Reclaiming the middle ground and the red states.
I never thought I’d see the day, since I read Milton Friedman’s Free to Choose fifteen years ago, that I would consider voting for a Democrat again. Yet last year I considered Howard Dean. And I certainly preferred John Kerry over President Bush.
And it may be the case that advocates of liberty may have to write off the Republican Party completely. At least one group
is trying to persuade libertarians to join up with the Democratic Party. But it is hard to imagine the home of the murderous administration of Clinton-Albright-Reno to be the “lesser” of the two evil parties.
Nevertheless, the progress of liberty must be in baby steps. And I think there are some steps the Democratic Party can take to not only win back some “red states,” but to do some good along the way. All that needs to be done is some re-thinking and some compromises on a few issues.
1. Remember its heritage as the “people’s” party. There is not one program or ideology that defines a Democrat. But since our nation’s inception, the struggle has been big business and other special interests using the power of government to protect themselves at the expense of everyone else. Today, the special interests dominate both parties; the Democrats should represent “everyone else.”
2. Back down on the gun issue. Yes, tragedies happen with guns – the shooting spree in Rice Lake, WI this past weekend is just the latest. But the overwhelming majority of gun shootings are related to gangs and the illegal drug trade. Most Americans are responsible with their guns, and states that permit the carrying of concealed weapons have less crime. Speaking out in favor of gun control only serves to alienate many voters who might otherwise favor the Democratic Party.
3. Be reasonable about federalism and the federal courts. Federal court decisions that progressives might favor as policy are often not sound Constitutional law. Persecuting someone because of race, religion, or sex is prohibited by the 14th Amendment. But the display of religious symbols on public property, uttering “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance, or saying a prayer in public school, is not persecution. Driving out religion from the public square is not a defense of the First Amendment; it actually violates the free speech rights of the First Amendment, and the Tenth Amendment rights of the states and the people. Democracy means the people, not judges, decide what is right or wrong, good or bad. If Democrats don’t defend democracy, who will?
4. Compromise on abortion. How is this possible? Abandon the “litmus test” for the federal courts on the issue, as the Republicans have. And cut off federal funding for abortion both at home and overseas. Abortions would still be legal, but the “right to choose” will now also embrace the right of the woman who doesn’t get pregnant to choose not to pay for another woman’s abortion.
5. Ditch the stem cell research funding mania. I’m not suggesting banning stem cell research, or cloning, or any daring experiments in biology and medicine. I’m just saying that no taxpayer should be forced to fund research that he finds fundamentally unethical, especially when the experiments are on human life.
6. Speak out on behalf of our largest employers – small businessmen. Cut off all protective tariffs, subsidies, and regulations that benefit big business and hurt small business. Major corporations are better able to afford the tax rates and the regulations – small businessmen often can not. A less taxed, freer regulatory environment will keep small-time entrepreneurs stay in business and large corporations less tempted to move or outsource. Result: more jobs for Americans.
7. Adopt a moderate isolationism. Tell the American people that they don’t have to sacrifice their lives and treasure to pay for the security of other countries, or to prop up foreign governments – we have too many needs at home.
There are many issues I haven’t touched: agriculture, education, the environment, the deficit, the War on Drugs, entitlements, the Patriot Act, and others. But there is a genuine “middle ground” on many of the values issues listed above, which the Democrats might be able to claim. If the Democratic Party can separate itself from extreme positions on guns, nationalized secularism, and abortion, it may reclaim many of the voters it has lost.