To Dems, It’s 1974 Forever

Yale professor David Gelernter is a senior fellow at the Shalem Center, Jerusalem.

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) announced recently that he is worried about the “hard, hard right” of the Republican Party, people whose goal is to turn “the clock back to the 1930s or the 1890s.” I’ve never met one myself. There is no such Republican in the president’s Cabinet, none in the Senate, and Schumer is talking nonsense. He wants to conceal the Big Switch that has transformed American politics. Today the Democrats are the party of reactionary liberalism. Republicans are the true progressives.

Yet if Schumer is mostly wrong, he is also unintentionally revealing. He seems to believe that “hard right” Republicans pine for the 1930s -- when statesmen like FDR and his disciples dominated the scene. He’s right: Many Republicans do admire FDR. Republicans, after all, are his spiritual heirs.

This is serious business. If you agree that President Bush has no automatic right to call himself Lincoln’s successor just because they are both “Republicans,” then Democrats have no automatic right to FDR’s mantle either. The Democrats and Republicans switched roles while no one was looking.

Schumer is a main man for the Dems, architect of a fine new way of holding a knife to the Senate’s throat. Democrats threaten to filibuster Bush judicial nominees; one touch of Schumer’s magic wand and they can no longer be confirmed by majorities, only landslides. (How many Democratic senators won by landslides?) If Republicans change the rules to disallow such vindictiveness, Democrats promise to throw a fit and bring Senate business to a halt.


The filibuster scheme perfectly epitomizes modern Democrats. Republicans want to move forward, confirm some judges. The Democrats’ response: Freeze! Or we talk you to death. Democrats are the Stand Still party. They adore the status quo.

Conservatives won’t settle for the status quo. They want this nation to champion justice, humanity, democracy. Democrats want America to tip-toe around the globe minding its own business, upsetting no one, venerating the Earth, etc. Why did Democrats leap to label Afghanistan and Iraq “new Vietnams”? Vietnam was 30-plus years ago! But for Democrats it is always 1974. Things change -- but Democrats don’t.

Republicans want better schools: Why not try vouchers on a serious scale? Democrats’ response: Hands off! Republicans want to knock the chip off the U.N.'s shoulder and retune Social Security so that even the poor can leave assets to their children. Democrats’ response: Hands off! Conservatives wonder, why not let the people’s representatives in state legislatures determine the nation’s abortion policy? Democrats’ response: Are you crazy? The smelly masses? Why is it their business?

Today’s Democrats dislike democracy on principle, like Russian nobility circa 1905. Should Bush be allowed to pick federal judges merely because Republicans won the presidency, the Senate, the House, the country? No way! And why let the people decide about homosexual marriage when left-wing judges can make the law? Connecticut’s governor just signed a law approving civil unions for gays and also stipulating that “marriage” means a man and a woman. Whatever you think of the outcome, this is democracy -- Schumerite Democrats should check it out.


At the nation’s universities, an occasional conservative wonders whether just maybe racism, sexism and “class-ism” no longer explain every bad thing in the world. Could 30 years of affirmative action be enough? There are tenured professors who can’t even remember a world without it. The Democrats’ response: Hands off affirmative action!

Many people have noticed that today’s political scene is confusing, hard to read -- Republicans wanting to save the world, Dems shouting “mind your own business.” Republicans worrying about poor people’s stake in society, Dems muttering “wake me up when it’s over.” Republicans sticking up for Israel, left-wing anti-Bush rallies toying with anti-Semitism. It’s all terribly confusing, until you notice that you are looking at the picture upside down. Once you understand the Big Switch, everything starts to make sense.