I have been suggesting — on these pages and elsewhere — ever since Howard Dean was made Democratic National Committee chairman in 2005 that his left-turn direction was a strategic disaster in the making.
We are now at, or very close to, the point of no return for the Democratic Party. Howard Dean is still the pilot, and he has steered — with the help of radical organizers, left-wing bloggers and much of the so-called mainstream media — his party to the precipice of defeat in an election that they should otherwise win with little effort.
Claiming themselves to be the “party of peace,” they are instead, in the eyes of a majority of Americans, the party of surrender. The Republican Party and its president, facing early mismanagement of the postwar period in Iraq, a persistent insurgency there and an indecisive new Iraqi government, have been allowed to escape the label of being “the party of war” and has “redeployed” itself as the party of victory.
How did this happen? Furious at their defeat by George W. Bush in two presidential elections and outflanked as he redirected American foreign and domestic policy with control of both houses of Congress, many Democratic activists sank into a hysteria of hatred and anger toward the president. In so doing, they lost their political common sense. When the American public understandably began to tire of the Iraq war and the initial inability of our strategists to cope with the insurgency — these Democrats interpreted the president’s plummeting public opinion polls to be the public’s desire to surrender the field and withdraw.
The nation had learned two important lessons from its bitter experience in Vietnam. The first was about the neglect and denigration of our returning troops. Today, no one, pro- or anti-Iraq war, would think of not acknowledging the brave young men and women who have risked their lives for their country. The second lesson is that, in the words of that famous quote, “there is no substitute for victory.”
The Democrats have understood the first lesson, and their rhetoric is inevitably positive to the American soldier in harm’s way. But the call for immediate or time-certain withdrawal, no matter how it is rhetorically spun, is understood by all — friend and foe — as surrender. I suggest that this is one outcome that the majority of American voters will not tolerate, regardless of their party and regardless of how they feel about the war.
Not only was the United States humiliated by an admittedly mismanaged war in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos, but when we did finally withdraw abruptly, the communist victors then proceeded to slaughter millions of their own citizens. Is there any doubt that the same fate would await millions of Iraqis if we left abruptly? Are Americans prepared to appease the same terrorists who murdered 3,000 Americans at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and on Flight 93 by throwing in the towel and saying, in effect, “sorry to have bothered you”?
As part of its “political cleansing” program, the antiwar Democrats have decided that Sen. Joe Lieberman must be eliminated. No matter that he was the popular vice-presidential nominee of his party only six years ago, no matter that he has been an ardent Democrat on most of the domestic issues of the day, no matter that he has served his state and country with distinction for more than two decades, no matter that his views on bipartisan foreign policy are one of the greatest American political traditions and no matter that his views on Iraq are consistent and principled, even if not popular. The conclusion of this faction is that Joe must be eliminated.
How do these Dean Democrats think the 75 percent of Americans of all parties who don’t agree completely with them are viewing this spectacle? According to the radical bloggers and their cheerleaders, the American voter will hail them in triumph and subsequently reward them with landslide victories in 2006 and 2008. I suggest the result would be quite different. I suggest that the American people despise bullies, be they terrorists or those who want to cleanse their political party of independent thinkers.
The ludicrous spectacle of Democrats being against bringing some form of representative democracy to nations and peoples now living under feudal totalitarianism is the last straw of this radical hayride. Perhaps I am naive to think that it’s not too late for the Democratic Party, and its commonsense leaders, to take the party back from those who would lead it — and the country — to defeat. There are many Democrats in Congress, governors and thinkers who do not share this philosophy of surrender and appeasement. But if they do not speak up now, it will be too late when American voters have already decided who is truly on their side and who is not.
Barry Casselman writes about national politics for Preludium News Service.