Thursday, January 20, 2005

Political Journey of the "Common Man"

I really enjoy Thomas Reeves' blog, not only for the content, but because he represents in microcosm the political shift that the entire country has undergone over the last forty years. I found his piece today very insightful on how the Democrats went from the party of the common man, to the party of Barbara Streisand, Michael Moore, and Peter Singer (and you can't get much more UNcommon than these three):

"Democrats on this Inauguration Day are still trying to evaluate their defeats in November, wondering how they lost the allegiance of the entire South and of millions of ordinary working people throughout the country. A look at the county election returns in 2004 show Democrats almost vanishing in popularity within areas they once dominated. Bush won 81% of the nation’s counties, including mine. Racine County, Wisconsin is a stereotype of the blue-collar, rust belt area, struggling with unemployment, racial difficulties, and despair. And it went solidly Republican in the last election.Democratic Party strategist Dan Gerstein lamented recently, “Right now the clear majority of voters—including large swaths of the country—don’t trust us to keep them safe or share their values, and we have a long way to go to rethink our messages and policies and ultimately rehabilitate our credibility.” Indeed. And imagine how much weaker Democrats would be today without the lockstep votes of African-Americans.Growing up in the working class in the 1940s and 1950s, choosing a political party was hardly a mental challenge for my family members and friends. There were good guys and bad guys: the common people, a la Frank Capra, and the rich and privileged, i.e. those we envied. Since we were part of the vast majority, toiling for our low pay in blue collars, we were Democrats. My father believed that FDR had saved his life by creating the Civilian Conservation Corps. And the president had pulled us through World War II, giving my father a job in a California shipyard and keeping America safe from fascism. Big government was a blessing. It protected us from the plutocrats and the white collar sharpies who were always eager to cheat us, and it provided us with an assortment of gifts, such as low-cost housing, a minimum wage, jobs, financial protection for our old age, protection of our civil rights, and the defense of our country.Roosevelt was an enormously appealing and effective politician. And Harry Truman was one of us, not nearly as articulate as FDR, of course, but tougher and more down to earth. He was intent on perpetuating the New Deal and saving the world from Communism. Almost everyone in the country then understood the importance of the Red Menace, even if many Republicans, the McCarthyites, got carried away with anti-communism, largely for their own political gain. There were some Democrats on the Far Left who were Communist sympathizers, but forces within the Democratic Party isolated them, creating Americans for Democratic Action and producing often brilliant literary defenses of the free world. Adlai Stevenson, Jack Kennedy, and Hubert Humphrey seemed to most Democrats worthy heirs of Roosevelt and Truman. Through the Kennedy assassination, I had never supported a Republican for any office. But, of course, the Sixties changed all that. The Democratic Party, burdened with the war in Vietnam and increasingly open to cultural change, succumbed to the Far Left in 1972. Some Democrats, like historian Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. and old pol Ted Kennedy, were so solidly tied to the party that they approved the dramatic shift. Their knees never missed a jerk. Many others had to leave, and I, sadly, was among them. (I did not vote during the Nixon-Ford years, out of sheer disgust.)The Democratic Party now belongs to the likes of Michael Moore, Barbara Boxer, Howard Dean, Barbra Streisand, Paul Krugman, Howard Stern, George Soros, Frances Kissling, Jesse Jackson, and John Kerry. It is favored by virtually every advocate of sodomy, drugs, and abortion; virtually every enemy of the traditional family and orthodox Christianity; and virtually every trial lawyer, hip-hopper, appeaser, high taxer, race racketeer, porn profiteer, and union boss in the country. Oh yes, and most academics. It is “cool” to be politically correct. Harry Truman, in my judgment, could no more be a modern Democrat than he could have embraced Henry Wallace, John L. Lewis, or Lilli St. Cyr.Some Democrats are suggesting that the party take a less strident position on abortion. But that will be firmly opposed by feminist leaders. Some say that the party should be a little less antagonistic toward the churches and traditional values. But the ACLU, the Hollywood moguls, and the Deaniacs will no doubt put a stop to that. Others contend that the party needs to run a moderate for president. But such candidates no longer appeal to the party hierarchy and many Democratic financial backers. And that leaves us with Hillary Clinton, that most cynical and ambitious of leftist politicos. When she runs, as a centrist, of course, the Democrats will be telling us that they have reformed and are again the party of the people. Some will buy this line of thought, but in truth nothing will have changed. To make a lasting impression on thoughtful voters, the Democratic Party will have to revisit its history, from Al Smith to Hubert Humphrey, and relearn some basic facts about the American people’s beliefs and needs. Polls and voting returns can tell them more than the ideological editorials of the New York Times. Democrats should listen less to NPR and more to George Gallup. They need to read more Chuck Swindoll and less Peter Singer. They should study George Barna’s recent national poll on American religiosity. There they will find evidences of faith and virtue that may astound them.It would also help Democrats if they could come up with some ideas. It is ironic, of course, that the party convinced of its intellectual superiority leaves innovation to conservatives. Democrats favor a higher federal minimum wage. Fair enough, that’s a reasonable demand, especially in light of the fact that many states and most employers are ignoring the standard already. But beyond that, the party seems out of gas, content to specialize in Congressional obstruction.Despite its stranglehold on teachers and the media, the Left is in for a disappointing future if it fails to take action. As New York Times columnist David Brooks recently reminded us, there are three conservatives in this country for every two liberals. And in the past 40 years, only one Democrat has won the presidency with more than 50% of the vote: Jimmy Carter in 1976. (And isn’t Carter something to brag about!) Journalist Fred Barnes delights in presenting data showing the growing Republican tide.Let us hope that Democrats will turn their losses into victories with genuine internal reform. The nation could benefit enormously if the party would again isolate the Far Left, reconnect with the majority of Americans, and participate in a dialogue about national and international needs that is responsible, productive, and as objective as possible."


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