Miller minces no words in explaining how the Democratic Party lost the South and many moderates and conservatives elsewhere. The party, he says, is too often "sucking up" to left-leaning special interest groups. He describes the modern Democratic Party as being "value neutral." In short, Miller accuses its leaders of simply being too liberal for much of mainstream America. He notes that in the 2002 mid-term elections, not a single Democratic national leader could come South "without doing more harm than good." From congressional leaders to presidential contenders, Miller names names and kicks butts.
What effect will Miller's nervy observations have on the party he has served so long? Very little, he seems to believe. Early in the book, Miller readies himself for a sneering reaction from what he calls the "liberal Washington crowd," whom he goes on to depict as gold medalists in what they doubtless see as the "sport" of politics.
Worse, Miller sees little hope that any of the party's candidates for the White House can or will do anything about the Democrats' slide to the left. Miller details the prospects of most announced candidates. Notably excepted is one retired Gen. Wesley Clark, whose candidacy took hold right after Miller's book went to press. When asked his opinion of Clark's candidacy for this column, Miller's office declined comment.
It's not hard to guess the senator's take on Clark, who continues to take a beating from his opponents for having once tilted right in some of his views. It's likely Miller would castigate Clark for his tepid position on the U.S. engagement in Iraq. But he would also probably caution the general not to distance himself too greatly from his own supposed past Republican-like views by now embracing the same tired positions of the left-leaning interest groups that Miller says have done the Democrats such ill. And Miller, a bitter critic of the Iowa caucus, might applaud Clark's decision to skip that contest -- and perhaps advise him to skip the New Hampshire primary as well. Miller feels those two early bellwether states have become two leftist tails wagging the dog of a potentially moderate -- and possibly victorious -- Democratic Party.
But it will do neither Clark nor any other Democrat any good to alter their campaign strategies without altering their policy positions as well. Zell Miller has spelled it out for national Democrats: Heed his words or suffer a stinging defeat against the president next year.
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