The list of past Democratic presidents is long and distinguished. It is composed of vibrant, visionary leaders. Men who dutifully answered their country’s call amid turbulent times and, in the process, forever shaped the very course of world events and the ideals of one of America’s great political parties.
However, after analyzing the rhetoric of today’s Democratic presidential candidates, it is clear that not only have the times radically changed, but so, too, has the Democratic Party. The soaring, rhetorical heights of John F. Kennedy and Franklin Roosevelt are but distant memories, lost in the blind and oftentimes hysterical hatred of our great president, George W. Bush. The Democrats have gone from having, in the memorable words of FDR, “nothing to fear but fear itself” to purporting a political platform that is primarily rooted in shallow and unsubstantiated fears. Fears of things like Republican tax cuts that would supposedly destroy our economy and Social Security privatization plans, which would somehow threaten the economic security of the elderly. In addition, Democrats perpetuate the spurious claim that President Bush is a “unilateralist cowboy” who willingly sacrifices American lives for the fulfillment of a perverse, imperialistic worldview.
Indeed, Democrat front runner Governor Howard Dean has resorted to especially historic lows by equating President Bush with the British monarch “King George” while pompously declaring, “We need to take our country back.” Not to be outdone is Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), who suggested “a regime change in Washington,” actually implying that the Bush presidency is somehow morally equivalent to that of the homicidal dictator Saddam Hussein.
In the age of Roosevelt and Kennedy, when political civility and decency were more important than political power, this outrageously cynical, downright shameful rhetoric would have been shunned to the radical margins of the party. Today it has become mainstream Democratic political strategy, and they will pay dearly for it in 2004. While desperately appealing to the peaceniks, the greens, the angry feminists and the rebellious idealistic college youth, the Democrats have systematically abandoned their base constituency – ordinary, middle-class Americans who, despite the sharp ideological divergence of their party’s leaders, are serious about national security and protecting their posterity from international terrorism. While Democratic leaders are busy wooing voters with the moral equivalent, “blame America first” philosophy of military inaction and weakness, mainstream Americans still steadfastly believe that our security, our values and our ideals are worth fighting for and worth “paying any price, bearing any burden.”
The Democrats may have long lost their moral clarity, but the American people surely have not. Unfortunately, it will take a serious electoral defeat in 2004 to restore the moral foundations that were once the cornerstone of their party’s – and America’s – greatest leaders. I urge mainstream Democrats to courageously rise up and take a stand against the career party-hacks who have hijacked their once-noble party and its sacred principles. Though it is probably a hope against all odds, it is the Democrats’ only chance in 2004.
–The writer, a freshman majoring in political science, is a Hatchet columnist.