Is There Room For Unity In 2008? - - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News


Is There Room For Unity In 2008?

Forty is the new thirty. Instant messages are the new email. Blackberries are the new cell phones.

And, after November's political earthquake, bipartisan is the new partisan: it's the political buzzword in Washington these days and one that the bipartisan (naturally!) group Unity '08 wants to ride all the way to the White House.

But is the country ready for a cross-party presidential ticket? Unity '08 thinks so, and that 2008 is a "grand opportunity" to prove it.

They want to draft a bipartisan presidential ticket and they want it to be chosen online in the country's first-ever national primary.

"The goals are simple to state, not as simple to achieve," Doug Bailey, a founding member of Unity '08 explains.

Other members of the group's founding council include former advisers to President Jimmy Carter, Hamilton Jordan and Gerald Rafshoon; as well as Angus King, two-term Independent Governor of Maine. Bailey is the founder of the political newsletter, The Hotline, and was a media consultant to President Gerald Ford.

Bailey describes the country's current political infrastructure as "operating at such a low level that it is unable to deal with the truly serious issues".

And the plan is to "jolt" the way things are done by reaching for the middle, an concept Bailey thinks is sorely lacking in the modern two-party system.

The Battle for Middle Ground

The basic formula used to be that candidates gained the support of their respective parties and went after voters (and issues important to them) in the middle.

No matter who won, Bailey reflects, the issues and positions were ensured a dialogue.

Somewhere along the line, he says, the political framework lost its "common ground" and the way to win evolved into a microstrategy on how to turn out the hard-core base on issues like gay rights or gun control "that are not crucial to the future of the country".

Unity '08 wants to reorganize and repriortize: the group defines "Crucial Issues" (like global terrorism, national debt and energy dependence) as issues on which the future of the country depends; and "Important Issues" (gay marriage and abortion) as vital but unindicative of the fate or future of the country.

Rebel Without a Party

Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska is quickly becoming a Democratic favorite.

He has the military credentials and - as an early and vocal critic of the Iraq invasion - the political capital to stage something of a coup.

As far as the GOP presidential nomination is concerned, the senior senator from Nebraska is somewhat lost in Sen. John McCain's frontrunner shadow, but Hagel's criticism of Iraq could mean political gold for the Democrats, who Democratic Sen. Zell Miller was to Republicans in 2004.

Miller broke with his own party in 2004 to keynote at the RNC. His vitriolic invective against the Democrats at the convention combined with his move across party lines made national headlines.

The grassroots "Draft Hagel" movement has gained considerable momentum online, complete with blogs, usergroups, and sites hawking "Hagel in 2008" merchandise - even though the Republican senator has yet to file paperwork for an exploratory committee.

"I'm a die-hard Democrat, but if Clinton gets the nomination I will vote Hagel in an NY minute!" says one commenter, "He has more cajones to stand up to the President than 80% of the Dems. Good for Chuck."

Another says, "I will support only Sen.Hagel or Webb for President. Them together would be my choice of a ticket."

Which begs the questions: would Hagel run on a Unity ticket?

During his interview with the Washington Post, Hagel joked about a potential White House run with New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg or on a bipartisan ticket. And though he likes the junior senator from Illinois and acknowledges Democratic Sen. Barack Obama's rock-star quality, he said in his interview that a Hagel-Obama ticket is doubtful given differences in bedrock party principles.

Naming Names

Keeping names close and options open, Unity '08 discloses that they have been briefing potential candidates - both those who have come to them and those they've identified - but they won't say which ones. Bailey says there is concensus that the current system is broken, though considerable skepticism of "whether or not we can pull off what we're talking about".

Add to that a never-before-seen harnessing of technology in an online national primary where every registered American voter could be a potential delegate. In an election that will be largely campaigned online, Unity '08 could change the game once the rules and technological kinks in the still-evolving process are ironed out.

He calls the 2008 election one "that reflects a moment of truth for this country."

"Issues are far more serious than the politics we're practicing indicates," Bailey says, "America will do what America has always done in times of trouble: reinvent itself."

Unity '08 will debut host a live chat on Monday afternoon with a discussion on election law led by former Interior Department official, Tom Collier.


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