In mid-July, the Democratic Leadership Council, an organization of “moderate” Democrats, held a two-day meeting in Indianapolis to critique the 2000 presidential defeat and to develop political strategies for rescuing their party from left-wing radicals.
Political strategist Al From and other leading Democrats founded the DLC 16 years ago in response to two stinging presidential losses to Ronald Reagan. They were convinced that their party lost the White House because it had succumbed to liberal special interests.
The DLC gained enormous credibility within the party when two of its members, Bill Clinton and Al Gore, took back the White House. They are now making the case that presidential candidate Al Gore lost the election because he deserted the political center and set up camp on the wrong side of America’s cultural divide.
It is an easy case to make. Gore called on one group of Americans to declare war on other Americans. He promised to lead the fight to protect: the people from the powerful, workers from bosses, old people from greedy pharmaceutical companies, the noble poor from the filthy rich, criminals from brutal cops, the sexually different from the Boy Scouts, pregnant teen-agers from their parents, teachers from accountability, atheists from prayer, environmental extremists from reality, school children from God, sinners from Jerry Falwell, minorities from a level playing field, trial lawyers from those who would ban legal extortion, women from men, children from parents, government workers from tax cuts, politicians from the law, everyone from the judgment of others, and the Democrat Party from the Constitution.
Reflecting its growing influence, the DLC meeting was attended by some of the party’s most influential power brokers, including Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, New York Sen. Hillary Clinton and former vice-presidential candidate Sen. Joseph Lieberman. They dutifully listened to and joined in a rather scathing rebuke of the party’s political strategy. No one booed.
Hillary Clinton chimed in with the profundity that “things which used to work don’t work anymore. We need to reinvent ourselves.” Translation: “We’ve worn out the old lies and excuses. We need new ones.”
In his speech to the “moderate” leaders of the party, Lieberman made these remarks: “there remains a deep anxiety, especially among parents, about the moral direction of our country – about the blurring of the lines between right and wrong … and the perverse messages that pervade the entertainment industry … we must earn back the people’s trust on matters of values, culture and faith.”
It is strange and bewildering to hear these words coming from Lieberman, a man who voted against a ban on that form of infanticide known as partial-birth abortion, a man who showered praise on Hollywood moguls at star-studded fund-raisers and a man who actively supports homosexual rights and wrongs.
There’s the wretched rub! The incredible Lieberman straddle between his touted Jewish orthodoxy and his political positions illustrates not only his own personal hypocrisy, but the dilemma of the “moderate” Democrats. How do they achieve a “mainstream” image without losing the support of major constituencies?
The front cover of the July issue of the DLC’s Blueprint Magazine is emblazoned with the bold declaration that “It’s the Culture, Stupid!” The lead editorial is entitled “Bridging the Cultural Divide.” It sums up the issue this way: “To put it simply, many voters fear that Democrats are either hostile or indifferent to people of faith, married people with kids (especially stay-at-home moms), those who serve proudly in the military, those who own guns for self-protection or hunting, and perhaps even white males as a group.”
Then, the editors articulated their deal-breaking cultural caveats. They affirmed that they would stay true to their own fundamental commitments and moral values, namely “a woman’s right to choose, civil rights and equal opportunity, and tolerance and inclusion for gays and lesbians. …”
The DLC has a problem. A woman’s right to kill her unborn child is losing popular support as science makes folly of the proposition that human life does not begin until birth; the abuse of civil rights legislation, double standards and remedial bigotry against whites have created a massive backlash; and the current push by Democrats to force a radical homosexual agenda on society represents a challenge to freedom of association, an infringement of the right of moral discernment, and an overt assault on the values and moral positions of every major religion in the world.
Unless Democrats rejoin the moral mainstream, or do a really superb job of selling their “reinvented” selves, there is not a prayer they can bridge the cultural divide.