Chris Douglas

Are you sure?

Filed By Chris Douglas | October 06, 2005 5:04 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Politics

I returned to school last weekend for several days of public-policy oriented events. Condoleeza Rice spoke, as did the homeland security chief, neither of whom added much to the body of knowledge of listeners. (By contrast, General Petreuas (sp?) presented a briefing on what American forces were doing to prepare Iraqi security forces. For a tough task under difficult circumstances, rendored with apparent candor on the specific topic at hand, the general earned a surprising and wholly unexpected standing ovation from a room full of administration admirers and critics alike.)

But the most interesting conversation took place over breakfast, where I was seated with a gentleman who seemed to have some role as a Democratic operative in Florida. (His day job was corporate.) A woman got the conversation rolling by asking him who he thought was the Democratic Party's best candidate for 2008. His answer? Evan Bayh.

I couldn't contain myself. Evan Bayh? I asked, startled. The man responded that Bayh was two-term governor of a Republican State, repeatedly elected to the Senate, and (if I recall correctly) head of the Democratic Leadership Conference in the same vein as Clinton. In short, he said, Evan Bayh is electable.

I gave him my thoughts, carefully disclosing myself as Hoosier, gay, and a registered Republican. (Why I remain a registered Republican, of course, took us down an entirely different alley for a period of time, but we found our way back to the original topic. For those of you who wonder, it remains a belief that moderate Republicans are the principle pressure point with whom we must work to get progress in Indiana, and it's not for everybody.)

My observation was that Evan Bayh has proven maddening to just about everyone, liberal and conservative alike. His positions have generally appeared inseparable from what might predicted by viewing his constituencies in light of his ambitions. Conservative when he needs to be, and liberal when he needs to be, with no discernable lodestone of his own.

While progress has eventually appeared on gay issues, it has been tortuous, and indeed some argue that Bayh was responsible for conservative regression in Indiana as Governor. (Bayh is said to have rescinded all executive orders of Governor Orr, including his nondiscrimination policy, which had quietly been amended to include sexual orientation. It was not reinstated until Goveror O'Bannon some 12 years later.) Insiders were well aware that Senator Lugar was prepared to vote against the marriage amendment if it hit the senate floor, while Bayh's vote was worrisomely uncommitted. (By voting to support filibuster on the bill, Bayh was able to avoid a vote on the ultimate constitutional amendment, which didn't have the numbers for passage in the Senate anyway.)

The operative's response to my concerns about progress that would be possible for glbt under Bayh was "maybe on YOUR issues." When I said that it seemed to me that Bayh was fairly conservative across the board, except when he needed for national Democratic ambition to be liberal, the operative again said "on YOUR issues." When I said it seemed to me that Joe Biden would be a great Democratic candidate, the operative said neither Biden nor Hilary Clinton would be electable. He said the most important thing would be for a Democrat to be elected. That the cause of progress gets thrown over the side in the process would be secondary. Gay rights in his mind was completely sacrificial.

Well, here's my message to national Democrats, as it was to that operative. Ronald Reagan redefined conservativism through sheer force of personal belief, which he projected confidently, without doubts, and in the face of opposition. He was right about the Soviet Union, about international free trade, and about the problems of government at that time.

But the economic power, endurance, and vitality of western Democracies were built as much on Liberalism, more essential an intellectual tradition to America's progress than conservativism ever could be. My vote of greatest conviction in a presidential contest was cast against Dukakis, not because he was a liberal, but because we could not have as leader of the western world in a global competition a man who would not even defend his own incredibly worthy intellectual tradition.

Indiana as a state has paid the price for Democratic imitation of the Republican Party. We stalled economically and we did not advance culturally. We saw the politics of electability, not of confidence in the greater good. Everyone is growing tired of the intolerance and lack of compassion for a diverse society shown by conservative Republicans. We don't need more of it.

In my opinion, the Democratic Party serves America best when it stands confidently on a candidate of principle, rather than rolling over for electability. It may have meant an election loss or two in the past, or again in the future. But ultimately, our success as a society depends on Liberalism regaining its historic foothold, and it is time for Democrats to offer a genuine leader who embraces its traditions. Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt are the Republicans for Democrats to emulate. Please don't give us another George Bush Jr., without principles of his own, whose only discernable ambition was to be President.

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DATE: 10/07/2005 12:25:46 AM

I TOTALLY agree with you!

AUTHOR: Marla R. Stevens

DATE: 10/07/2005 01:19:59 AM

On my feet, cheering.

AUTHOR: Jerame Davis

DATE: 10/07/2005 06:16:03 AM

Thank YOU! *does happy dance*

AUTHOR: Steph Mineart

DATE: 10/07/2005 09:27:24 AM

Sometimes I want to kick the Democratic Party in their collective shins. Electable, my ass. I don't want to vote for someone because they're electable, I want to vote for someone because they stand for something. Damn.

