- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 1, 2005

A news story is creeping into our major newspapers. From there, it is making its way into the broadcast media. It is a story that bodes ill for the Democrats.

Once a story spreads like this, it takes on the nature of Truth to journalists, and they then repeat it or variations of it for a mercilessly long time. The headline is: “Democrats fragmented and in disarray.”

The story has two aspects that must trouble Democrats who understand media. First, it is full of dire portents. Journalists are attracted to dire portents whether true or palpably absurd.

The second aspect that must trouble Democrats is this story happens to be true. The Democrats really are fragmented and in disarray.

We saw this late last month when their Joan of Arc, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, gave a perfectly sensible speech — at least for her. The next day all hell broke loose, and it broke loose against her. Hillary has been the Democrats’ leading presidential hope since roughly 2002. In normative politics, that would be surprising because in 2001, right after the Clintons were both being blamed for peddling presidential pardons, the Clinton staff’s trashing of the White House and the pilfering of White House property by the Clintons themselves, Hillary’s approval rating had plummeted to 38 percent. The New York Times was calling for congressional investigations. The New York Observer was calling on Mrs. Clinton to resign.

Of course “normative” has rarely applied to the Clintons. Within a year, Madame Hillary began her weird ascent with amnesiac Democrats, and soon was the most popular Democratic officeholder — at least with Democrats. She has remained so.

Today she is almost a shoo-in for the party’s nomination. Still late last month she was the object of obloquy from what is called her party’s angry left. All she had said, aside from her usual denunciations of the Republicans and of the diabolical George W. Bush, was that “It’s high time for a cease-fire. It’s time for all Democrats to work together. … Let’s start by uniting against the hard-right ideology.”

The “hard-right ideology” is how she has persistently described the viewpoint that has governed America roughly since Ronald Reagan brought it into government in 1981. Even her husband entertained part of it, starting about the time he said “the era of big government is over.”

One would think Hillary’s persistent diabolizing of Republicans would appease her angry left, but it has not. The next day the angry blogs and activist groups were at her neck. She had spoken to a meeting of the moderately liberal Democratic Leadership Council (DLC). Her plea for a “cease-fire” enraged Democrats further to the left.

“There’s been an activist resurgence in the Democratic Party in recent years,” responded Roger Hickey, co-director of Campaign for America’s Future — a pretty angry future it appears. And he added, “Hillary risks ensuring that there’s a candidate to her left appealing to those activists who don’t much like the DLC.” Since the DLC was one of the instruments through which her husband fashioned two presidential victories, you can see the Democrats have a big problem. Another way of putting it is they are “fragmented and in disarray.”

The Democrats’ problem is their so-called liberals have been for decades living in a fantasy of self-congratulations. They see themselves as responsible for all that is good in America and the hated Republicans for all that is bad. Anything the Republicans have done right the liberals see as bad — for instance, cutting taxes and thus encouraging the economic growth that has revived the country since the mid-1980s. They are smug and ignorant and now are at each other’s throats.

What in terms of policy does the angry left offer, beyond abominating Republicans and the DLC?

Well, they hate Halliburton and Wal-Mart. They love the environment and would improve the lives of whooping cranes and rare grasses in Nebraska.

What is the American liberal? I conceive the American liberal as a fat, florid-faced archbishop from some declining New England episcopacy, waiting around the buffet table late in the dinner hoping to scoop up a few extra desserts, another bonbon to put in his pocket or her purse, an extra glass of sauterne, and to burp when no one is within listening range.

Hillary, these are your constituents. Treat them well, or Mr. Hickey will field a candidate to the left of you.

R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr. is founder and editor in chief of The American Spectator, a contributing editor to the New York Sun, and an adjunct scholar at the Hudson Institute. His latest book is “Madame Hillary: The Dark Road to the White House.”

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