In a recent op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, respected Democrat Henry Ruth detailed the manner by which President Clinton has robbed his party of its soul. Many of us have been citing his article approvingly, but a recent e-mail I received has caused me to re-evaluate its premise. The mailer asked why so many Democrats have been defending the indefensible Bill Clinton. In trying to formulate a reply I found myself coming to a different conclusion from that of Mr. Ruth.
As accurately as Mr. Ruth described Clinton's degradation of his party, there is an underlying assumption implicit in this theory that appears to be unwarranted, i. e., that the soulful party once inhabited by statesmen such as Mr. Ruth still exists -- or at least still existed before Clinton injected his poison into it.
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Could it be that the party lost its soul some time ago and Bill Clinton just happens to be the incidental beneficiary of its debasement?
A case can be made that the degeneration of the Democratic party can be traced to its being hijacked by extreme liberals in the early '70s, who have retained a vice grip on the party's leadership since that time. But it is not liberal policy preferences, as objectionable as they are, that have corrupted the party. Rather, it is liberalism's arrogance of self-righteousness that is the culprit.
Most liberals not only believe that they have the correct solutions to society's problems but that they have a monopoly on compassion. They truly seem to believe that only greed and heartlessness drive conservative ideology. In fact, the great paradox of modern liberalism is that it harbors an outright antipathy towards conservatism and the Christian right, ostensibly because of their moralistic fervor, yet tacitly asserts its own moral superiority over conservatism. If anyone doubts the smugness of the modern left, he needs only observe almost any public statement by its poster-people, the Hollywood elite. From Whoopi Goldberg to Alec Baldwin, almost all of them regularly display palpable contempt for conservatives and Republicans.
Liberals may argue that it is conservatives who lay claim to moral superiority and perhaps to some extent that is true. But the reason liberalism has become dangerous is that it has allowed itself to be infested with pride and self-adulation. Liberals have essentially deified liberalism. For the liberal, the greatest good is liberalism.
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If liberalism has truly become the icon of liberal idolatry, then it follows that other principles, such as the rule of law, can be casually subordinated or altogether discarded when they interfere with the liberal cause.
For most liberals, whose world view is secular humanist, moral standards are relative and only liberalism remains as a constant good. For example, liberals have historically championed the First Amendment as one of the most important safeguards of our liberties. Yet they have selectively trampled all over this right with the sword of censorship born of liberal political correctness. If the speaker is conservative, his unfettered right to free speech must yield if the object of that speech happens to be one of the demigods of liberalism.
The point of all of this is that if liberalism and its causes are, in the minds of liberals, the greatest good, then it is not difficult to understand their willingness to bend other rules, which, after all, are only based on someone's opinion and not grounded in moral absolutes. The end of liberalism justifies the means. Thus: a) it is morally justified for Democrats to lie about Republicans wanting to cut Medicare and starve school children because those lies will help elect liberals who will advance the liberal agenda; b) perjury was an impeachable offense in the impeachment trial of Judge Walter Nixon but it is not in that of liberalism's current political leader, Bill Clinton; and c) The Independent Counsel Act is freedom's friend when used as a weapon to fight corrupt Republican administrations, but its enemy when ferreting out Democratic corruption.
Liberalism has become so contaminated with self-worship that all other principles, including those upon which this Republic was founded, are in jeopardy under its rule. When Democrats can countenance and even fight for a man so obviously morally depraved to remain in the highest office in the land, they have abandoned any pretense to decency and it is they, much more than Bill Clinton, who are to blame.
Bill Clinton, for all his faults, misdeeds and dishonor is not the soul-destroyer of the Democratic Party. It is extreme liberalism and its seductive self-righteousness that has fatally infected the party to the point that a rogue like Bill Clinton could become its standard bearer. "Pride goes before destruction; a haughty spirit before a fall."