best beat George W. Bush. Standard stump speeches and stale rhetoric cannot compete with the spotlight conferred upon the flag draped Commander In Chief who is being expertly marketed as the Man Who Saved The World. We will not defeat that 200 million dollar juggernaut with predictable Washington faces or unknown iconoclasts without national security credentials.

This election is not business as usual.

I believe that Democrats can beat the Republicans at their own game if we take back our rightful ownership of patriotic symbolism and nominate someone who embodies those All American virtues.

General Wesley Clark is as qualified to be President today as was Colin Powell in 1996 when he was seriously courted by the Republicans as the most serious threat to Clinton's re-election. He is far more qualified to be President than George W. Bush ever will be. He is a Democrat.

I sincerely hope that he throws his hat into the ring and if he does, I will support him.

To read more about General Clark, please visit the Daily Kos’ Draft Clark web site. Sign the petition even if you are not entirely persuaded but think that he could make a contribution to the primaries. Having a General on the stump would be helpful to the Democrats and he could very well be an attractive VP candidate if someone else emerges as a clear winner. We need him in the race.