Thursday, September 26, 2002

Democrats' Dilemma (Part 2)

A Washington Post article today describes the plight of anti-war Democrats. They are in an awful bind. It seems that they want very much to express their opposition to the Bush Administration’s increasingly forceful foreign policy but they can’t because . . . well it’s unpopular with voters.

Now Democrats attract a lot of criticism for their positions on foreign policy . . . some of it fair some of it not.

It is generally thought that the Democrats are uneasy with military power and reluctant to project it. That’s a legitimate position to have. No one wants the armed forces to be deployed casually.

At the extremes there will always be people who oppose any use of military power for whatever reason. That’s admirable in its own way because it takes a certain amount of courage to stake out a position so at odds with the political mainstream (and reality for that matter).

But there is nothing courageous or principled about throttling your opposing a policy that you sincerely believe is wrong only because such opposition is unpopular and might end your career as a politician. Indeed it might, but it would almost certainly be the start of a bright new career as a leader.

Sure there are plenty of perks of Congress. You get to be taken seriously -- which is extraordinarily important to the types of people who enter politics. You get good seats at some cool Washington restaurants – although for New Yorkers that is an oxymoron. And you have the thrill of fame -- even if it’s limited to the fleeting recognition of a bunch of 20-something Capitol Hill drones.

These meager perks are so valuable to some Democrats that they apparently outweigh any principle of conscience.

How different this is from the Democrats of the 1960s who spoke out against what was then a popular war in Southeast Asia and turned the 1968 election into a national referendum on Vietnam. Of course, they lost miserably. But they managed to preserve their dignity.

Today’s Democrats have learned all too well from the 1990s that winning elections is the only thing that matters, not what you do with your mandate.

Choose or Lose.

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