Is the Democratic Party Doing the Right Thing?
Unlikely, but what other hope is there?
by James Leroy Wilson
January 8, 2004
The problem is that many of the “issues” the candidates want to talk about do not address the structural problems of American society. Whether we should spend more here, less there, tax these people more, others less, or make new laws to correct which problems, ultimately isn’t going to make much of a difference.
This is why I left the conservative camp in 2000, away from George W. Bush. I agreed with him on two things, a “humble” foreign policy and a tax cut. But the foreign policy was not pronounced, and the tax cut would repeal only Bill Clinton’s tax hikes, not his own father’s tax hikes. And he didn’t propose or promote the elimination of a single government program. There was no reason to suspect that government wouldn’t grow larger and more intrusive under his watch.
I mean, in neither his foreign or domestic policies did I see in Bush any structural changes in the way America does things, or at least no changes that would take us back toward greater personal liberty and Constitutional government. And certainly as President, he’s taken no such measures, but quite the opposite.
If I actually support the Democratic candidate this fall, it would only be because I see the promise in him of some structural change that would improve our politics and national life. As I wrote a few weeks ago about Howard Dean, this would likely revolve around pledges renouncing Presidential make-war powers, and to defend of the Bill of Rights. If I’m not convinced, or if I am convinced but other negatives outweigh the candidate’s positives, it’s back to Third-partyville for me.
And that’s the problem. So few candidates offer significant change, so few pledge to correct at least one area in which America has abandoned its Constitution. It makes Presidential “debates” forums for lies and character attacks. A President who has expanded domestic spending to a far greater degree than any since LBJ is still viewed as a “right-wing extremist” by the Democratic demagogues. On the other hand, critics of the President are always skewered by his supporters for being unpatriotic. Political battlegrounds on the national level still tend to be about “culture war” issues.
In the meantime, the underlying problems go un-addressed. There are several of them, and they are built like a house of cards, so that it is hard to remove one part without collapsing all of it. What distinguishes Democrats from Republicans isn’t much: very slight differences of opinions on how to build on the house of cards. For Democrats, it is a slightly greater preference for welfare and sexual-identity politics, for Republicans a slighter greater preference for warfare and protection of “traditional families.” And even the latter, for Republicans, is largely a cynical ploy to get out conservative votes.
But the underlying problems neither party will address are:
If any of this were the case, the American Revolution shouldn’t have been fought and we would have been better off under the British Crown.
But none of this will be addressed in the coming election. Lost in the identity politics, the envy, and the hatreds of our “culture wars” and bribery of the people, is the fact that we, as a nation, were created to be free, not subject to majority will, bureaucratic mandate, or to the messianic wars of the President.
But there is some light at the end of the tunnel. Our nation, rare as it seems, has stood up to take back some of its freedom. After Lincoln’s dictatorship, Congress impeached Andrew Johnson and weakened the power of the Presidency for a generation, to our benefit. The people repealed Prohibition. Nixon ended the slavery of the draft. Republican Ronald Reagan managed to cut taxes and simplify the tax code (for a few years at least) despite Democratic control of the House of Representatives. The 1994 Republican “Contract With America” showed that votes do matter and that what once seemed entrenched can actually be changed.
Yes, the trend is still, over all, toward a bankrupt, socially-disordered, and authoritarian federal State. But maybe 2004 will provide some small gains, here and there, in favor of liberty, personal responsibility, genuine community, and Constitutional government. And we never know when a seemingly small reform can reverse the tide.
Something’s gotta give, soon. The USA will become an evil empire, or it will restore a Constitutional republic, or will otherwise break up either violently or non-violently. All Democratic candidates must reach out to conservatives and libertarians by praising and defending the Constitution and its guaranteed freedoms at every opportunity. If freedom, instead of envy, is once again the heart of the populist movement and the passion of the average Joes and Janes (or should we say, Justins and Jens?), its mouthpiece in the 21st century might well be the Democratic Party. That will depend on courageous steps that the Party and its candidates must take this year - 2004 - in addressing the war, President-worship, and the Bill of Rights.
Time will tell if the Democrats are up to the challenge. I can’t say I’m optimistic, but I’m at least hopeful. Because either a cowardly Democrat’s election, or the re-election of Bush, can spell nothing but disaster. It is time for the Democratic Party, for once in my lifetime, to stand up for decency and freedom. The fate of the nation hangs in the balance.
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