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When good Democrats go bad

By David N. Bass
web posted August 18, 2003

There's no longer room for moderates in the Democrat Party. But don't take my word for it. Presidential hopeful Joe Lieberman is making my point for me.

I used to think Lieberman had the best chance of winning the 2004 Democrat nomination. After all, he had name recognition and a distant yet definite relationship with the "prosperous" policies of the Clinton era. Liberal enough to please the left, with just enough centrists' views to appeal to the "moderates", Lieberman was the poster boy for all well-reasoned and balanced politicians.

But time has changed my opinion. Over the past few months Lieberman has encountered a snag in his trip down the blissful road to the White House. The very word I thought would make him the Democrat's front-runner in 2004 may be his undoing – the word moderate.

Joe Lieberman"Moderate" has become a catch phrase in today's political spectrum. Simple association of the word with any given politician can dramatically increase his or her public appeal. Why? Because the term moderate conjures images of a reasonable, open-minded, non-extremist person – basically the one thing every man or woman who ever held a campaign wants to be associated with.

But at the same time, "moderate" is a double-edged sword. It is a necessary component in any general election – it can even shift races – but in primaries, and especially the approaching Democratic one, moderation is a big no-no. Senator Lieberman will soon discover how true that statement is.

For proof, I cite Lieberman's appearance on the August 10 edition of "Fox News Sunday" with Tony Snow where he stated candidates such as Vermont Governor Howard Dean have moved too far left in their spending on government programs, opposition to tax cuts, and lack of national defense funding. At the same time, he conceded that Dean (who has used resentment towards President George W. Bush to fuel his campaign) has "tapped into an attitude, an anger" in the Democrat party towards President Bush. Lieberman stated that he shared that view, but that the nation needed experience more than anger.

The senator from Connecticut will soon discover what a slippery slope these kind of statements will lead him down, and with recent polls showing the gap between candidates narrowing, it will probably happen sooner than later. The senator needs to realize something: the Democrats don't want moderates. They want leftists. They don't want experience. They want anger. They want candidates who will attack all – not just a few – of President Bush's foreign policy moves. They want a candidate who will fight, who will attack, who will tear apart everything President Bush has stood for over the past three years. Nothing less will do.

But what about the word "moderates"? What about the political nirvana? I submit that it no longer exists in the Democrat party. That is precisely the reason Governor Dean, perhaps the most liberal-leaning candidate, is moving ahead. He has harnessed the anger that began when the Democrats lost the 2000 presidential elections, the anger that was heightened by the rise in Bush's popularity after his strong show of leadership in the months following September 11, and the anger that reached a peak with America's liberation of Iraq.

Dean appeals to the Democrat base because he appeals to their anger, to their resentment, to their hatred of the success of President Bush's administration. Lieberman does none of these things. Appealing to "moderates" sounds nice and dandy, but that simply won't cut it in the primaries, especially when the left is looking for a candidate gutsy enough to dethrone a popular and powerful Bush. If Lieberman's advisors haven't told him this, he needs new advisors.

The issue comes down to whether Mr. Lieberman will see the error his campaign is enmeshed in, or if he will continue down the moderate road and end not with a bang but a whimper.

David N. Bass is a seventeen-year-old home school graduate from Raleigh, North Carolina. He is a contributing editor to several on-line sites, including HSConnexion.com and TolkienMovies.com. Copyright 2003 by David N. Bass

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