Ed Kilgore’s latest piece at Democratic Strategist highlights the growing competition between New York Senator Hillary Clinton and Illinois Senator Barrack Obama over how best to lead their party should one of them ascend to the presidency next year. Though each are campaigning on “change,” there are two competing viewpoints on how to bring about that change – restoration and revolution. Senator Clinton, of course, is the agent for restoration. She wants to restore the Democratic party to it’s successes of the 1990s under her husband, former President Bill Clinton, but without the faux scandals and with a Democratic congress this time around. Obama, on the other hand, is being fueled by the further left of the party. His message is more along the lines of “total change” from what was in place before. One would assume he means the Clinton administration as well.

The choices are obvious. The answer not so much. With Sen. Clinton, we have a direct link to the eight years of peace and prosperity brought about by the policies and charisma of Bill. After the two administrations of George W. Bush and his perpetual war, cronyism, and disregard for the middle class, a restoration of the national agenda of the 1990s would be like welcoming home a lost family pet . You just want to hug it. A booming economy, dwindling crime rates, and a true humanitarian military mission in Kosovo are but a few reasons why the 90s worked and worked well.

Of course, the first Clinton years were not without sore spots that even the most ardent admirers of Clinton find hard to ignore. Examples include NAFTA, which never quite lived up to it’s hype, and the Defense of Marriage Act, a poor political calculation that didn’t need to be made. Hillary Clinton, however, has backtracked on both of those issues, indicating her ability to learn from her husband’s mistakes, and I doubt very seriously there will ever be a “Monica” in Sen. Clinton’s life. With Hillary, we have the opportunity to revisit what was good about the 90s and avoid what was bad.

Sen. Obama’s message is more about total change, out with everything old and in with all things new. A noble and grand undertaking to be sure. But questions remain about Obama’s ability and desire to accomplish that. There’s even a little doubt as to whether that is really Obama’s mission or if it is a message projected onto the Obama Campaign by the left netroots. Issue by issue, Obama and Clinton are almost identical. Even on policies that enrage the left, it is difficult to distinguish the two. In his book The Audacity of Hope, Obama expressed approval of the Clinton welfare reform measures in the 90s, an admiration of capitalism and the free market system, and a belief that any number of entitlement programs aren’t working as advertised.

The Illinois Senator also answered “no” on a questionnaire in late 2003 when asked if he supported repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act. Like Clinton, he has since changed his position on it.

It appears, politically speaking, that what separates Clinton and Obama is not issues and ideology but experience. Clinton has it, Obama does not. That doesn’t mean Obama wouldn’t be an effective leader. Any Democrat elected is going to surround him or herself with knowledgeable advisors. Obama also has a natural ability to connect with people which would go a long way in smoothing out some of the bumps he’ll face should he win the job in 2008.

So the choice – Clinton’s restoration or Obama’s revolution – isn’t as distinct as some would have you believe, though many will disagree. What all Democrats will agree on, though, is the slogan Kilgore mentioned – “Restart the Twenty-First Century.” The idea, he explains, is that Bush has so thoroughly screwed up the last seven years that the only way to place the country on track is to go back to square one.

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