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Jewish World Review Dec. 22, 2003 / 27 Kislev, 5764

Dick Morris

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The left has taken over the Democratic Party | The probable nomination of former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean marks a turning point in the modern history of the Democratic Party. The left has taken over. The tail is no longer wagging the dog. The tail has mastered the beast.

The moderates ran the Democratic Party from 1960 to 1972. Then the left took over, ruling until 1992 — a period in which the party controlled the White House for only four out of 20 years, when Jimmy Carter, a moderate southerner, was president. Capitalizing on their failures, the centrists regained ascendancy in 1992 with the nomination of Bill Clinton. They ruled for 12 years and are losing power now.

Al Gore and Hillary Clinton are moving to the left to make their peace with the party's new masters. Hillary goes to Iraq and then signs up for every Sunday talk show to blast President Bush and the war. Gore backs Dean to court favor with the liberal anti-war faction that has taken over. The Ralph Nader fringe is now in charge, and Gore is moving left to accommodate them.

How did the left take over? Yeats had the answer when he wrote that the "worst are filled with a passionate intensity" and that the center doesn't hold. The war galvanized such activism among those who felt kicked out of the mainstream when they refused to join the flag-waving patriotism unleashed by the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, that it empowered the left to take over the party.

Using the Internet to compensate for its lack of capital, the anti-war faction made its alliance with social liberals who were attracted by Dean's approval of the gay civil union bill in Vermont. It is the equivalent for the left of the deal Ronald Reagan made with the Christian conservatives, signing them up for his crusade in the 1980 election.

This coalition of peace advocates and supporters of gay civil unions has mobilized online and amassed enough money, manpower and excitement to outdistance the conventional candidates in the Democratic field. They have taken over the party, and they are not planning on leaving anytime soon.

Their ascendancy is paralleled by the solidification of the Democratic minority in Congress, cemented in place by the 2001 reapportionment in which GOP leaders drew district lines to concentrate Democrats in Democratic districts and keep Republicans and independents in marginal areas.

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The result has been an inoculation of Democratic congressmen against defeat in general elections. But, with huge numbers of Democrats in their districts, they do have to fear primary contests, particularly on the left. This realization impelled the election of California's Nancy Pelosi as minority leader and marks the House Democrats' move to the left and to irrelevancy.

The dilemma for moderate Democrats is similar to that which afflicted moderate Republicans until George W. Bush came along. To win nominations, they must appeal to the extremists in their own party and move so far to the left that they become unacceptable to the mainstream of American voters.

A vicious circle sets in. Moderates, repelled by the liberal stances of the Democratic Party, will move to Republican ranks and abandon their Democratic affiliation. This movement will empty the party's ranks of its moderates and make takeover by the left more likely and more permanent.

The path the Democrats are about to tread is the same that left them impotent in the elections of 1980, 1984 and 1988 and akin to that which forced the British Labor Party to lose four consecutive national elections.

The capture of Saddam Hussein and the likely withdrawal of most American forces from Iraq by Election Day — if Bush is thinking clearly and can pull it off — will leave the leftist Democrats with no issues, only bitterness at having been robbed of their thunder by a fast-moving president.

Their lament at not having the economy, Iraq and prescription drugs as issues will parallel the wails of the 1996 Republicans in not having the balanced budget, crime or welfare to use as issues in toppling Clinton.

Good for President Bush.

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JWR contributor Dick Morris is the author of, among others, Off with Their Heads: Traitors, Crooks & Obstructionists in American Politics, Media & Business" Comment by clicking here.



© 2003, Dick Morris