A look at the Democratic front-runners

Bryce McDevitt

The field of Democratic candidates for the upcoming presidential race features numerous candidates. Like all races, however, there are front-runners. This election is no different, as New York Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, Illinois Senator Barack Obama and North Carolina Senator John Edwards will command much of the national attention in the upcoming months.

This election will be different from others because there will be a large focus on which candidate can successfully end the war in Iraq with as little backfire as possible, as well as which candidate can improve domestic dilemmas.

Hillary Clinton

Although there is hardly ever an apparent front-runner this early in presidential races, Clinton is one of the favorites because of her political experience and connections to the White House. The fact that her husband served as president of the United States from 1993 to 2001 makes her a favorite among much of the United States. Hillary Clinton attended Wellesley College in Massachusetts and later graduated from Yale Law School. Beginning her political campaign as a member of the House Judiciary committee in 1974, Clinton continued her path to Democratic candidate by serving as the first lady of Arkansas for 13 years, the first lady of the United States for eight years and as a New York senator since 2001.

With regards to the war in Iraq, Clinton offers a three-step plan that she claims will begin as soon as elected. Her plan begins with bringing the troops in Iraq back to the United States within the first 60 days of her term, as well as asking the “Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs to prepare a comprehensive plan to provide the highest quality health care and benefits to every service member – including every member of the National Guard and Reserves – and their families,” as stated on Clinton’s Web site.

Next, Clinton hopes to stabilize Iraq through U.S. aid efforts. This aid effort would focus on getting assistance to the people of Iraq, “not propping up the Iraqi government.”

Finally, the last step in Clinton’s plan calls for “A New Intensive Diplomatic Initiative in the Region,” as said on her Web site. This diplomatic attempt would call for a “regional stabilization group composed of key allies, other global powers and all of the states bordering Iraq,” their mission being to implement a strategy that will lead to a stable Iraq.

Among other issues, Clinton is concerned with strengthening the middle class. She plans to do this through various steps, including making health care affordable and accessible to every American, reducing the cost of energy and making the United States energy independent, providing access to affordable, high-quality child care and attempting to make college more affordable to all Americans.

Barack Obama

Obama is also a candidate who is generating a significant amount of buzz around the country. Obama attended Columbia University as an undergraduate and later earned his law degree from Harvard University.

It was at Harvard that Obama became the first black president of the Harvard Law Review, a student-run organization that is responsible for publishing a journal of legal scholarship. He later moved to Chicago to practice civil rights and teach constitutional law.

It was in Chicago that Obama began working as a community organizer on the South Side. This position called for Obama “to help Chicago residents and local government to set up job training programs for the unemployed and after-school programs for kids,” as stated on his Web site. Obama then served as a senator for the state of Illinois for eight years, becoming the third black person elected to the U.S. Senate in 2004.

In order to end the war in Iraq, Obama plans to implement a plan that will remove one to two brigades every month and all troops engaged in combat home by the end of next year.

Obama will also seek to work with the United Nations to help “Iraq’s leaders reach a new accord on reconciliation,” as stated on his Web site.

Furthermore, Obama claims that withdrawing troops from Iraq is the best way to have Iraq’s leaders take responsibility for their country, something Obama says they have not done: “Iraq’s leaders have put off reconciling and taking on greater security responsibility despite our efforts to pressure them to act. Drawing down our troop presence is the best way to finally apply real pressure on the Iraqi government to make the political accommodations necessary to heal the nation’s sectarian rifts, and to take on more responsibility for providing security to their people,” as stated in “Obama’s plan to responsibly end the war in Iraq.”

A focal point of Obama’s campaign will be the fact that he never supported the United States going to war, saying, “Saddam Hussein posed no imminent threat to the United States and that invasion would lead to an occupation of undetermined length, at undetermined cost, with undetermined consequences.”

Obama also provides an intriguing way to help diminish poverty in the United States.

Obama wishes to launch “Promise Neighborhoods” in areas of the United States that have high levels of poverty and crime and low levels of student academic success.

A Promise Neighborhood would seek to “engage all resident children and their parents into an achievement program based on tangible goals, including matriculation to college for each and every participating student, strong physical and mental health outcomes for children as well as retention of meaningful employment and parenting schools for parents,” as said in Obama’s “Changing the Odds for Urban America.”

John Edwards

Edwards is the final member of the Democratic party’s heavy hitters. A product of North Carolina State University, Edwards became the first member of his family to go to college. After working his way through NC State he attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he earned his law degree.

Edwards is more focused on helping the working man than many other candidates in the presidential race, a result of his grassroots and humble upbringing. Edwards served as a United States senator from 1998-2005 and ran for President in 2004. After John Kerry won the Democratic primary for presidency, Edwards appeared on the Kerry ticket as the vice presidential candidate.

Like Obama, Edwards believes that in order for the Iraqi leaders to start taking responsibility of Iraq, the United States must begin to remove troops from the country.

Edwards said, “In order to get the Iraqi people to take responsibility for their country, we must show them that we are serious about leaving, and the best way to do that is to actually start leaving.”

He proposes an immediate withdrawal of 40,000 to 50,000 troops and a complete withdrawal within nine to 10 months. The process of physically leaving Iraq will spur the Iraqis to start taking responsibility over their nation, Edwards believes.

In addition, Edwards states that the United States should stop funding for any new troops that are not actually ready to deploy: this means not deploying troops that have not been sufficiently trained and equipped.

Edwards is equally concerned with protecting the working class.

Like Tony Blair in London, Edwards has challenged the United States to end poverty within 30 years. One of the ways he wished to do this is by creating a “Working Society” in which everyone capable of working in a society will be expected to work, and will be rewarded for their work.

Edwards also seeks to create one million “stepping-stone jobs,” to help Americans work their way out of poverty and into a steady income.

Edwards said that, “Every American should have the chance to work their way out of poverty, but some willing workers cannot find jobs because of where they live, a lack of experience or skills or other obstacles, like a criminal record.”

By creating stepping-stone jobs, Edwards believes individuals will be helped to move towards more permanent work.

Clinton, Obama and Edwards headline an impressive list of Democratic candidates who will fight for the American vote in 2008.