While addressing the Asian-Pacific Islander Caucus at the Democratic National Convention, Vice Presidential nominee Joseph Lieberman exhibited the best traits of the Democratic Party. "I look out in this room and see the faces of my grandparents and parents." That is, he saw their souls, and recognized they were all blood of the blood and flesh of the flesh, one common humanity. He joked that the third generation of immigrant children was "the crazy generation," having lost the discipline and fortitude of their parents and grandparents.
Thus he identified himself with Asian and other ethnic groups. It was an identity based not on blood, but on heart and common experience. Relating the different treatment his Orthodox Jewish grandmother received in Europe and in America, he noted the uniqueness and generosity of America. Emphasizing such themes will not only make Lieberman a powerful campaigner in urban areas; it will edify all Americans.
The Democrats have been the dominant political party of the twentieth century precisely because they have included many who have sought America's benefits but have been denied them. Thus, immigrant groups, ethnic minorities, and above all blacks have come to see the Democrats as their natural home.
This openness has, the Democrats now claim, an extension in their embrace of racial preferences, the radical feminist agenda, and gay rights. And, with the possible exception of racial preferences, Lieberman has completely adopted this view. He has even opposed restrictions on partial-birth abortions and won the enthusiastic support of the Gay and Lesbian Caucus.
What has the desire for inclusion led the Democrats to? At what cost to their soul and the souls of its standard-bearers? Commentators have already noted the evident shifting of Lieberman on issues such as school vouchers and the privatization of social security. And now he has tried to create the illusion he and the pro-quotas Democrats are in agreement. For example, Paul Igasaki, the Clinton-appointed head of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, maintained that Lieberman had encouragingly altered his stance on affirmative action "a little," following a recent education by civil rights activists. Will Lieberman wind up a political Zelig, a person who absorbs whatever is in his environment, decent or indecent?
Senator Lieberman had previously expressed support for Proposition 209, the anti-government racial quota initiative in California. This 1996 measure increased university admissions for Asian-Americans, who had been shunted aside, in favor of less qualified blacks and Hispanics. In fact, such misbegotten "affirmative action" caused extraordinary distortions in school standards generally, especially in diverse California. I think of my cousin who just graduated from San Francisco's prestigious Lowell High School, who could not have been admitted had she declared her mother's Chinese ethnicity rather than her father's Japanese ancestry. With his change of mind (and possibly heart as well), does Lieberman not care about the effects of discrimination on these Asian students?
But Lieberman had shown his colors before, when he agonized over and then finally voted against confirmation of Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court.
Of course, the Democrats did not have to evolve the way Lieberman has. Consider the case of the late Robert Casey, the former Governor of Pennsylvania. He had as pro-regulatory a record on economic matters as Senator Lieberman or any other liberal Democrat. But Casey was perhaps the most pro-life major political figure of either party. He understood the Democrats to be the party that looked out for the poor, the oppressed, and the helpless. And that this commitment now included the unborn. If the Democrats had become the pro-life party, its hold on ethnic groups, including Hispanics, might have meant a lock on American national politics. Now, the attractive Senator from Indiana, Evan Bayh, finds himself vetoed as a Vice Presidential possibility by feminists, who recoiled from his vote against partial birth abortions. The Democrats have mortgaged their political future to feminist groups.
Denied a speaking opportunity in 1992, Governor Casey was honored at this year's Democratic National Convention. It seems the only good pro-life Democrat is a dead one. But it wasn't always the case: Congressman Al Gore cast pro-life votes, as did House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt; Jesse Jackson gave anti-abortion speeches.
That old Democrat party is as dead as Governor Casey, and perhaps as dead as Joe Lieberman's sense of principle, as he allows himself to be re-educated. William Bennett observed in The Wall Street Journal:
But obviously if [Senator Lieberman] betrays or recants his views — and he is under increasing pressure to do just that from, among others, prominent black Democrats and denizens of Hollywood — he will do a grave disservice to himself and his party. After all, it is Mr. Lieberman's honesty and integrity that make him a compelling public figure. They would be tragic things to lose.
This is too generous. The tragedy of Senator Lieberman is that the fulfillment of one of his principles leads to the betrayal of others. By affirming radical feminism and its dogmatic commitment to even partial-birth abortion he had already entered the camp of quota correctness — and lost his soul, as have other Democrats before him.