Like all good Democrats, I was proud of last night's candidate debate in Los Angeles. It was substantive and about the issues and both candidates showed why it is so important that Democrats take back the White House for America's working families. While last night's event was between Senators Clinton and Obama, both clearly understand that the real contest, and the most serious challenge is the candidacy of John McCain.
The main obstacle to change in America is not within the Democratic Party, it's not Senator Obama and his supporters or Senator Clinton and hers. The biggest political danger facing our country is that the Republicans will put aside their deep ideological divisions and unite behind a single candidate. And the biggest electoral danger is that McCain will be able to sustain the myth that he is a "moderate" when his policies are just as extreme as our current president's. The truth is, McCain is no different than Bush, except he has a better biography and combat experience. And those differences, of course, are helpful at the ballot box.
While it's unbelievable today that Bush ran as a "compassionate conservative," our experience of his transformation into a right-wing extremist should remind us of the schoolyard taunt: "Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me!"
We all know the truth - McCain is not a moderate. How did he vote on expanding Children's Health Insurance? He voted no - twice, in fact - in line with Bush and his party's leaders, even though 18 Republican senators voted yes. There's nothing moderate about standing in the way of kids' access to doctor visits and medical care. And McCain's health care platform is just like Bush's - he puts profits before patients and delivers us all up to the tender mercies of the pharmaceutical and insurance companies. How about his moderate position on Iraq? He says stay in Iraq, even if it takes 100 years.
We all know what's at stake in 2008. This isn't a horse race. This isn't a game about which candidate is up or down. This election is about who's left out. Americans feel invisible, like no one really cares about their problems - and won't care enough to really do something to help them. Americans feel powerless and overwhelmed by big economic forces like the mortgage crisis and the loss of good jobs to low-wage countries. They are struggling every day to keep their heads above water and expect their government to be on their side and do something to help them.
This is a fight for a better America, an America that lives up to its ideals, an America where the basic promise of our country will ring true again - that if you work hard and play by the rules you can get ahead and give your children the opportunity to live a better life. This is a fight to end the war in Iraq, give every man, woman and child the medical care they need, and revive America's middle class. That's why we must defeat John McCain.
We're ready for the General Election, at least emotionally. That was the obvious sentiment of the audience at the debate in Los Angles last night. But Karl Rove's gang is ready, too - they're building up a huge war chest at their front group called Freedom's Watch to sling a ton of mud at us, while their nominee pretends to "talk straight" and have clean hands. Let's pick our best candidate on Tuesday (as readers know, I think that is Senator Clinton), and then close ranks and make 2008 a success up and down the ballot.