Where will the dems go?

William F. Buckley
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Posted: Nov 16, 2002 12:00 AM
What are the Democrats supposed to do? Well, they have begun by electing Nancy Pelosi as their in-house leader. She has everywhere been classified as a member of the left wing of her party, and she smiles bravely and a little condescendingly when she hears this said of her at interviews. (Is it true, Ms. Pelosi, that your hero as a girl was Leon Trotsky? If such a question were asked, she would laugh, and temporize.)

What does she think of the Democrats now prepared to vote for the Homeland Security Bill? Didn't she oppose it? "Well, yes, that's part of the legislative process. Political initiatives move from stage to stage. And there are compromises, and that sort of thing."

But much time has been spent, though not much thought given, to the question of where the Democratic Party is going. It has to go somewhere. It can't too easily move to the right, because to the right is the GOP. It follows that it should move left -- or perhaps dissolve, making way for a fresh party. Wedded to what? Compulsory abortions?

Some of what has been written about the implications of last Election Day is raillery, a matter of having fun with the returns and with the media, baby sitters of American liberalism. Still, some of those who speak out make concrete proposals. One such was the Democratic senator from Georgia, Zell Miller. Hear what he proposes (in The Wall Street Journal), if you want to look at the awful depths of Democratic vacuity, A.D. 2002.

Sen. Miller's first suggestion is: "Why couldn't our party push for a national lottery with the proceeds going to help pay the cost of college for deserving students in America?"

Put that down as the Fifth Freedom. If Sen. Miller goes on that subject with a speech in the Senate, he should back it up with references given to the absence of available help for deserving students in America. And then lotteries, of course, are a form of regressive financing. It's poor people who end up suffering most from lottery sales. Perhaps the GOP could steal this proposal, in pursuit of its war on the poor?

Sen. Miller goes on: "Why couldn't our party push to restructure the sacrosanct Head Start program into a universal pre-kindergarten program, with more emphasis on learning instead of just day care?" Anybody want to run for president on that plank?

And then: "Why couldn't we Democrats push to spread the massive government bureaucracy now concentrated in Washington, D.C., out around the whole nation, saving money and bringing jobs to America at the same time?" As I live and breathe, senator, what are we going to do, then, about the unemployed in Washington, D.C.? Set up another lottery?

The reflections of Mark Steyn in The (British) Spectator are in another spirit. The Democrats, he says, need new voices, and it isn't easy to find these, pace Ms. Pelosi, inside the party. "In recent years, both parties have so gerrymandered the House districts that they're essentially one big incumbent-protection racket." As for the Senate, "the wiliest party operatives haven't figured out a way to redraw state lines to their advantage."

Should the Democrats move in the direction of the partisans of the late Sen. Paul Wellstone? Yet the demonstration at the memorial service in Minneapolis, "posterity will record as the 'defining moment' of the campaign ... at which fist-pumping mourners hissed Republican senators and deranged activists publicly demanded that these alleged GOP friends of Paul demonstrate their loyalty by renouncing their parties and campaigning for his posthumous victory."

"To those watching at home," Mr. Steyn, who lives in New Hampshire, recorded, "it looked like hidden-camera footage from inside a particularly insane cult. It's a commonplace, especially in Britain, to hear the 'religious Right' referred to as a bunch of weirdos who are an embarrassment to the Republican Party. Well, the Minnesota memorial gave us the religious Left: They don't believe in God; they believe in politics. The Democratic Party is their church, Wellstone their latest martyr, and the campaign a crusade. They couldn't have been any freakier if they'd been speaking in tongues."

That is one man's view of what would happen if the Democrats went left. But meanwhile, we can all sit down and see what Ms. Pelosi recommends.