Friday, February 10, 2006

Two Kinds of Democrats

This column in the New York Times by Adam Nagourney and Sheryl Stolberg quotes Democratic leaders who lament the missed opportunities and woeful state of the current Democratic party. These pols and party leaders believe that the Bush administration is weakened and that they should be poised to sweep the field in November, but for the reasons they adumbrate, they're just not likely to pull it off. The article has received a lot of acclaim, even from conservatives, and is worth the time to read.

Our take, though, is that much of what the Democrats quoted in the Times' piece are complaining about is really symptomatic of a more fundamental crisis within the party. Their problem is this: There are basically two kinds of Democrats. There are those who deep down know that were they president they probably would have read the intelligence reports on WMD in Iraq the same as Bush did and privately, at least, don't really blame him for taking the action he did. Nor do they really fault him for the messy post-war situation because a lot of it was unforseeable and some of it has been overblown. Nor do they blame him for the NSA surveillance that he's authorized. They know that were they in his shoes they'd probably do the same thing. They also have to acknowledge that his economic measures have brought us out of a recession and have given us a healthy economy, at least in the near term. In other words, Bush's policies have not been very much different than what a moderate Democrat might himself endorse if he were president.

The second kind of Democrat, by contrast, is fervently anti-war, anti-tax cut, anti-Patriot act, pro-appeasement, pro-gay marriage, pro-abortion, and pro-socialism.

The first group, the moderates, can't present a significant alternative to the American people because they simply don't have one. They're reduced to criticizing Bush around the margins, but largely they have no voice because whatever they would advance as policy is not substantively different from what the president is already doing.

The second kind of Democrat has a dramatic alternative to Bush's policy but they dare not present it in toto to the American people, at least not ingenuously, because they know the American people would contemptuously reject it. Thus, they're left with no recourse but to either shut up, which they won't do, or to so vilify and smear Bush that if people won't vote to elect them at least they'll vote to eject him and his party.

They're blinded by their contempt for Bush personally and frustrated by their inability to thwart him. Driven by their loathing, they emerge regularly in the media to disparage his administration in the most uncivil, hate-filled accents, and to seek to salvage whatever political victories they may by whatever means necessary, whether it be through obstructionism, personal vilification, or perhaps, should they win enough seats in 2006, impeachment. If their only motivations were hate and a lust for power they would behave in no different fashion than the one in which they are presently behaving. Their behavior conveys the clear impression that the nation's welfare and that of its people is not for them a genuine, or at least not a primary, concern.

The fundamental problem for the Democratic party, then, is that those who could wield power have no clear alternative to what Bush is doing to offer the voters, and those who have a clear alternative are not attractive, either in terms of the image they present nor in terms of the alternative they offer. Compounding the problem is that it is this latter group which dominates and controls the levers of power within the party.

The only solution to this crisis is for the party to sever its left wing, to rid themselves of the influence of the extremists in the blogosphere and Hollywood, and to mute liabilities like Howard Dean, Al Gore, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, Ted Kennedy, et al. Even this, however, is a measure fraught with dangers. Should the left, disenchanted with, or divorced from, the Democratic party, start up a third party with their not inconsiderable bankrollers, it would siphon away so many votes from the Democrats that they'd be relegated to permanent minority status.

It seems as if no matter what they do they lose unless Bush is caught in some scandal. It's a shame that they've come to the point where their only hope of finding favor with the electorate is that the other guy disgrace himself.

Moral Non-Equivalence

The local paper had a blurb yesterday on the cartoon wars. I can't link to it because the paper's web site can only be navigated by those who can also solve Rubik's Cubes in under sixty seconds, and consequently I am unable to locate an e-copy of the article. Here is the relevant portion, in any event:

A well-known Dutch-Belgium Islamic militant organization, the Arab-European League, posted anti-Jewish cartoons on its website, calling the crude drawings an exercise in free speech. One showed Anne Frank, a young Jewish victim of a Nazi concentration camp whose diary was published posthumously, lying naked in bed with Adolf Hitler.

A couple of things to note here: First, we're surprised that Islamic militants are suddenly enthusiastic about free speech. We shouldn't be, of course, since one of their favorite tactics has been to use the values of the West against it. The same cultural-religious milieu that produced the Taliban and al-Qaeda is likely to quickly grow weary of free expression, especially since it is the greatest threat to the tyrannies they would impose.

Secondly, anyone who thinks that the largely innocuous cartoons depicting Mohammed which have inspired mindless frenzy in the Islamic world are in any way similar to the coarse depiction of a young girl murdered by the Nazis in a sexual embrace with her murderer is a hopeless bonehead.

Surely one reason why Islamic culture still languishes in the deserts of medievalism is that it cultivates little imagination for anything other than creative ways of destroying and killing, and what it does inspire, such as the Anne Frank drawing, is too often suitable fare only for the very dim-witted.

There is cleverness, however, in the use of violence and threats to intimidate the Western media. Now that Muslims have shown that they can impose their will and their religious beliefs on much of the non-Muslim world (see here for an appeasement update), the question arises as to what they will demand next.

Having insured that few newspapers will see fit in the future to run anything that might outrage tender Muslim consciences, will they next demand that all images of women in slacks or skirts be expunged from public spaces because they offend Muslim sensibilities? Will they insist, on pain of rioting in the streets, that advertisements for alcohol be prohibited? Or that Western markets cease their sale of pork? On what grounds will the West resist such extortions if they will not defend freedom of speech and freedom of the press in the present circumstance?

If Muslims are successful in bullying the West into suppressing the basic freedoms it has long cherished, they will have made a giant stride toward coercing the West into tacitly accepting the bleak standards of their primitive religion and submitting to a state of de facto, and abject, dhimmitude.