I am a Democrat!
But that has been a damn hard thing to be during the past few years.
When I became a Democrat (around age 12), I was attracted because this seemed like the party where people who thought deeply resided. I was attracted to the Democratic party whose values were embodied in JFK’s Inaugural address in 1961, the one where he promised that America would:
…bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty.
This much we pledge–and more.
To those old allies whose cultural and spiritual origins we share, we pledge the loyalty of faithful friends. United there is little we cannot do in a host of cooperative ventures. Divided there is little we can do–for we dare not meet a powerful challenge at odds and split asunder.
To those new states whom we welcome to the ranks of the free, we pledge our word that one form of colonial control shall not have passed away merely to be replaced by a far more iron tyranny. We shall not always expect to find them supporting our view. But we shall always hope to find them strongly supporting their own freedom–and to remember that, in the past, those who foolishly sought power by riding the back of the tiger ended up inside.
To those people in the huts and villages of half the globe struggling to break the bonds of mass misery, we pledge our best efforts to help them help themselves, for whatever period is required–not because the communists may be doing it, not because we seek their votes, but because it is right. If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich.
That speech promises a muscular pursuit of liberty the world over. That’s every bit as inspiring to me as the idea of using government aggressively to secure civil rights and liberty at home. Never mind whether Bush, Jr. or before him Reagan have pursued these policies, too. They remain a core principle of the Democratic party. Except, the party seems to have forgotten it in its mindless opposition to the incumbent president.
Just five years ago, when Bill Clinton was president, the views of Joe Lieberman reflected mainstream thinking within the party. Now the leftists that have taken over the Democratic party, who dominate its discourse, and who have a tendency to punish heretics, have declared that Lieberman should be cast out. His crime? Saying things like this:
“The difference in this town — here in Washington — on the war is not between Democrats and Republicans; it’s between people who believe essentially we’ve already lost in Iraq and it’s time to get out — and most of the rest of us who believe not only have we not lost, but we’re winning.”
Another comment of Lieberman’s — “It’s time for Democrats who distrust President Bush to acknowledge he’ll be commander-in-chief for three more years. We undermine the president’s credibility at our nation’s peril.” — has been twisted by a group called Democracy For America into an attempt by Lieberman to “stifle debate.” The DFA, which is headed by Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean’s brother Jim, is circulating a letter demanding that Lieberman “(join) the majority of Americans in questioning President Bush’s foreign policy.”
(You find the Democracy for America website, by the way, by clicking onto Dean’s old presidential campaign site, where it says “Our work to take back the country continues with Governor Dean’s new organization: Democracy for America.”)
Democrats of this ilk must be very impressed by this notion of their adversaries wanting to stifle them; it is their catch-all response to any critic who catches them saying something inaccurate. “How dare you impugn my patriotism? How dare you question my right to free speech?”
All Lieberman seems to be saying is that the tedious, unending Democratic campaign to accuse Bush of “lying” about Iraq’s WMDs needs to be seen from an outside-the-U.S. perspective. Accusing Bush of lying about his Medicare prescription plan–which he did–is perfectly acceptable domestic political discourse. But accusing Bush of lying about one of his rationales for the invasion of Iraq–which he didn’t–carries with it dangers to the U.S. as a whole that must be weighed by responsible political leaders. To ask the leaders of the Democratic party to do that weighing is not the same as trying to stifle, censor, repress or opress anyone. It’s a call to conscience.
On foreign policy, the Democratic party is utterly lost if it thinks shushing Joe Lieberman would be an important accomplishment. Lost philosophically, and lost politically. What a shame. Republicans are gleeful at the sight of the Democratic Party’s self-destruction, but what about Democrats like me? The party’s positions on the environment, civil rights, and the overall role of government in a civil society are, mostly, still mine. But so long as the Democrats insist on being so childishly reckless on foreign policy, they are conceding the leadership of this nation to George W. Bush and his allies in the religious right and Corporate America.
We need to fix this, Democrats, right away. The 2006 election season has begun, and predictably, President Bush has begun one of his political rebounds at the precise right time. His party will go into 2006 with a good economy and an improving situation in Iraq to talk about. That’s tough enough. But they will win in a cakewalk if the Democrats seem to have set themselves up as a party that simply won’t tolerate the views of someone like Joe Lieberman.
I hope our 2006 slate is full of Joe Liebermans, and devoid of Howard Deans. That kind of slate could win a lot of seats in Congress, and shift the direction of the country. The fact that the Democratic Party’s leader and chief spokesman is lending his website to an attack on one of the party’s most popular and respected leaders should be a firing offense.
Dean will be fired–about a year from now, after the Democratic party gets clobbered in the midterms and staggers toward 2008 with its base shrunk to levels not seen since the 1920s. But that future can be averted–by firing Dean now.