James Leroy Wilson's blog

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Why Democrats Are Hated

Over the years, the reputation has been that Democrats are in favor of civil liberties, a regulated economy, and Big Government, whereas the Republicans are in favor strong policing and morality over individual freedom, but favor a deregulated economy, and small government.

The perceptions don't meet the reality very often. Democrats often vote for "tough on crime" and "tough on national security" legislation to make people think Democrats can keep them "safe," while Republicans will expand regulations and the welfare state to make people think they stand for fairness and compassion. The result is that most "bi-partisan" bills create more laws and more spending.

And the funny thing is, such compromises never work. Even if some or most Republicans join Democrats in a major spending bill, the fact is that all the budget hawks and smaller-government advocates are on the Republican side, which "taints" the party as a whole for lacking compassion and fairness. Likewise, even if some or most Democrats join Republicans in some "War on Terror" program, the fact that almost all the pro-peace and pro-civil liberty advocates are on the Democratic side , which "taints" that party for being soft. That's why the parties are portrayed as if it's still 1964.

An example of this is the House Democratic Leadership folding on warrantless spying and telecom immunity. The issue is back in the Senate where there have been heroic efforts on the part of Russ Feingold and Chris Dodd. The Republican attack machine will claim that the Feingold-Dodd position is what Democrats really believe.

Now, I support Feingold and Dodd in their efforts to protect Americans from warrantless spying by their own government. But they are vulnerable to the charge that they are the worst possible hypocrites on this issue. For instance, Feingold is most famous for the McCain-Feingold bill, which sought to silence the speech of non-partisan groups during elections campaigns. What will Republicans say? That Feingold values the rights of terrorists over the free speech rights of Americans. Meanwhile, Dodd is working on a bill that would "would require the nation's payment systems to track, aggregate, and report information on nearly every electronic transaction to the federal government" and "a new national fingerprint registry for mortgage brokers."

Mortgage brokers!

The Republicans would say that Dodd favors the rights of terrorists over people who want to make an honest buck.

Now, let me emphasize that Feingold and Dodd are right about warrantless spying and telecom immunity. The government is being given permission to spy not just on suspected terrorists, but on average Americans and, especially, high-profile critics of the government who then become vulnerable to frame-ups and blackmail.

But Feingold and Dodd have dug a whole for themselves. It is precisely because they are right on this issue that their hypocrisy stinks all the more. It is true that Feingold and Dodd are rightly fighting for the rights of suspected terrorists, because by preserving their rights we preserve our own. But it is also true that Feingold has no regard for free speech, and Dodd has contempt for the rights of anyone who wants to make a purchase or a decent living. In that sense, they do favor the rights of terrorists over law-abiding Americans.

This feeds the perception that Democrats, essentially, favor the rights of criminals over the law-abiding. That they are soft on criminals, hard on businessmen. That they protect the lives of murderers, but not the unborn. That they care more about the rights of undocumented immigrants than native-born Americans. That when it comes to national security, Democrats favor rights over security, but when it comes to economics, freedom be damned.

If Dodd wins the telecom fight but then, next week, wins on spying on America's mortgage brokers and financial transactions, that would be a pyrrhic victory indeed.

No comments:

Post a Comment