Saturday, October 06, 2007

United they Stand?

Unity '08 campaign seeks to do away with divisive presidential politics

Although the kickoff of American presidential primaries is still at least three months away, speculation regarding who will contest the 2008 presidential election is already in high gear.

The general consensus among those doing the speculating is that the Democrats will field a Hillary Clinton/Barak Obama combination (although the actual president/vice-president ordering is clearly undetermined), while the most recent polls cast former mayor of New York City Rudy Giulliani as the Republicans' front runner, with Fred Thomson running a fairly close second. Speculation suggests that Giuliani's running mate could be anyone ranging from one of his opponents to his wife, Judi.

A Obama/Clinton campaign alone would make the 2008 presidential campaign a compelling one, regardless of who the Republicans select as their candidates. But the die is far from cast yet, and the Unity '08 campaign wants to make things a little more interesting.

Citing an an op-ed article co-penned by Democrat Mario Kuomo and Republican Tom Kean, the Unity '08 campaign believes that never before has the United States faced a political landscape so rife with conflict.

They believe that the answer is to field a combined Democrat/Republican presidential ticket in the 2008 election, and they've promised to select just such a ticket through an "online convention".

Clearly, a major strength of the Unity '08 campaign is its ability to attract compelling celebrity spokespeople. Perennial character actor Sam Watterson has long been acting as a front man for the group, and 84% of respondants to an online poll has suggested Stephen Colbert should run for president.

But Unity '08 promises other benefits as well.

While some dismiss the Unity '08 movement as one that will nominate "sad sack politicians who couldn't make it through the primaries", Unity '08 will certainly serve as an opportunity, for at least two politicians, to overcome some of the political roadblocks that have stood between them and a presidential ticket.

There are a good number of promising presidential candidates who have, in the past, been unable to secure a nomination due to a lack of funding. The primary system the Democrats and Republicans use to choose their presidential candidates clearly benefits the candidates with the most money to spend.

Candidates can also find themselves kneecapped by elites and special interest groups within either party.

An unfortunate reality of modern politics is that the best candidate is not necessarily the candidate that is elected -- or in this case, even nominated. In the hands of the right candidates, Unity '08 could turn out to be the dream second opportunity for one of these candidates to actually get their chance to be elected president.

This, however, begs an important question: which two candidates would make the best Unity ticket for 2008?

There are two individuals who fit the bill of an ideal Unity candidate: intelligent, promising and, most importantly, willing to overcome partisan divides.

These two men are John McCain and Howard Dean.

Both have, in the past, stood a very good chance of winning a presidential candidacy. Both men have proven they can make compelling candidates, although the lustre of each has worn off at the polls somewhat.

Both have previously fallen victim to the slings and arrows of outrageous politics. Although McCain was able to win a few primaries (in New Hampshire, Michigan, Conneticutt, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Arizona), he was eventually forced to withdraw his candidacy due to lack of funding.

On the other side of the coin, Howard Dean led all Democratic presidential nominees in fundraising, but fell short in the race itself, winning only in Vermont and the District of Columbia.

Each candidate also fell victim to some dirty attacks. Howard Dean fell victim to some ill-advised (and, as Joe Trippi suggests, formulated by Democratic party brass) attack ads launched by General Wesley Clark, while McCain fell victim to some rather vicious tactics suggesting he had fathered an illegitimate black child.

Although, in fairness it should also be remembered that each candidate had a hand in their own defeat, as John McCain waffled regarding his opinion of the Confederate flag, and Howard Dean managed to embarrass himself with an oft-lampooned rallying cry following his defeat in the Iowa primary.

Of course, the compatability of McCain and Dean can only really be determined by their policies on the issues of the day.

While there are many differences, they could find a good deal of common ground.

The two can find common ground on a good number of issues: for example, both McCain and Dean favour actual fiscal conservatism, as opposed to certain American administrations that have campaigned on fiscal conservatism, then abandoned it. Both support abortion rights (although they differ on how deeply abortion rights should be legally entrenched), and both support stem cell research. Both have taken strong stands regarding campaign finance reform. Both favour reforms to military spending.

Each man also holds policies that could be considered complementary to the other: Howard Dean prefers prosecuting dealers to prosecuting users, while McCain's drug policies are geared toward cracking down on import and sales of drugs. Dean favours increased education spending, while McCain's policies are geared toward ensuring competency of teachers and streamlining education spending.

The two would also find a few policy matters on which they would have to find a compromise: for example, Howard Dean favours environmental provisions in free trade agreements, McCain doesn't. McCain is a good deal more hawkish (or perhaps owlish) in his foreign policy outlook than is Dean. Dean favours immediate further integration of China within the international system: McCain feels they should be granted entry into organizations such as the World Trade Organization depending upon what human rights concessions they're willing to make.

There are also some important issues on which Americans could expect little movement from these two, universal healthcare being perhaps the highest-profile among them (neither of them fully support it).

It shouldn't be said that McCain and Dean would be able to work together in perfect unison: to suggest so would be approaching the very idea of a Unity '08 ticket from a very naive point of view. McCain, for his part, would probably have a much easier time working with John Kerry -- a fellow war veteran with whom he has also worked in the past.

But if the idea of a Unity '08 ticket is to unite Americans by ensuring the administration represents a wider variety of Americans' views, then McCain and Dean, should they find themselves so disposed, may well be the two best men for the job.

Most importantly, Dean's fundraising acumen, combined with McCain's demonstrated electoral appeal, could be the answer to what could otherwise be an acrimoniously partisan electoral showdown over the war in Iraq.

If the Green party were to field a Ralph Nader/Jell-O Biafra ticket, the upcoming presidential election could prove to be even more interesting.

...But that's an article for another time.

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