What's wrong with the Democrats?

Posted: Mar 06, 2001 12:00 AM
It isn't that Democrats are bad people. Please understand this. Most of the ones I know are patriotic and perfectly pleasant. No, the point is that Democrats have lately been installing, in high office, people who say the nuttiest, most mendacious things. If we're going to have a two-party system, and we should, something needs to be done about the guys now speaking for one of the two. Start with National Democratic Committee chairman Terry McAuliffe, who blatantly asserts that Al Gore won the election. More urgently, consider Senate. Minority leader Tom Daschle and his House counterpart, Dick Gephardt, think the Bush program of "irresponsible'' tax cuts for "the wealthiest Americans'' is certain to rob the government of "money for anything but tax cuts.'' Wait. Cut Congress' top two Democrats some slack. They may not actually "think'' such things. They think they have to be perceived by Democratic constituencies as thinking them, which isn't much improvement, admittedly. That's the Democratic line this year: Bush wants millionaires to be able to afford a new Lexus (they couldn't before?), whereas "if you're a typical working person, you get $227,'' which barely buys a muffler, says Daschle. At last it becomes clear. We want this tax cut in order to help Japanese car-makers! How did a party so reverential toward the tax-cutting John F. Kennedy get itself in this pickle? By intentionally or inadvertently, over the years, running off most of its moderates and conservatives and turning party leadership over to McAuliffe, Daschle, Gephardt and, yes, Major Owens. The latter is a congressman from New York. He would have us know that House Republicans are dragging America "back to the days of separate but equal, where you had one water fountain for colored and one for white people.'' Help! Help! Somebody stop 'em before they ... well, actually, before they split up the committee dealing with higher education, preparatory to reauthorizing the Higher Education Act -- stop yawning -- and do something, it isn't clear what, to historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs). That would count as racism: a favorite Democratic theme, as anyone who watched the Ashcroft hearings knows too well. Overriding Ted Kennedy's voluble objections, the Senate confirmed Ashcroft, and doggoned if he didn't right off the bat, appoint a black man as his deputy. The other day, he proposed a congressional ban on whatever "racial profiling'' may be. Naturally, no congressional Democrat can be really sure -- in public, that is -- that a man like Ashcroft isn't the head of some neo-Confederate group meditating a second secession. Capitol Hill Democrats, in our Clintonian twilight (which just goes on and on), haven't got it together. They'd better try. In a recent interview with the Washington Times, a genuinely lucid Democrat, Sen. Zell Miller of Georgia, says the party's tax-cut politics will cause voters "to skin us alive'' in the 2002 elections. "I hate this class warfare talk,'' said Miller. "I think the Democrats are making a terrible mistake and don't serve the people very well by engaging in it. It's bad politics. Most of the poor that I know don't have this class envy. They have this desire to move up in the world and into higher income.'' As for the Democratic-economic analysis, Miller responds, "I've heard all this before from the propeller-heads when I was cutting taxes in my state as governor.'' Now, look. The two-party system presupposes contrasting, often enough clashing, viewpoints. Does anybody expect Tom Daschle's speeches to resemble Phil Gramm's? It's not political warfare per se that dismays. Lies and distortions, and useless disturbances of the peace -- these dismay. The necessity of rallying constituencies doesn't license the retailing of stupid and malicious accusations, not that you could prove it by the propeller-heads -- excuse me, the D.C. Democrats -- working overtime to sabotage your tax cut.