Some have suggested that Democrats have no central rallying theme this year. I have a suggestion: "Prosperity without a Clue." I know it wouldn't be very effective, but at least it would be true.
Others have convincingly demonstrated that Clinton and Gore are not responsible for the economic prosperity we now enjoy, so I won't reiterate that evidence. Instead, I want to consider whether their policies are designed to maintain the prosperity; that's really the relevant economic question for this year's election.
Clinton-Gore Democrats have no theme because a theme requires a coherent set of policies tied to a central purpose. Though some conservatives and Libertarians will dispute this, Republicans do have a theme. Their theme -- however well they adhere to it -- has always been championing freedom by restricting the federal government's role to its constitutional purposes and affirmatively safeguarding the liberties guaranteed by the Bill of Rights. Most of their policies, but not all, center on that theme.
You might say, "Well, if the Republicans' theme is less government, then the Democrats' is more government." Perhaps, but they shy away from admitting it. Essential to having a theme is the willingness to clearly articulate it. I think one major problem with today's Democrat Party is they don't face the logical extension of their policy prescriptions.
The closest the Democrats come to having a theme is in stirring up class envy and race-baiting and proposing new ideas about how the government can spend more money. Many of their policy proposals are consistent with these ideas but are not grounded in any larger purpose. They talk about maintaining the status quo in order to preserve our prosperity. They don't tell us, however, how stirring up class envy and expanding the welfare state will help maintain the economy, much less stimulate it.
For the sake of discussion, let's give Clinton-Gore Democrats the benefit of the doubt in assuming they advocate an increasingly greater role for the government out of compassion rather than a desire to buy votes. Good intentions don't buy any meals. You can use whatever euphemism you prefer but socialism is still socialism, and history proves that governments don't create wealth.
Democrats will protest that this is an exaggeration -- that they are New Democrats who advocate but a modest role for government. Don't believe it. Speaker after speaker at the Democratic convention, for example, promised socialized medicine, but they couldn't point to a single nation in the world where it hasn't resulted in a bankruptcy in the quantity and quality of medical care. The same is true of an unlimited, unaccountable welfare state. Clinton vetoed welfare reform twice and now champions it as his own achievement. Ditto with education. As cliched as it may sound, merely throwing money at problems has failed time and time again.
The truth is that without a Republican Congress to restrain it, a Democratic presidency would be devastating both to our economy and our liberties because Democratic politicians refuse to acknowledge conceptual limits to government largesse and indeed have no ideological basis to establish such limits.
Democratic leaders continue to promote ideas in the public sector that they would never permit at home, such as sloth, dependency, unaccountability and moral relativism. If these ideas are detrimental to them and their children, how can they be healthy for the rest of us?
This week, Democrats have been criticizing Republican plans to squander the "hard-earned" surplus. How did that bizarre concept ever worm its way into our political lexicon? Hard earned by whom? Are they implying the government earned it? If not, then why talk about it being hard earned, unless you are planning to return it to those who hard-earned it.
If we are not careful, this prosperity may end up being a nightmare in disguise. If it causes us to forget that wealth is created by the private sector, we will be vulnerable to politicians' efforts to adopt policies that smother the free market.
Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg talked about restoring her father's legacy. If we could just get the New Democrats to go that far I'd be tickled. We are not likely, though, to hear from this year's crop, "Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country."