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Jewish World Review Nov. 19, 2002 / 14 Kislev, 5763

Jason Lewis

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Letter from Minnesota: The hypocrisy of the angry white liberal | Democrats love to lecture conservative Republicans on the virtues of tolerance and civility, but when Minnesota and the nation witnessed the unseemly manners of the activist left at the Wellstone memorial-turned-campaign-rally, the limousine liberals finally ran out of gas. Far from an anomaly, the unfortunate event at Williams Arena now represents all that is wrong with the party of Alec Baldwin, Jessica Lange, Bill Moyers and Garrison Keillor.

The hypocrisy of the angry white liberal is bad enough, but there is more to the Democrats' demise in the midterm elections than just the vituperation of the Hollywood left. Extremists obsessed with positions that even college radicals eventually outgrow have so marginalized Democratic candidates that they have now taken on the appearance of well-funded Greenies. This year, the Democrats' silly season caught up with them.

Demonizing big tobacco, big oil and the latest incarnation of corporate evil, the big pharmaceutical companies, turned out to be a self-inflicted wound. Walter Mondale, former vice president, corporate scion and an entirely decent fellow, was skewered by his party's own rhetoric, thus unable to capitalize on the usual antibusiness nonsense.

And while the Democratic leadership in Congress was busy playing Hamlet on whether to actively oppose President Bush's tax cut, the American people were asking themselves: What's to decide? Supporting the repeal of the scheduled reduction was accurately seen as another tax hike, and no one advocates tax increases in an economic downturn -- not Keynesians, not supply-siders. Except, that is, today's Democrats, who still insist on funding a massive welfare state that induces the moral hazards associated with such perverse incentives.

The majority of taxpayers intuitively understand the zero-sum futility of class warfare and just how ethically hollow -- to use Keillor's term -- it is to be compassionate with someone else's money. Voters, no longer bothered with the false dilemma of economic liberty vs. compassion, know we don't need government to be charitable, but we most certainly need it to be free.

Indeed, taxes levied for private gain (and not public good) are seen as little more than highway robbery by the average worker, putting the party of Thomas Jefferson at war with the founding father himself. The American people will support a minimal safety net but by and large reserve for themselves the right to choose who is worthy -- and, more important, who is not. Charity, as they say, begins at home.

This love affair with social spending also betrays the fanciful notion that modern Democrats are somehow fiscally conservative and socially liberal. A more accurate assessment would be fiscally liberal and socially libertine. What really helps to explain the Republicans' grand old sweep is just how mainstream the fringe element has become within Democrat social circles.

An antigun pacifism is now almost palpable within the party. Can you imagine, in a state made up of farmers and hunters, bringing in the PETA poster boy, Baldwin, for a fundraiser? Or proudly advocating more regulations on firearms than on late-term abortions? In fact, when Sen.-elect Norm Coleman sought common ground on parental consent for teen abortion, Mondale could have none of it. The National Organization for Women wouldn't let him.

Certainly one can be libertarian without being libertine. No serious observer desires a return to prohibition, but that doesn't mean the Americans with Disabilities Act should cover practicing alcoholics. Americans, as well as Minnesotans, are a wisely tolerant bunch, and for the most part what folks do behind closed doors is their business, but that doesn't mean the government should place its imprimatur on same-sex partnerships.

When then-Democrat Mayor Coleman refused to endorse St. Paul's gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender celebration, he was vilified by his own party. Voters may wonder whether these liberals find a civil rights cause under every bed. Democrats are quite correctly seen as captured by a few loud special interests claiming to speak for victims.

And perhaps no one is more vocal than the Blame America First crowd. Their '60s-style bellicosity seems bent on keeping the world safe from America by ensuring civil liberties for terrorists, from Sara Jane Olson to Zacarias Moussaoui. When Gov.-elect Tim Pawlenty raised the issue of continuing the current administration's (and 19 other states') policy of putting visa expiration dates on driver's licenses for temporary residents, you would have thought martial law was being declared. Unless, as it turns out, you were a typical Minnesota voter.

When you're in a hole, it's good advice to quit digging. But the national leadership has just anointed a San Francisco feminist, Rep. Nancy Pelosi, as minority leader in the House. And judging by the contemptuous reaction of local pundits, it's safe to say Democrats are still in denial.

Jason Lewis hosts a popular Minnesota-based talk show. Comment by clicking here.


© 2002, Jason Lewis