National Post The Democrats are slipping into impotency (National Post, December 31, 2003)

National Post - Wednesday December 31st, 2003

American presidential campaigns seem to go on forever. It seems like years, not months, that the nine Democratic contenders have been racing for the nomination.

I have some liberal, anti-Bush sparring partners, passionate news and blogosphere junkies whose e-mails keep me abreast of the Left's self-deluding fantasies of success for the Democrats in 2004.

Last month one was gloating because Al Franken's anti-Republican Lies and The Lying Liars Who Tell Them, had become a best-seller. This was apparently a sign that in 2004 Bush would be swept from office by irate Americans fed up with the "fascist" policies of his administration.

Oh dear. I hate to see grown liberals cry, but I expect I will next November. Because, if the economy keeps chugging along at a reasonable pace, and the Iraq situation improves -- with Saddam in hand it's bound to -- and if, as they say, the creek don't rise, the Republicans will not only canter into power in 2004, the Democratic party may find itself on the verge of total meltdown.

It's easy to understand why liberals think Bush is vulnerable. The population has been very divided on Bush personally, and those who aren't for him actually hate him with a passion, including the nine Democrat candidates, who seem to have made Bush-hatred, faute de mieux, their platform. However, the Bush-haters are clustered in highly populated urban centres, on campuses and in Hollywood. States-wide the trend is increasingly Republican.

To find out why, read U.S. Senator Zell Miller's new book, A National Party No More: The Conscience of a Conservative Democrat. The title doesn't mince words and neither do the pages inside. Of Howard Dean, for example, Miller says, "Clever and glib, but deep this Vermont pond is not."

Miller's book is a "tough love" analysis of how the tax-cutting, America-first party of JFK devolved into a values-neutral coalition in thrall to special interest groups and unions for campaign funding and policy direction. About to retire, a lifetime Democrat with a distinguished record of achievement at all levels of government, Miller is a disinterested observer. And he believes the Democratic party is at a crossroads similar to that of the Whigs in 1853, who disintegrated because of their stubborn partisanship at a time of national crisis.

Miller's deeply referenced grievances are many, and persuasive. One is that the Democrats' anemic response to the war on terror leaves true patriots cold. Also, the Dems' opposition to tax cuts is the kiss of death in a presidential campaign. And most worryingly, the Dems have lost the pulse of the South, with election losses to prove it.

In 2000 Al Gore was only the third Democrat since the Civil War to lose every single southern state in the Old Confederacy, including his home state of Tennessee, which cost him the presidency. Southern alienation has deepened since then. In the midterm election of 2002, not a single Democrat leader came to the South without doing more harm than good. The old African American Democratic 90% fidelity rate is eroding swiftly as increasingly bourgeois, well-educated southern blacks move into the middle class, turning steadily rightward in their voting patterns. But the Dems ignore such facts. "The modern South and rural America are as foreign to our Democratic leaders as some place in Asia or Africa," Miller says.

The 2002 election, in fact, made clear that Bush's win in 2000 was a trend marker, not a fluke. The Republicans are riding the wave of an incoming tide, and we are presently witnessing the Democrats "fading birthright" as they slip into impotency. "The spectre of a generation in the wilderness haunts the Democratic primaries."

"All left turns may work on the racetrack, but it is pulling our party in a dangerous direction," says Miller. Incoming Dem representatives are uniformly liberal; while outgoing conservative and moderate Dems are not being replaced. Miller's weekly caucus lunches in Washington convinced him that the party sees the nation through the liberal prism of California, New York and Massachusetts.

Democratic policies -- such as they are -- aren't rooted in values, as are the Republicans' (love them or hate them). They are directly linked to satisfying special interest groups' demands: the teachers' unions, Pro-Choice America, environmentalists, and NAACP, to name a few. Because of the powerful teachers' union, for example, the Democrats refused to consider school vouchers for poor black children. Miller says, "Whenever the candidates encounter a Political Action Committee group, they preen and flex their six-pack abs ... like bodybuilders ... or perhaps more appropriately I should compare them to streetwalkers ... plying their age-old trade."

Ouch! Hell hath no fury like a Democrat betrayed by his party.

© National Post 2003