Commentary: Americans don’t need to be told how to vote

Richard W. Hoover

One of Andy Schmookler’s Jan. 31 Opinion Page broadsides was aimed at the Republican Party for its “utter lack of concern for serving the public good.”  The other blast was reserved for his own Democratic Party whose “pathology,” in the lead-up to the November election, had somehow prevented Democrats from exposing the GOP for what it is. The exact nature of this Democratic disorder, Schmookler announced, is to be revealed in his forthcoming book.

With all due respect, I think the proposition is off base.  Some kind of a pathology did not keep the majority of Democrats, as Schmookler has it, from speaking frankly and with gusto; rather, it was the realization that, while attacking Republicans,  they risked  showcasing their own party’s way-left-of-center thinking. In foreign policy, for example, how might they have expounded to any political advantage the kind of logic which led to the State Department’s recent hosting of a Muslim Brotherhood-associated delegation?
How could they have revisited, to any Democratic advantage, the logic which led to doing nothing in Benghazi, which discourages standing up to Iran and Cuba, and which asserts that ISIS has nothing to do with Islam? And only today, the president told us not to worry overly since the ISIS threat is not “existential!” Might Obama have said this to advantage in the lead-up to the last election?
And the same applies at home: the Democratic mantra appears to be that  illegal immigrants “are people too.” (Here, sadly, I am quoting a young family member!). Accordingly, as large a number of illegals as possible must be retained in the United States and entitled to those rights and benefits for which American citizens are eligible.  And the numbers of illegals are only increasing because of a refusal to safeguard our southern border and, I bet, to administer properly our visa policy abroad.  Could these considerations have been usefully turned into  Democratic platform planks in 2014?
And how could the Democratic Party have ever put an attractive pre-election gloss on the statist thinking that just produced such a spending, taxation  and deficit-laiden budget proposal?  It flies in the face of economic recovery and of millions of Americans who have slaved and saved to keep their family members educated, healthy and independent. They are now told by liberals  that, on a grand scale, they must do for others what the others did not do for themselves.  It is the bottomless injunction “to give those things which we owe to one another,” epitomized by the bottomless, out-of-control and economically consuming war on poverty.  Last fall, might these factors have constituted the basis for effective Democratic talking points?
No, I think most Democrats understand that it is always unproductive to announce political convictions and goals that are far to the left of where the American electorate stands.  That our president and his ultra-liberal circle could not avoid broadcasting such positions helps explain (in addition to their actions) why the Democrats were record-breakingly defeated in November.  If more liberals  had taken Schmookler’s advice and sounded off, the election results would have been even worse.  I see more evidence of pragmatism than pathology at work in the party.
The current American electorate seems to be wising up.   Across the whole ethnic and economic spectrum,  Americans are becoming less and less vulnerable to any party’s promise of new entitlements and hand-outs.  It is this, not some pathology, that is the real menace threatening to undermine the Democratic Party.  And, contrary to what Schmookler implies in his column, Americans do not need Democrats (or Republicans, I might add) to tell them what to think, how to vote. Last Nov. 4, Americans knew exactly what they were looking at and voted accordingly.
Richard Hoover is a retired Foreign Service officer who resides in southern Warren County.