Democracy, its failures, weaknesses, and sins not withstanding, is the only political system in which the entire social body is to decide on who should conduct its affairs in its name. By the electoral process the majority’s opinion is consecrated as a source of legitimate political power. Annals record many variations of democratic societies in which the fate of minorities was either precarious, or hypocritically manipulated, as long as they were unable to transform themselves into majorities. Bursting into history, and into human awareness everywhere on earth, America made clear that the rights, prerogatives, and anxieties of her minorities were her paramount concern. However, a moral precondition for a correctly functioning American democracy was the assumption that the legally outvoted minority loyaliy accepts the ballot’s verdict and fairly considers the elected officials as their authority throughout the constitutionally prescribed period of government.
How does this fragile arrangement, laden with endless conflicts, survive in our current political reality and on the present electoral scene?
Barely. A healthy respect for minority opinion has been transformed into acquiescence to the nonnegotiable demands of every ethnic group and to the shrill promulgations of behavioral minorities whose sexual ideology successfully negotiates the stormy seas of political showdowns. Consequently, a picture that emerges from chaos tells us enough about how the American society faces its 1984 political rites. To begin with, serious political discourse is as good as out. Vulgar stridency, accusatory insults, and sophomoric callousness are in. They constitute the main weapon of the minorities and of those parts of society which became known as interest groups. In the previous election, no one demonstrated against President Carter proclaiming that he was eating babies for breakfast: people went to the polling booths where they formed a majority and routed the incumbent. As it appears that the majority of Americans lean toward President Reagan, a coalition of minorities and interest groups has turned to a fishwife’s tactical warfare. Their vituperations are enthusiastically supported by the liberal media, which by nature turn the sheer quantity of incriminations into a new political quality. The people who run the evening news never cease to assure us that the din of protest is a sign of the robustness of American public life.
The National Convention of the Democratic Party ended on a note of gushy, overbearing patriotism. It did not come unexpected: speaker after speaker invoked patriotism both as term and notion. Patriotism is an easy word, susceptible to every possible perversion, but it also is a complex sentiment which can be endlessly trivialized. Jacobins used it as a catchword. Marx and later Lenin denounced it as a source of vice and infamy: its negation was the supreme communist virtue. Stalin lifted it up from the dialectical gutter of bourgeois iniquities in order to mobilize the Russian masses during World War II, and, suddenly, communist subversives, ultra-leftist terrorists, and professional revolutionaries all began to call themselves patriots. What’s worse, the liberal media all over the West started to do exactly the same, thereby distorting, obscuring, and twisting the meaning and sensibility vested in patriotism’s concept and content. Johnson’s definition of patriotism as the last refuge of a scoundrel began to take on new meaning.
There’s no reason to doubt the character, caliber, and virtue of the Democratic Party’s patriotism; its love of the native soil whether it is covered by fields and meadows or the big city concrete, its dedication to the fundamental American ideals and tenets. It is a party whose leaders were presiding when America entered four wars during this century, each time painfully involving their sometimes tormented, but always well-intentioned, perception of the American national interest.
Yet, in 1972, the Democratic Party had renounced, quite deliberately, both in spirit and rhetoric its title to patriotism, by embracing the darker social forces of the era, and nominating a man who promised to dilute, if not outrightly annihilate, the remnants of the American ethos, and the American historic mission.·Patriotism as word and notion had been taken over by the Republicans so firmly and convincingly that for the next decade it became synonymous with the Republican political effort. As such, it came to serve as a facile target for every radical-liberal, leftist, and anti-American obloquy.
We saw, not long ago in Chicago, a black youth sporting cheap athletic shorts and a dime-store T-shirt–a far cry from Calvin Klein’s jogging gear. On the shirt there was a motto: “America the Greatest.” Such a minuscule indication seems to us enough to suggest that our patriotism, both as emotionand rational choice, should and must be redefined, reevaluated, and transvalued. But now, when the Democrats desperately try to appropriate it as their political commodity, refurbished for a quick sale, we must also ask ourselves: Should we buy such second-hand patriotism from those dealers?
