Maureen Dowd is concerned about the Republican Party. I know. It was hard for me to believe, too. In her recent column, she quotes 1992 Republican presidential nominee, Senator Bob Dole, from an interview he gave to the Telegraph here in the UK warning us about that great scourge of humanity – too darn much conservatism:
“We have got to be open,” the 89-year-old Dole told The Daily Telegraph of London. “We cannot be a single-issue party or a single-philosophy party.” He added that he was concerned about the “undercurrent of rigid conservatism where you don’t dare not toe the line.”
And how exactly did that work out for Bob?
Dole rode that theory to a nearly 9 point popular vote loss to Bill Clinton…a 220 vote Electoral College shellacking. I can see why Maureen would think that ignoring conservatives is a winner…for Democrats.
Anytime you hear a liberal expressing worry about the Republican Party, your antennas should go up.
Dowd employs an all too common liberal tactic, one that is both tiresome and baseless, to lament about just how extreme the Republicans have become:
Even Bob Dole, known as the conservative Hatchet Man in his day, is warning that his party could curdle if it doesn’t start appealing to ethnic minorities, young people and the “mainstream,” and stand up to the far-right lunacy. The G.O.P. has veered so far right that Jack Kemp, Dole’s running mate in 1996, now looks like Teddy Kennedy compared with Kemp’s protégé Paul Ryan.
Oh, my. Why these modern Republicans are just like Nazi’s aren’t they? Pretty soon, they will be marching blacks, gays and washed up New York Times columnists into concentration camps, won’t they?
And, yet, liberals like Dowd always assume that they are the veritable political Rock of Gibraltar, resolutely standing still while Republicans rush headlong to the right – but one has to question if that a valid premise.
I was reminded of a Jeff Jacoby column from the Boston Globe, one written shortly after Ted Kennedy’s death in 2009, that asked the question, “Would JFK be a democrat today?”
“It is a paradoxical truth,’’ he once told the Economic Club of New York, “that tax rates are too high today and tax revenues are too low and the soundest way to raise the revenues in the long run is to cut the rates now.’’ What he had in mind, he said, was “an across-the-board, top-to-bottom cut in personal and corporate income taxes.’’
Those were not the words of Senator Edward Kennedy. The speaker – in December 1962 – was President John F. Kennedy, and his ringing call for tax cuts was no anomaly.
Four months earlier, JFK had called high tax rates a danger to “the very essence of the progress of a free society.’’ In his 1963 State of the Union message, his first priority was “the enactment this year of a substantial reduction and revision in federal income taxes.’’ In the speech he was scheduled to deliver on Nov. 22, 1963, Kennedy planned to report proudly: “We have proposed a massive tax reduction, with particular benefits for small business.’’
In recent days, Ted Kennedy has been justly acclaimed as a lion of the Democratic Party. But how different the party mourning Kennedy today is from the one that nominated him in 1962.
The reversal on taxes is one vivid example. When Ted Kennedy first entered the Senate, it was Democrats who campaigned for sweeping tax relief that would eventually slash the top marginal rate by 21 percentage points. But Democrats have long since become the party that resists lower taxes. Now it is Republicans like George W. Bush who champion JFK-style rate cuts – cuts that Democrats now condemn as “tax breaks for the wealthy.’’
On civil rights, too, there has been a sea change.
Liberal Democrats in the 1960s upheld the colorblind ideal – the conviction that Americans should be judged not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character. Far from supporting racial quotas and preferences, civil-rights Democrats flatly rejected them. Senator Hubert Humphrey vowed that if anyone could find anything in the 1964 Civil Rights Bill that would compel hiring on the basis of race, “I will start eating the pages one after another.’’ In a 1963 press conference, President Kennedy explicitly opposed racial preferences: “We are too mixed, this society of ours, to begin to divide ourselves on the basis of race or color.’’
But in the years that followed, as such preferences became entrenched in hiring and education, liberal Democrats became their doughtiest supporters. When the Supreme Court ruled against the racial classification of schoolchildren in 2007, saying “the way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race,’’ Kennedy blasted the decision as one that “turns back the clock on equality.’’
Especially dramatic has been the Democratic Party’s metamorphosis on national security.
“There are some who say that communism is the wave of the future: Let them come to Berlin,’’ declared President Kennedy, a staunch Cold Warrior, in his great Berlin Wall speech in 1963. By 1987, when another US president journeyed to Berlin to challenge Moscow to “tear down this wall,’’ such muscular anti-communism had all but vanished from Democratic Party thinking.
JFK likewise spoke for mainstream Democrats when he asserted that America would “pay any price, bear any burden’’ to advance freedom and democracy in the world. He was a hawk who pressed for higher defense spending and American military superiority. The Democratic Party of more recent years – the party of “come home, America’’ and the nuclear freeze – was one he wouldn’t have recognized.
All political parties alter over time, of course. Today’s Republican Party is not a carbon-copy of Eisenhower’s: It is more internationalist, more religious, more Southern. But a resurrected Eisenhower would still recognize the GOP, and still command its esteem.
The Democrats’ transformation has been much more profound. Over the course of Ted Kennedy’s long Senate career, his party’s ideological center shifted hard to the left. It goes without saying that a JFK today could never be the Democrats’ presidential candidate. The question is, would he still be a Democrat?
It’s actually all about forced perspective though, isn’t it?
If you climb into the stands at a football field and see two kids standing 50 yards apart and the only thing that you know about them is that they were once standing on the field together, it is pretty hard to tell which one moved away from the other. Without a reference point, you don’t know if one student moved right by 5 yards and the other moved left by 45 yards to create that gap.
Maureen is telling you that the Democrats have always stood on the 50 yard line, in the very center, while the Republicans have sprinted to toward the right end zone and are now doing a goose-stepping victory dance in an SS uniform while waving a Nazi Party flag.
Maureen and her liberal ilk never examine that reference point, they never lament how far left the Democratic Party has drifted, how they are much closer to communists they are than they were less than 50 years ago. There is no doubt that there has been a leftward drift in the mainstream Republican Party but the gap between the Republicans and Democrats was created by the Democrat lurch to the left, not the Republican swing to the right.
Let’s assume that the Times’ doyenne of bitterness got her wish, what would America look like?
Here’s a sample of a Dowd approved future based on her columns (actually, this goes for the entire Times editorial staff):
- Infanticide and eugenics (via abortion)
- Government preferences based on race
- Nationalization of industry and the financial sector
- A “planned” economy
- Restrictions on free speech
- Restrictions on/elimination of religious practice
- Criminalization of free enterprise and the implementation of crony capitalism
- Criminalization of “certain” politics and political parties
Isn’t it amazing that the most common attack against the political right is that we are neo-Nazis when the very things that the Democrats crave the most are a carbon copy of Adolph Hitler’s political platform?
The premise of Dowd’s schizophrenic column is that we simply can’t allow that rigid extremist ideologue, Moderate Mitt the Indecisive, to be elected…nothing like being a devotee of post-modernism so you can argue two completely contradictory premises simultaneously…
The Queen of Shrill worries that Romney presidency will hail a return to a prehistoric age:
Even though he once seemed to have sensible, moderate managerial instincts, he won’t stop ingratiating himself with the neo-Neanderthals.
It is lost on her that her vision of the future is also a regression to a historical period – that of the Third Reich.
Smitty notes a similar tendency to post-modernize here.