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for a Little Moderation

for a Little Moderation


As the epic battle for the Democratic nomination grows ever nastier, average voters have a role to play in holding the party together.

Make no mistake, all out delegate warfare has begun. We're not talking about some scaled-down Rumsfeldian strategy of smoke and mirrors; we're looking at the Powell doctrine of overwhelming the enemy with sheer force and troop strength.

As the country remains fixated on the race between Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton and their race to the end goal of 2,025 delegates - which will undeniably consist of both "pledged delegates" allocated by state votes and the Democratic party officials known as "superdelegates" - both the Clinton and Obama camps have mounted an unprecedented campaign with the press, the public, and party leaders. They're holding daily phone calls with reporters to make their case, plant questions to ask the other campaign, or recast the spin those same reporters just heard on the previous call.

Two main questions have arisen. Should the delegates of Michigan and Florida, both disqualified by the Democratic Party for leapfrogging to the front of the primary cycle, be seated at the convention in Denver? And should superdelegates (about 300 of whom remain undecided according to recent research by The New York Times) vote the will of their constituencies or their conscience?

Where you stand on both questions usually depends on which candidate you're backing. Although the DNC penalized both Florida and Michigan, the Clinton camp now wants those delegates to count. Not surprisingly, Clinton, who is behind in pledged delegates, won both states handily (though Obama wasn't even listed on Michigan's ballot).

The Obama campaign is pushing for the superdeledates, or unpledged delegates, more of whom have committed to Clinton at this point, to follow the will of the people and cast their vote in favor of the candidate who wins the popular vote. But like or not, superdelegates were created by the party with the intention that they would be an independent, deliberative body that would vote based on what was best for the party. And to my knowledge, the Obama campaign has yet to suggest that his Massachusetts superdelegates - Gov. Deval Patrick, Sen. John Kerry and Sen. Ted Kennedy - should vote the way their constituents did, which was for Sen. Clinton.

While some party leaders bicker and others urge restraint, I have yet to hear anyone call for moderation among Democratic voters. As the controversy escalates, I hear the intensity of my officemates' passions rise while discussing their beloved candidate. This past week, I received a mass email sent around by a Clinton supporter with a disparaging cartoon about the empty hopefulness of Obama's message.

Let me caution average people that digging our heels in on either side is an almost certain path to defeat in November. Conservative pundit Bay Buchanan (yes, Pat's sister) recently looked like a kid in the candy store when she was discussing the developments on TV.

People have every reason to be excited about these candidates, and human nature demands that we be convinced of our rightness in order to have the conviction to fight for something.

But if you are completely convinced of your rightness, you are fooling yourself. There are no absolutes, especially in this election. History has a way of making fools of us, regardless of our education, experience, and IQ. If New Hampshire wasn't proof enough, consider Charlie Wilson's War. While I cannot vouch for the total accuracy of the script, it does weave a cautionary tale upon fundamentals that most historical scholars would agree with.

The U.S. did in fact arm the Afghans in their war against invading Soviet forces, which ultimately helped the Afghans to prevail in that war. And while that defeat contributed to the demise of the Soviet Union, the Afghanistan we left behind - decentralized and chalk full of weaponry - became a training ground for terrorists.

The only thing we can be certain of is that one of these two talented candidates is going lose this bid. When that happens, the spirit of compromise must be employed to bridge divisions, and compassion and empathy are the forbearers of harmony.

Neither Barack nor Hillary is above reproach - both invoke the rules where it helps them and dismiss the rules where it hurts. Of course, neither one of these candidates is the answer either. If you are swayed by Senator Obama's appeal to independents and moderate Republicans, let's not forget that he has not yet survived the intense scrutiny of the press or the Republicans during a general election. He was, in fact, rated "the most liberal" U.S. Senator of 2007 by the National Journal, while Senator Clinton's record in Congress is more moderate - or should we say centrist - and she has a history of reaching across party lines to enact legislation.

If you are swayed by Senator Clinton's experience and effectiveness, keep in mind that her negative rating among voters consistently hovers right around 50%. Obama may be the most liberal but conservative magazine The National Review reserved its cover for a picture of Bill and Hillary with the cover line, "Please Nominate This Woman Couple."

If Mr. Obama's candidacy of change is your siren, let's recall another candidate of change, Bill Clinton. Former President Clinton and his relatively young and hopeful cocksure staff, fresh off the high of pulling off the Houdini of presidential elections, made a fateful series of missteps in the first six months of his administration. The LGBT community, among others, became a casualty of their newness, and the legacy of "don't ask, don't tell" - forged on the compromise of a campaign promise that President Clinton was forced to abandon - should give pause to everyone in our community.

The point here is not to rip apart two of the finer candidates the Democrats have seen in years. The point is a call to complexity - a call to moderation. Let us practice an ethic of compromise and demand the same from our leaders. Our tendency to demonize those who don't agree with us is nothing less than the divisive legacy of Karl Rove that has practically ground our government to a halt. Anyone who has been paying attention to the filibuster revolution might know that the Senate can barely pass a bill these days.

To co-opt a phrase from John McCain, if we are going to be "foot soldiers" in a revolution for change - something most Democrats can agree on - let each one of us start from within, lest we turn an embarrassment of riches this presidential season into a tragedy of excesses: excessive passion, excessive hubris, and excessive myopia.

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