What we may have already learned (though the lesson certainly hasn’t reached everybody yet) during the past two decades is that the age of an American political party as a nonideological vehicle nears its end. It may be as well as over, but nobody wants to be the first to say it, least of all the media which still thrive on marketing disjointed progressivism in traditional packages. Populism can be of both the right and left varieties, but the endless stuffing of “new” populist messages in hoary political forms turns those forms into cabbage patch dolls–still salable, but of dubious value for a civilization. The Democrats seem to suffer more from their image as keepers of the relics of the past: they have sunk into the popular perception as dishonest without realizing that what they themselves view as high principle looks like cheap cynicism to the public. “By their syncretism ye shall know them…,” and anyone who can cram into one sentence his respect for the family and his support for homosexuality must reckon with his projecting an image a bit shady. Trying to present Rev. Jackson’s black revanchism, rooted in ultra-leftist reasoning and rhetorics, as anything but pure demagoguery must raise many brows from sea to shining sea. Ms. Ferraro’s sleaze factor is not exactly in her financial entanglements–after all, the knowledge of Einsteinian relativity and time-warp makes most of the rapacious media probing into politicians’ underwear repulsive and absurd. However, the fact that Ms. Ferraro, part of a multimillionaire family, wants to force those who just make ends meet to practice compassion by government ukase, this is morally malodorous, and constitutes a sleaze not of conduct but of conscience. Moreover, it proves that the Democratic Party’s liberalism has lapsed into abysmal incoherence, one that must finally do in the identity of the party of Andrew Jackson and Franklin Roosevelt who knew how to forge disparate social vectors into a program and a Weltanschauung. More and more, the Democrats look like a nationaliy screened Helzapoppin, a grotesque reality where “traditional values” are manufactured by Planned Parenthood’s most radical theoreticians, with the help of psychotherapists from the human potential movement. According to the Chicago Tribune, Ms. Ferraro”…described herself in [a] speech as first a mother, then a Democrat, an American and a legislator.” Could it be that she unwittingly marked the very marrow of what is deeply wrong with the Democratic Party–namely the priority and prevalence of political sectarianism over Americanism, over being first and foremost an American.
What began by the end of the 1960’s as an alteration in the Democratic Party’s ethos of fundamental dimensions seems to continue full speed. “Democracy” which Rev. Jackson invokes is of the kind that does not derive its substance from the American Revolution and Constitution. We deal here with a different Democratic Party which considers its moral and social urgencies immune to the popular will and the verdict of a majority. Jacobins, Marxists, and the entire European radical establishment of the last two centuries adhered to the same ideological principle. By now, we all bitterly know that that school of thinking inevitably leads to extreme totalitarianism. Rev. Jackson is not alone among the Democrats in his admiration of Castro, Assad, Sandinistas, or Arafat: his are genuine feelings. America’s moral and social traditions are Rev. Jackson’s demons, the hub of deviltry, and this is where, regardless of all differences, his sentiments and those of the Kremlin’s converge. Feminism, quotas, environmentalism and the so-called special interests are minor gears in the mechanism of dismantling democracy in America: yet, taken together, they form a new, synergic, antidemocratic doctrine that will play apart in this election as the Democratic Party.
The Chicago Tribune summed it up this way: “…the themes of family and old-fashioned values … came to dominate the rhetoric…” in San Francisco. The Mexican-American Mayor Henry Cisneros of San Antonio told the New York Times: ‘The future of America, or at least of the Democratic Party, maybe like its past: the immigrant story. The country has always run on the raw energy of the most recent arrivals.” Governor Mario Cuomo of New York and Italian ethnic heritage, best verbalized this leitmotif of the Democratic Party’s ideological program in his celebrated convention speech. Mr. Mondale, throughout his campaign, talked most often, according to the press reports, about “… free enterprise, self-reliance and the work ethic … about personal religious beliefs and the importance of family and home.”
