The other day I wrote a column offering some suggestions to the Democrats about how they could improve their plight.
In response I received a boatload of e-mail. (How many e-mails would fit in a boat anyway?) Many Democrats and liberals told me I should keep my advice to myself because, in the words of one, "Why would Democrats ever take advice from a right-winger like you?!"
Meanwhile, many Republicans offered a different point of view. "Why do you want to help the Democrats?" many asked. "Let them fail!" asserted the chorus to my right.
Well, here's the thing: I don't take any giant amount of pride in being a Republican. I'm a conservative.
This is a distinction lost on the mainstream media. Most cable news networks consider conservatives, Republicans and - even more egregiously - libertarians utterly interchangeable. I get booked to debate liberals on TV all the time. In about half the circumstances, my opponent is a Democratic Party operative, or "consultant." The same happens to liberal journalists who are booked with various GOP activists. The problem with this arrangement is that, by their very nature, party apparatchiks care about their party more than ideas.
Consider CNN's "Crossfire." This landmark show deserves much of the credit or blame, depending on your perspective, for the shout-show format of cable news dominating all of the networks today. In its current iteration, it pits Tucker Carlson and Bob Novak on the right versus James Carville and Paul Begala on the left. The problem is that Carlson and Novak - whatever their faults - are conservatives and/or journalists first and Republicans second. Carlson now thinks the war in Iraq was a mistake, and Novak always did. That hardly qualifies them as White House spokesmen. Begala and Carville, meanwhile, are Democrats before anything else and spin for their party more than their principles. Or, to be more fair than I am normally accustomed, they see their party and their principles as one and the same thing.
Let me put it this way: I want the Democratic Party to move to the center on cultural and economic issues. Yes, it would mean that the Democrats would win more elections. That's pretty much beyond dispute. Bill Clinton was the only Democratic president to be re-elected since Roosevelt, and it was because he moved his party to the political center.