Commentary Magazine


Democrats Are All About Power

Can you imagine a conservative or Tea Party Republican statewide candidate so determined to beat the Democrats that they would withdraw from a race in order to help an independent who might (or might not) switch to the GOP after the election? Neither can I. These days the political right in this country values ideology over mere political advantage. But not so their Democrat opponents. As this week’s news from Kansas and Alaska illustrates, one of our two major political parties is consistently playing to win and the other can’t necessarily be relied upon to do so.

In Kansas, Chad Taylor, the Democratic Senate candidate withdrew from the race. Taylor was trailing badly in the polls in a contest in which embattled Republican incumbent Pat Roberts faced his most significant competition from independent Greg Orman. This will clear the field for the former Republican turned Democrat turned independent to mount a serious challenge to Roberts who survived a tough primary fight in which his lack of a home in Kansas was a major issue.

In Alaska, something similar happened when Byron Mallott, the Democratic candidate for governor agreed to merge forces with independent Bill Walker in order to better compete against GOP incumbent Sean Parnell. The Democratic state central committee endorsed a new ticket on which Mallott will be their candidate for lieutenant governor under Walker, who dropped his membership in the Alaska Republican Party in order to facilitate this unusual marriage of convenience.

In both cases, regular liberal Democrats swallowed hard and bowed to their party’s best interests by endorsing a less ideological candidate. If that wasn’t enough, also in Alaska, incumbent Senator Mark Begich demonstrated his commitment to winning at all costs by running a television advertisement that falsely accused his GOP opponent, a former state attorney general, of responsibility for the freeing of a convict who subsequently murdered two senior citizens and raping their granddaughter. Protests from the outraged family of the victims forced Begich to take the ad off the air but his willingness to broadcast what Politico calls a “Willie Horton ad” in his quest for reelection amply illustrated a fight-to-the-death spirit that seems to be animating Democrats this year.

What’s going on?

What we’re observing in these races is the way Democrats have become a party solely devoted to power. Whereas Democrats were once even more fractious and as prone to ideological squabbles as Republicans, in recent years they have changed. The Obama era is one in which the party of Jefferson and Jackson has finally realized that the only way to enact their liberal big-government agenda is to win elections. In service to that cause they have embraced unprincipled opportunists like Charlie Crist in Florida, Orman in Kansas, and Walker in Alaska. Where liberals might have once preferred to fight centrist Democrats in a quest for purity, they understand the election of political chameleons fighting under their banner will do more to advance their cause than sticking with a principled liberal who will lose honorably.

This is in marked contrast to Republicans who have in recent years made a specialty of tearing each other apart in bitter and often pointless civil wars that have resulted in their losing Senate seats they might have won. Indeed, the whole point of the Tea Party is a reaction to the way the Republican Party seemed to lose its soul during the George W. Bush administration with GOP majorities in the House and the Senate spending like drunken sailors just like Democrats in a futile effort to win the loyalty of voters. Indeed, the ire of most Tea Partiers has always seemed to be mostly reserved for moderate Republicans—dubbed RINOs—whose defeat is considered a greater victory for true conservatism than unseating any Democrat. Purging the GOP of such heretics has been their goal and they have largely succeeded.

Contrary to the myth propagated by the liberal mainstream media, Republicans are, as a rule, no more extreme in their conservatism than the average Democrat officeholder is in their liberalism. But the Jacobin spirit demonstrated by the Tea Party—which initially represented a healthy revolt of the taxpayers against an establishment determined to ignore the wishes of the voters and feather their own nests—which has largely acted as if it is better to have a liberal win a congressional or Senate seat rather than a nominal non-conservative Republican, has done more than hurt the GOP’s electoral prospects in some cases. It has also given it the aura of a Robespierre-style junta determined to root out any ideological diversity or dissent. This fealty to principle at all costs can be more attractive in some ways than the cynicism of the Democrats. But it also seems to be rooted in an indifference to governance that ill befits any great party that seeks to rule rather than merely posture.

So while opportunistic turncoats like Crist as well as the shady maneuvers of Kansas and Alaska Democrats rightly disgust Republicans, they can also take a lesson from them. Winning isn’t the only thing in politics and dishonorable flip-flopping is a disgrace, but the only way to really stop liberal big government is to ensure that the advocates of those policies lose elections. The moral of the story is that it’s no good complaining about ObamaCare if your activists are actually doing more to elect Democrats than Republicans who might vote to repeal it.

Democrats have figured out that they are better off taking half a loaf than none at all. It remains to be seen if Republicans are mature enough to learn the same lesson before they throw away another chance to control Congress.

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3 Responses to “Democrats Are All About Power”


    My only comment is that this is nothing new. The mere fact that this party nominated John Edwards for Vice President and Barack Obama for President in consecutive elections — two men who have no clue as how to govern — made that abundantly clear.

    This, in my view, is the inevitable result of getting rid of a pretty good system in which men (and women) in smoke filled rooms decided on a nominee. Those making those decisions, I think, always gave a damn about something more that their electoral prospects; they recognized that the nominee had to be someone who could govern (or would at least surround himself with individuals capable of doing so). The elimination of party bosses as a check on the nominating process has resulted in such candidates as John Edwards and Barack Obama. It is also likely to result in a Hilary Clinton candidacy. After the shining success (sarcasm) she made of her time as secretary of state, responsible party bosses would have written her off, I think. Oh well. We live in a time when attention spans are so short that someone who would look good on the cover of People’s Magazine has as good a chance as anyone to be nominated to high office.

  2. RON WASSERMAN says:

    A good part of the problem for Republicans is that in the
    eyes of the public the Tea Party, which in the main con-
    sists of Republican voters who merely want to direct the
    Republican Party into a more united direction, are viewed
    as a distinct political party separate from the main Re-
    publican party. The TP would have been better off choosing
    the name Sons and Daughters of Lincoln. This way there
    would be no confusion as to their allegiance to the main
    Republican Party. As it stands, its difficult not to
    regard the TP as a third party.

  3. ERIC SCHUMANN says:

    A quite tendentious description of the tea party movement and its principal motivations and desires regarding the GOP. How does Mitch McConnell’s pledge to “crush” the tea party fit into your strained narrative? The disgusting Haley Barbour and crew effort in Mississippi to keep Thad Cochran in office? This post also ignores a fundamental question: How does one change the direction and focus of a political party without working to replace the old guard with new faces who seek to implement the policies of the movement? The party establishment rode the tea party to great electoral success in 2010, but has shown disdain for the ideas and goals of the liberty movement. A consistent theme on this site is that the GOP would’ve had greater electoral success had the nutjob tea party candidates not blown easy wins. This ignores the easy wins lost by establishment choices, and the hard races won by tea party favorites. It further ignores the lesson of 2012 – Romney/Ryan avoided the liberty agenda that had inspired the tea party and won the day in 2010, and they lost. Romney couldn’t or wouldn’t run hard against Obamacare, for instance. The same genius consultant/establishment class is ignoring Obamacare this year. They will hope to win by not being Obama. He is so rotten the GOP will have some success, but with no mandate to repeal Obamacare, reverse the abandonment of a regime of immigration enforcement, or substantially reduce the scope, power or cost of government. Of course, this will suit the establishment of the party just fine: Ryan and his gang have signaled that they will push amnesty as soon as they get past accountability to the voters. Whining about some phantom calling you a “RINO” is not a substitute for addressing arguments that the focus of the Republican Party needs to change.

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