BY BOB BARR
There was a time long, long ago in which the national Democratic Party actually stood for something. Real ideas. Not necessarily good ideas, but substantive ideas nonetheless. The Party was led by men and women who actually articulated substantive programs. John Kennedy formulated meaningful tax policies, and launched America’s conquest of the Moon.
His successor, Lyndon Johnson, proposed and pushed through the Congress massive and far-reaching federal support programs that still are costing us today.
During the 1970s and into the 80s there were Democratic Members of the Congress who articulated well-considered social policies for welfare recipients and working families; New York Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan comes to mind.
But no more. Today in the Democratic caucus, a substantive idea would land with an echoing thud on the floor and be quickly swept away; barely noticed amid the vitriol that consumes the nation’s senior national political party.
While Democrats nowadays prefer the moniker “Progressive” to “Liberal” as a descriptor for their Party and its members, there is nothing remotely progressive about this once proud political movement. Today’s Democratic Party has become not only a hollowed-out shell of its former incarnation, but as revealed in just the past four months, now is a cartoon version of what it used to be.
In what previous era in the real world, for example, would a Senator sitting on that body’s Judiciary Committee, label himself “Spartacus” after a movie character, when posing a question to a nominee to the Supreme Court of the United States? New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker did precisely that; with a straight face, nonetheless. In this Democratic Bizarro World, that very same Cory Booker is considered a serious contender for his Party’s 2020 nomination for President.
Want further evidence of the comedy that has overtaken the Democratic Party? Another presidential wannabe – Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts – has made the fact that she has the tiniest bit of Native American Indian blood in her DNA a key part of her self-proclaimed qualification to be that Party’s presidential nominee.
The piece de resistance for contemporary analysis of the bankruptcy of substantive ideas in the Democratic Party, however, is the freshman Congresswoman from New York City, Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez. This new Media Darling continues to amaze with displays of how vacuous her knowledge of history, economics, civics, and mathematics truly is.
While some here in my home state of Georgia, or in one of our neighboring states, might forgive young Ms. Ocasio-Cortez with a kind “Bless her heart,” due to her youth and inexperience, the Congresswoman’s shallowness is shared by others of her Party who are not so youthful or inexperienced. Shouts to impeach President Trump based on nothing more than disdain, if not hatred, for him personally or for other members of his family, bounce around the House chamber like children shouting at each other during a game of “Marco Polo.”
The most telling evidence that today’s national Democratic Party lacks even a scintilla of substance is perhaps not so much in the childish antics of a Maxine Waters or an Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez; or even in the already-tiresome calls for investigations of anything and everything “Trump.” The proof that the Party is utterly devoid of substance or professionalism can be seen every day in the open failure of its leaders to take even the most modest of steps to rein in such antics.
Whereas in decades past when the Democratic Party controlled the levers of power in the House or the Senate, leaders like Tip O’Neill would demand at least some level of decorum and decency from its membership. Today, neither Speaker Nancy Pelosi nor Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer dares to – or cares to – step in and insist on even a nominal degree of professionalism. In such an environment, it is then hardly surprising that another freshman Congresswoman proudly uses the foulest of language in public to describe the President of the United States and receives nary the slightest rebuke from Speaker Pelosi.
Perhaps the saddest take-away from an examination of this scenario – in which the Democratic Party appears to revel in its lack of substance and decorum – is the lack of a substantive policy response from the other side of the aisle. While we all should be thankful that the GOP congressional leadership and members do not stoop to the disgusting level of profanity to which their Democrat counterparts have sunk; it is distressing that the lack of coherent, substantive policy in our Nation’s Capital continues to be a bipartisan problem.
Self-Educated American Contributing Editor, Bob Barr, represented Georgia’s 7th district in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1995 -2003 and as U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia from 1986-1990.