Monday, July 28, 2008

Will Democratic Party Leaders Act in the Spirit of the Founding Fathers?

I’ve long been passionate about the democratic political process, and I’ve followed presidential campaigns with heightened interest from the first stump speech to the inaugural address. Until this year’s race, I’ve been a dedicated member of the Democratic Party. Regular readers of Katalusis are aware that several weeks ago, I re-reregistered as non-affiliated. I felt that was the only means left to me to let the DNC know that its sexist efforts, in collusion with the male-dominated media, to force Hillary Clinton out of the race, beginning shortly after the Iowa caucus, were simply not acceptable.

Even as Clinton was being browbeaten by party leaders to restrain her criticism of Obama while she was still a contender, those of us who have continued to support her have been ordered by many of our friends and acquaintances in the Democratic Party to more or less “sit down, shut up, and get with the program.” We’ve been repeatedly warned that if we do not get in line, we’ll be solely to blame for a McCain presidency that will bring great harm to all people throughout the world.

Merely mentioning that Obama has not yet been officially elected as the party’s nominee is enough to send chills down the spines of faithful Democrats. They tremble in fear that any controversy at the convention will mean they’re going to once again lose their chance to win the White House. Accordingly, those of us in rebellion are supposed to choke back our outrage at the treatment of Hillary Clinton, easily the best-qualified candidate in the race, and prepare ourselves to humbly cast our vote in November for the lesser of two evils.

Heidi Li Feldman’s post today at Heidi Li’s Potpourri reminds us the founders of our nation did not appear to think “the way to accomplish their objectives was to put on a unity show.”

In refuting a contention made by Gordon S. Woods, the author of Revolutionary Characters, Feldman states:

“Professor Woods also holds that today's politicians simply cannot act in the principled fashion he attributes to the founders, precisely because the founders created a country founded on the idea of egalitarian democracy, with a large roll for the non-elite general population. Professor Woods argues that such a population cannot handle political figures who act on principle, who combine idealism with pragmatism. In short he thinks that the very polity created by the founders makes it impossible for politicians today to act as they did.”

Feldman continues:

“With all respect to Professor Woods - and my respect for his work and scholarship is tremendous, I disagree. I think Americans today are starved for principled political leadership, sick of panderers, and tired of pretenses as opposed to honest talk about everything ranging from whether the Democratic Party actually already has a nominee to whether U.S. foreign policy is mitigating, fostering or leaving unaffected the outbreaks of terrorism around the world.

‘“I think that millions of ‘ordinary’ and ‘common’ Americans yearn for leaders who combine substantive ideas with political savvy. Many of Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton's supporters admire precisely this about her. She is a woman of ideas and a woman of tremendous political skill able to take ideas and use politics to put them into practice. And she is a hero to millions of Americans, who seem to recognize this combination in her.

“And millions of Americans are disenchanted with a Democratic Party whose top officials refuse to recognize Senator Clinton as a potential nominee for the Party's candidate for President this year. Those same millions are even more disenchanted by the ceaseless parade of half-truths and evasions the DNC's top leaders put forth about the state of the Party, whose support it needs to survive as an institution, and whether it can muster that support both this fall and in the years to come.

“It may seem radical to ask Howard Dean and Nancy Pelosi, among others, to act in the principled and high-minded way that Washington, Franklin, Jefferson, Madison, Adams, and the other founders did. But as the ordinary people whose lives, liberty and opportunities to pursue our happiness the founders fought for, I think it would be far more radical - and certainly sad - if we did not demand this of Dr. Dean, Speaker Pelosi, and the rest. If we do not demand that that Democratic Party leaders act in the best traditions of the founders, then we are saying that we have given up on the project that they begun: an ongoing republican democracy where citizens and politicians alike may have real and public differences, but where they share ideals of justice and fairness to all.”

Feldman concludes:

“Even though I hold Professor Woods' scholarship in the highest esteem, I would like to see today's Democratic politicians discredit his pessimism about the possibility of politicians today acting in the spirit and tradition of the revolutionary characters. Moreover, I believe that if Dr. Dean, Speaker Pelosi, and all major Democrats started acting more like the founders and less like Professor Woods thinks politicians now have to act, the great project that is the United States of America would come through with flying colors.”

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