Once again, the puzzling question: will people buy a quickie imitation of what the Republicans and conservatives have intensely, often grimly, championed for three decades from the Democratic second-hand dealers? Demi-intelligent journalists often ask: “What are your values? Do you have any?” These are stupid questions and answers to them that go: “Comfort. Physical well-being. Money. Pleasure.” are equally stupid. The answers obviously point to subjective and personal desires, goals, objectives. Values are objective notions, long tested on mankind’s scales and hierarchies of worth: integrity, compassion, tolerance, common sense. The nature and essence of values are spiritual, ethical, social. Freedom is a value, so is justice, reason, patriotism, the sense of tradition. The Democrats speak of valuables rather than values; they seem unaware that education in itself is not a value, but forming a functionally good, law-abiding, morally decent human being and citizen with the help of education is. Mr. Cuomo spoke about creating “the family of America” but his appeal to endless demands, entitlements, and selfishness of his various constituencies told us little about how to do such a thing. The family is a timeless attempt to structure authority on sacrifice, devotion, and love, and Mr. Cuomo says nothing about how he would persuade the union lobbyists, feminists, and environmentalists to accept such a social institution so threatening to their interests. The “Darwinian” Republicans, who themselves tend too often to drown in their syrupy family symbolizations, at least repeat: “Go out there, compete, build, struggle, create, work, honor law and order–and that’s the best way to care about your family. Your enterprise, sweat, energy, playing by the rules and striving hard best protects both your family and a strong democratic society.You don’t have to love the other guy to be fair to him and to construct a better world.” The key word of this social philosophy is “opportunity,” but the Democrats some how ceased to be the party of opportunity and turned into a party of extortion on behalf of “the needy,” “the forgotten,” “the downt rodden.” Both Mr. Cisneros and Mr. Cuomo intone hymns to the socioeconomic heroism of their forefathers who came here, worked hard and proudly climbed the social scale, loving America deliriously forgiving them the opportunity for doing exactly what they were doing and being certain that their toil would have results. The luxury of buoyant personal hope was largely unknown in their countries of origin.
In Mr. Cuomo’s oratory the Rooseveltian New Deal helped the generation of immigrants “… to reach heights that our own parents would not have dared dream of.” Perhaps, but during the last 50 years, it was not the New Deal but the Yankee, Republican, and the despised country club which offered the last refuge to those who still believed in pursuit of individual happiness through laboriousness, “rat race,” economic dynamism. The Republicans tried to preserve a social ethos; the Democrats chose social engineering. The former preached the American Dream as weaved out of relentless effort, faith in ruthless work, and unbound free enterprise–the texture of Cuomo’s, Ferraro’s, Cisneros’s, and Dukakis’s fathers’ reveries, for all those family founders wanted in the New World was the freedom to benefit from their sacrificial industriousness. As of now, Republicans still want to extend and protect this privilege to anyone coming here. Democrats, ruled by the old immigrants’ sons, wish now to offer the new immigrants a welfare state, a thoroughly regulated reality, where charity and compassion will be enforced by governmental edicts at the expense of the will to work, accumulate, create, enrich oneself, one’s family, America. Small wonder that those May or Cisneros spoke about, those who just came, and those who still remember their Working Fathers–all those Cubans and Vietnamese, Ukrainians, and Lebanese, as well as old Poles and old Italian–started to massively vote Republican. Grim irony is vested in the circumstance that the Cuomos and the Cisneroses want now to deprive the “new arrivals” of what they came to these shores to find.
This election is going to be determined by the question each one of us asks himself, “What kind of life do we want?” The answer to this query is not economy alone. Do we want to defend ourselves and our way of life against communist encroachment–in whichever form it may invade our present reality? Are we ready to meet a historical challenge once again? Do we want to reach for the highest promise of the Judeo-Christian civilization–a community of humans that is free to pursue justice, order, and fairness? We’d better ask ourselves these questions before we enter the polling place.