Changing of the Guard; Democratic Party Must Find a New Platform

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), May 28, 2003 | Go to article overview

Changing of the Guard; Democratic Party Must Find a New Platform


Byline: Tony Blankley, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

To the Democratic Party, I say, look in the mirror: Do you see Robert Taft, Wendel Wilkie or Ronald Reagan? The Democratic Party is at a crossroads, similar to where the Republican Party found itself in 1940: Increasingly ineffective as a reactionary, old guard opposition party; flirting with mimicking successful governing party positions; and unconscious of the possibility of applying its abiding principles to the changing world of the near future.

In 1940, after eight years of reactionary opposition to FDR's New Deal and internationalism, the GOP rejected the old guard presidential nomination candidacies of Robert Taft and Arthur Vandenberg, and nominated Wendel Wilkie the recently former Democrat who endorsed FDR's internationalism, while criticizing his Tennessee Valley Authority domestic radicalism.

For the next 40 years, the Republican Party nominated presidential candidates who endorsed most of the liberal FDR programs and agenda (with the exception of 1964, when they nominated Barry Goldwater), but said they could manage it better and a little cheaper. When the Democrats stumbled (Harry Truman in Korea, Lyndon Johnson in Vietnam), the Republicans would pick up the White House but they remained in Congress and in the hearts of the public the minority party, until 1980. And even then, it took another 14 years before they took back the House of Representatives. Me-tooism, as those 40 years came to be known, permitted Republicans in safe House, Senate and state seats to hold on to their offices but at the cost of ever winning the nation's mind and heart to Republican principles.

Today, the Democrats face the same dilemma. The Republicans have convinced a majority of the public that their central domestic policy (low taxes, free markets, self-reliance and traditional values), and their central foreign policy (security through military strength and aggressive strategy and tactics) is right for the times. The Democratic Party in its collective heart and mind opposes such programs and values, but can't find plausible alternative strategies. So, they support the war on terror, sort of, but gripe about its execution. They oppose tax cuts to stimulate a sagging economy, but can only propose smaller tax cuts as their cure.

Democratic presidential primary activists and voters seem fairly evenly split between those who thirst after one last swig from the bottle of reactionary old-time liberalism (Sens. Kerry, Gephardt and Gov. Dean), and those (such as Sens. Lieberman, Graham and Edwards) who think they can run Republican policies better than Republicans. …

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