No Joy in Democrat-land

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OK, I have a confession to make. You see, it’s like this. Er…umm (I’m breaking out in sweats.) Well, OK, here it is:

I’m a lifelong, card-carrying Democrat.

Yet I am not overjoyed at the election results. Even though "my" party took control of the House of Representatives, I see little reason to rejoice.

Let’s start with Hilary. As a card-carrying feminist who lives in New York, I ought to feel the way a nice Catholic girl like me (ha!) ought to feel were a member of her family to be canonized.

Instead, I feel as if the order for my excommunication has been rescinded, but I am still a persona non grata at the church where I’ve taught catechism to kids. I have not been eternally damned. But I’m not out of the woods yet, and probably won’t be for a while.

My apologies if my metaphor is overly dramatic. But I think that it illustrates where this country is in this point in its history.

After the President and possibly Condoleezza Rice, Hillary is probably the most visible personage in either party. Pundits constantly tout her "electability" and point to polls that place her ahead of John McCain and nearly everyone else were the Presidential elections to be held today.

But what would her elevation to the biggest podium of all mean? If her record is any indicator, only so much. For starters, there is her infamous position on the current war. She still has not repudiated her vote to authorize it, and doesn’t show any signs that she will.

Some might say that she must hold such a position if she wants to capture the red states and follow her husband’s footsteps into the White House. Once there, according to the pundits, all those anti-war Democrats who won last Tuesday will pressure her into ending our involvement in this country’s worst-ever strategic — and moral — disaster.

Maybe. But the truth is that if our involvement in Iraq ends, by whatever means, this country will most likely find itself entangled in some other conflict. To be fair, this will probably be the case whether she or someone else, Democrat or Republican, is in the Oval Office. But my Democrat friends (which is to say, almost all of them) still think that the Democratic seizure of the House is the first victory in some sort of war of liberation.

How’s that, you ask. Well, for one thing, let’s look at recent history. While George W’s three predecessors — Hillary’s husband, W’s father and Reagan — did not engage in anything so blatant as the illegal, nihilistic invasion of Iraq, each one had at least one "stealth" war or skirmish. Clinton had Somalia and Bosnia; Reagan had Grenada. George I not only took this country into Iraq the first time around, he launched the world’s most public drug bust when he sent Marines to capture President Noriega in Panama.

Commentators have explained these actions as some form or another of "overcompensating": Reagan and Clinton for their lack of military service during wartime, and Bush pere for the "wimp" image that saddled him in spite of his World War II service. But I think that is only a small part of the explanation.

The real motivation for their wars, and in whatever Hillary or McCain or whomever would involve us, is the same: They, and everyone else who was elected last Tuesday (and, for that matter, everyone in Congress except Ron Paul) have cast their lot with big government. Hillary’s ostensible purpose for massive legislation and bureaucracy may differ from those of, say, Mc Cain or Rick Santorum. But, as Lew Rockwell, Murray Rothbard and their intellectual progenitors have shown us again and again, the result is always the same: more taxation. Since nobody wants to pay higher taxes, and no politician wants to seen as having voted for more or higher taxes for his or her own reasons, they need some sort of rationale for taking more of our money. So far, nothing has filled that purpose nearly as well as war.

Now I’m going to level with you about something else, dear reader. One of the reasons I became a Democrat, more years ago than I care to admit, is that I actually believed that legislation and governmental programs were necessary to ensure that no child went hungry or ended up illiterate and unemployable and that women, racial and ethnic minorities and people who aren’t heterosexual would not experience discrimination in the job, housing and other markets.

I still hope and work for a world in which people aren’t penalized for things they can’t control. That is one of the reasons I teach and work for peace. But as a teacher, and through other experiences I’ve had, I’ve come to realize that no one becomes enlightened through coercion. Furthermore, I have also seen the effects of relying on government to sustain and uplift one’s self, and others. They all come down to the same thing: intellectual and moral — and, in many cases, physical — passivity. That, even more the students’ lack of skills, is the biggest hurdle I face in guiding my students.

So, if I don’t think that laws and agencies are the answer, why am I still registered as a Democrat? Believe me, I ask myself that question all the time. I’ve thought about switching parties many times. But then I realize that party affiliation, in the current situation, makes little, if any, difference. For that matter, which person is in power makes only a momentary difference. In terms of those things that matter in the long term, the results have been essentially the same no matter who has been elected. New laws are passed, people lose their rights and some lose their lives to pay for it all. And the only ones who benefit are elected officials. Even if they lose, they don’t have to worry: Most of them are lawyers, and in private life they can become even richer by helping people and corporations circumvent the very laws, policies and bureaucratic structures they helped to create.

This Democrat is not happy with last Tuesday’s elections. But it’s good to know that others of widely varying political labels share my feelings.

There! My secret is out! I feel better.

Justine Nicholas [send her mail] teaches English at the City University of New York.

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