Democrats on the Low Road

Posted: May 08, 2001 12:00 AM
Well, you see, "(W)e won that election,'' which, according to Democratic national chairman Terry McAuliffe, explains the "anger overall'' that Democrats bring to the next year's election, under the tutelage of chief sorehead McAuliffe, Bill Clinton's self-described best friend who promises appropriate revenge this time. True, recounts of the Florida recounts have determined that "we" (viz., the Gore-Lieberman ticket), far from winning the 2000 election, actually lost it. Still, Terry McAuliffe doesn't sound any more vitriolic than do many of his fellow Democratic honchos when they talk about Bush policies. You regularly see these folk on TV -- thrusting out their chins, reminding us that the man now sleeping where once slept the Clinton family is out to get you and me. I say "you and me" because we certainly don't belong to the "wealthiest one percent," aren't corporate polluters and don't want women subjected to back-alley abortions. However, the Republicans sure do and are and must, or else Democrats wouldn't talk in such curdled and divisive terms. Or maybe it's something else. I can think of two plausibilities: 1) A habit of attack, cultivated and perfected since Watergate and the savaging of Robert Bork and Clarence Thomas; and 2) happy captivity to the interest groups that really run today's Democratic party, e.g., the "pro-choice'' lobby, teacher unions, blacks, gays and the northeastern professoriate. In the Manhattan Institute's fine quarterly City (Spring 2001), editor Brian C. Anderson notes that political insults "most often come from the left: 'racist,' 'homophobe,' 'sexist,' 'mean-spirited, 'insensitive.'" Such invective is used "to dismiss conservative beliefs as if they didn't deserve an argument and to redefine mainstream conservative arguments as extremism and bigotry.'' He could have mentioned another gentle rebuke: "Shut up!'' As "mean-spirited'' writers are thoughtfully reminded, their viewpoints insult and degrade. Such writers should be sent to bed without their supper. The degradation of political discourse follows swiftly. Whereas, says Anderson, "Liberals once incarnated reason and civility,'' now they just seek to pulverize critics. On homosexuality, on abortion, on affirmative action, as Anderson correctly notes, the left doesn't argue or remonstrate -- it yells. "They're worse than Hitler,'' said New York Democratic Congressman Major Owens, of Republican welfare reformers several years back. Gay activists turned Dr. Laura Schlessinger into "the Queen of Hate Radio." Her error: that of viewing heterosexuality as normative. A New York abortion leader saw "blood'' on the hands of the pope and other pro-life religious leaders in the murder of an abortion doctor. Whew! You'd hate to see these people when they're really worked up. Now come the Bush administration's judicial picks. I can confidently predict that practically every nominee sent to the Senate for confirmation will sooner or later be found "extreme'' and "out-of-step with mainstream America'' -- in ways we may count on the New York Times editorial page, Senate Democratic leader Tom Daschle, and of course, Brother McAuliffe to explain. Meanwhile George W. Bush soldiers on, trying to revive civility in public life: doing so, what is more, without growing purple in the face. That would not be the way of this president, who is, so far as I can tell, as comfortable with himself as a president ever gets (and so doesn't feel the need to take others down). Do the Democrats really think the stark electoral choice they posit -- good old American democracy vs. hatred and plutocracy -- will resonate with the voters our friends McAuliffe and Daschle hope to entice? With some voters, you can bet it will resonate. Not with all. We can predict -- anyway we can hope -- that Brother McAuliffe and the rest are seriously, gravely, sadly overreaching; because if they aren't, Lord help us all.