This week, Howard Dean, trawling for votes among South Carolina voters who could roadblock his campaign in their Feb. 3 primary, denied that his health care scheme was "some crackpot socialist idea from some liberal state up in the North." (Sure, and Richard Nixon said, "I am not a crook.")
Dean said, "I want more than anything to bring South Carolina back to its proud tradition of voting Democrat year after year after year." Hmmm: "more than anything." More than being pro-abortion, pro-homosexuality, pro-appeasement of Islam? Is Dean willing to return the Democratic Party to its small-d democratic roots?
One of my favorite historians is Claude Bowers, an Indiana journalist who was born in 1878 and wrote evocative books about Jefferson and Jackson. Bowers was also a noted political speaker who gave keynote addresses and key nominating speeches at Democratic Party conventions in the 1920s.
Bowers was a Democrat when that party opposed increases in centralized power and was on the side of small business. He would have no place in today's party, though: Democrats now can't beat their addiction to taxing, spending and moral neutralism, the notion that we should become tolerant by suspending judgments about good or evil.
That's why Democrats like Dean have become increasingly hostile to all but the very liberal versions of Christianity: When all cultures are considered equal, those who make biblically based moral judgments are seen as inhibiting the drive to a free, uninhibited, perfect humanity. The brawling Democratic Party of Bowers' era has become a cult that shuns those who do not embrace sacraments of the religious left, such as abortion.
Dean, hoping to win some evangelical votes, recently praised Jesus for seeking out "people who were disenfranchised, people who were left behind." But fellow blogger James Taranto (he's at opinionjournal.com, I'm at worldmagblog.com) skewered Dean's gambit, asking: "Do you notice something missing from Dean's description of Jesus? Well, does he use the phrase 'Son of God'? Nope. 'Messiah'? Ixnay. 'The Way, the Truth and the Light'? None of the above. To hear Howard Dean tell it, Jesus Christ was just a socially conscious celebrity, like Princess Diana only less glamorous."
The one continuity between the old Democratic Party and the new is that each made or makes its peace with racism. The old party, with its solid South base, demanded preferences for whites; the new party, with its solid African-American base, demands preferences for blacks. Both bigotries were, are and ever will be wrong. If Dean really wanted "more than anything" to bring South Carolina back into the Democratic fold, he could push his party to open its eyes to the follies of reverse racism, cultural radicalism and big government spending.
Another reason Dean was in South Carolina this week was to attend Renaissance Weekend, the New Year's Eve festival of mostly big bucks Democrats that became famous when President and Mrs. Clinton went every year -- and the hypocrisy of his "more than anything" comment reminds me of my one encounter with former POTUS Bill at Renaissance Weekend 97-98. (The guest list of over 1,000 included several conservatives brought in to stir the pot a bit.)
I mentioned to Clinton my book-in-progress on American leaders and said he resembled in several ways Henry Clay, a congressional leader and three-time presidential candidate during the first half of the 19th century. Clinton did not ask for specifics (Clay, seen as smooth but untrustworthy, was a big-time adulterer). Instead, he said, "That's such an interesting period of American history, I think about it all the time."
The next morning, I was on a panel discussing race relations and trans-racial adoption: Clinton wandered in and commented, "This is such a crucial matter for America, I think about it all the time." To how many others did he say the same thing? Now we know what Clinton actually was thinking about much of the time. What does Dean really want "more than anything"?