- The Washington Times - Friday, November 8, 2002

The postmortems by the media on the unprecedented midterm loss by the Democratic Party are all wrong.Every conceivable excuse was brought up from a lack of a coherent economic plan to failure of leadership, to being outspent by the Republicans, to the enormous popularity of President Bush. Surely that contributed to the debacle, but the true reason is hidden in the dirty secret of American politics.
And what is that? It's quite obvious that the American people, by and large, do not trust the Democrats with the security of the United States. In franker language, they do not believe the typical Democratic politician in Congress is patriotic enough to maintain the nation, its defenses and its international security.
The Democratic voter is no less patriotic than the most voters, but the party machinery has, over the years, little by little, fallen into the hands of politicians who do not believe in the American effort for world peace and who are in fact tinged with an anti-national, anti-international, isolationist, sometimes even anti-American spirit.
The party once had a brilliant history of both nationalism and internationalism. One has only to think of Harry Truman, Lyndon Johnson and John F. Kennedy, and the victories in NATO, the Berlin airlift and the Cuban missile crisis. That all changed with Vietnam, after which liberal-leftists took over the machinery of the Democratic Party, culminating with the presidential nomination of George McGovern of South Dakota, whose answer to the threat of the Soviet Union was to advocate the reduction of American defenses.
The Reagan victory in the Cold War only reinforced American public opinion that the Republicans, not the Democrats, were the only ones who could be trusted with American security.
What is the evidence for this suspicion of the Democratic Party? It is obvious in their reaction to the danger of Saddam Hussein. Even after the Adolf Hitler of the Middle East invaded Kuwait 12 years ago and threatened to take the oil of Saudi Arabia, the newly isolationist Democrats voted overwhelmingly for America not to fight Saddam despite the approval of virtually the entire world and the United Nations.
In the Senate, 45 Democratic senators voted against the Gulf war. Of the 10 dissenters in favor of action, two Al Gore of Tennessee and Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut voted with the president, enabling them to run for president and vice president, separating them from their isolationist brethren, whose dire, defeatist warnings about the war were proven false with our easy victory.
Have the Democrats learned from that?
Hardly. In the recent Iraq war resolution vote, the great majority of Democrats in the House voted against intervention, as did half the Democratic senators. More would have sided with isolationism, except for the fact that the two leaders, Rep. Richard Gephardt of Missouri and Sen. Tom Daschle of South Dakota hoping to run for president in 2004 did not, like Mr. Gore, want to be on the wrong side of the equation. However, Mr. Gore has shown his true stripes by now opposing the president's Iraq policy. Democrats cite personal opinion and fear of war as a reason for their actions, but it is more than suspicious that the opposition is party-based, in the new isolationism of the Democrats.
As anyone who is familiar with local politics knows, no one receives a Democratic Party nomination for the House or Senate unless he is in-line with party dogma on international affairs. Otherwise, he would lose the primary, in which mainly activist disciplined party people participate.
Like many patriotic Americans, I was an active Democrat before the McGovern takeover, including a stint as an alternate delegate at the national convention and an effort on behalf of Jack Kennedy. Today, both parties are equally implicated in election corruption, money-grabbing fund-raising, inattention to the many needs of the people and other faults I have written about. But we are headed for a 30- or 40-year war against terrorism and Muslim extremism, and I can no longer trust the Democrats with the life of my family.
The Democrats must begin to realize that the public is beginning to understand this dirty secret of American politics. Unless and until the Democrats begin an honest examination of their policy, reform the party machinery and start to nominate truly patriotic candidates, their influence will continue to erode, forcing them out of the major arena of national politics.
The present Democratic anti-national isolationist policy will, unless it is abruptly ended, eventually make them mainly the party of ecologists, minorities and graduate students. That would be a grave disservice to American democracy, which requires two strong, loyal, patriotic American parties.

Martin L. Gross is the author of several books on American government and politics, including "The Government Racket: Washington Waste From A to Z" and other New York Times best sellers.

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