Column: Power over principle

Why won’t John Kerry just admit it? He’s a liberal. On GW’s Kogan Plaza last March, he certainly did not hesitate to embrace the ultra-liberalism of former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean. However, the “liberal” John Kerry was nowhere to be found in the final presidential debates. Taking a page from the Clinton playbook, Mr. Kerry – rated the most liberal member of the U.S. Senate – understandably attempted to conceal the leftist skeletons in his closet. Kerry even defended his liberal voting record by asserting, “The president is just trying to scare everybody with throwing labels around.” He seems to imply there is a legitimate reason to fear liberal politicians. But no need to worry, John Kerry is a mainstream Democrat, or so he would have us believe.

Democrats who “move to the center” are a recent phenomenon in American politics. Bill Clinton did it successfully in 1992 and 1996. In the latter year, he begrudgingly signed the Republican-authored Welfare Reform Act, which has proven to be immensely successful. He even proclaimed, though insincerely, “The era of big government is over.” Kerry has manipulated his political image in a similar, duplicitous manner. In the debates, he amazingly came out against same-sex marriage, recognized abortion as conflictive with his personal morality – hey, it’s a start – and, most incredibly of all, endorsed abstinence programs. Whew. Not bad for a career leftist from Massachusetts, even if it is merely a phony election-year ploy contradicting his 20-year record in the Senate. In addition, are we really supposed to believe Kerry’s newfound fondness for President Ronald Reagan? Please. This is the same senator who equated the Reagan years to a period of “moral darkness.”

Kerry’s hollow conservative overtures are a far cry from the secular humanism and moral relativism currently dictating liberal ideology. So how can genuine liberals accept Kerry’s conciliatory stance on abortion and homosexuality? That’s easy. In national elections, liberals willingly compromise their core values for more mainstream positions, all for the sole purpose of acquiring political power. They know the liberal label is a political death sentence; thus they conveniently move to the center and, in the memorable words of Vice President Dick Cheney, “say or do anything to get elected.” For liberals, power is more important than principle.

Pure, unabashed liberalism might work on leftist college campuses and in leftist utopias like Massachusetts. But when the audience is mainstream America, liberalism just doesn’t fly. Perhaps this is the greatest legacy of the Reagan Revolution. President Reagan affixed an incurable stigma to liberalism – a political poison – that is forever and inextricably attached to its name. Reagan made conservatism mainstream and reduced liberalism to the extreme margins of American politics.

On social issues, the American people have spoken with a resounding, conservative voice. They believe marriage should be strictly defined as a union between a man and a woman. They believe that abortion is, at the very least, a morally objectionable practice that should have some legal limitations. They believe in low taxes and less government.

Likewise, on foreign policy, most people view American power as a force for good in the world, never to be superceded by international institutions. Kerry, like Bill Clinton, realizes that only liberals disguised as moderate, mainstream Democrats have a fighting chance on the national stage. And so goes the final hope for his campaign.

President Bush’s political future is uncertain, but under his leadership, conservatism continues to win the culture wars. When a Democratic presidential candidate cannot dare to take a hard-line, liberal position on any substantive political issue, we know the American culture has moved sharply to the right. Kerry may see the “liberal” label as trivial, but he still shuns its association. This speaks volumes about the truly conservative orientation of the American people and the sorry state of today’s liberal establishment.

-The writer, a sophomore majoring in political science, is a Hatchet columnist.

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