AUTHOR: Bil Browning

DATE: 10/07/2005 10:16:06 AM

Which is why I supported Dennis Kucinich in 2004. And I'll support him in 2008 too.

AUTHOR: Anonymous

DATE: 10/07/2005 10:26:24 AM

This moderate who is a member of neither party cheers!- oddjob


DATE: 10/07/2005 12:57:12 PM

Douglas,When you said—But ultimately, our success as a society depends on Liberalism regaining its historic foothold, and it is time for Democrats to offer a genuine leader who embraces its traditions.—were you in reference to classical liberalism using a capitalism definition? If so, than would you be advocating for a return to a form of capitalism which defends a free market with minimal state intervention; in place of the new liberalism that argues for some state regulation and partial intervention (employment, trade, labor, certain other industries)in an otherwise capitalist economy?

AUTHOR: Chris Douglas

DATE: 10/07/2005 02:14:32 PM

Kay, I don't think there is anything new to the concept of Liberalism that argues for some state regulation and partial intervention in an otherwise capitalist economy. I would call that classic, surely. (Certainly that concept of Liberalism extends all the way back to Teddy Roosevelt, who finally put dusty trust-busting legislation into full force to end monopolistic domination of the markets and of elections.) Perhaps you are thinking of Libertarianism, which is quite different.

AUTHOR: Chris Douglas

DATE: 10/07/2005 02:24:23 PM

Kay, I should add that Liberalism's contribution to our economic vitality is as much cultural. How can Japan or the Middle East, for instance, compete with the United States when America brings the talent of its entire population, male and female, of every race and religion together in the economy. Our economic competiveness is a product of the triumph of America's Liberal ideals over conservative prejudice, among other factors. No conservative tyranny over mind and talent can compete.


DATE: 10/07/2005 07:48:54 PM

Douglas,Actually, ‘classical liberalism’ is also call ‘libertarianism’. The difference between classical liberalism and new liberalism is a matter of degree—minimal government regulation verses partial government regulation—an important distinction because capitalism is not a static economic system. Anymore than being a registered Republican is an across-the-board fixed (conservative) value system, so I’m told.The crux of the matter for me concerning your post is that I plainly understand what principle you are using to admonish me, a registered Democrat, to now save American society from the destruction wrought by the unprecedented unprincipled combined forces of RRR conservatives, neo-conservatives, and moderate

AUTHOR: Chris Douglas

DATE: 10/08/2005 07:25:36 AM

Kay, the only way that what I have written could be considered an admonishment of you is if you support Evan Bayh, politically a career moderate conservative Democrat in Indiana until national ambition intervened, for President.Second, I do admonish any who choose a politician whose politics with regard to glbt civil and relationship rights (whatever their personal sentiments may be) are more conservative than that of an opposing candidate. Third, I make no claim on being a political conservative, whether moderate or otherwise. I observe that the problem of unprincipled combine that you mention is cross-party, with moderate and deep conservatives in the Indiana Republican Party and in the Indiana Democratic Party combining to failure of progress.

AUTHOR: Marla R. Stevens

DATE: 10/09/2005 09:07:17 PM

A deliciously practical example of the liberalism of which Chris writes is embodied in "Who the Hell is Ronnie Earle?" in the March, 2005, Esquire.It's anything but libertarian.


DATE: 10/11/2005 11:19:33 AM

I suspect that Douglas knew I wanted to understand where he stood on the big picture issue of inequality. At least that is how I read his hasty retreat back to more innuendo of Bayh. IMHO, anyone—especially one I suspect to be an opposing political party operative—wanting to advise me on how I should think about a potential candidate of my party should be prepared to discuss the whole issue; not just a small segment of that issue.

AUTHOR: Chris Douglas

DATE: 10/12/2005 05:04:52 PM

Kay, you've got a chip on your shoulder. I have publicly supported Democratic control of the Indiana House of Representatives and I have endorsed and financially supported David Orentlicher and Julia Carson, both liberal democrats. I am anything but a Republican Party operative.

AUTHOR: Chris Douglas

DATE: 10/12/2005 05:20:59 PM

Kay, I suspect that you and I may be the only two who continue to refer to this string. I looked for an e-mail address, but fail to see one for what would otherwise be a private communication from me to you. I hope you will see this.You are guessing at who I am as a person and what my motivations are, and you are incorrect in your guesses. But you have described me as a Republican operative and as unprincipled. You have no idea what I have done or what progress wouldn't have happened in nondiscrimination in Indiana were it not for my willingness to work on Republicans and bear insults from people such as yourself.I would be happy to meet for lunch some time so that you can understand me better. Understanding me, you may still find fault and opportunity for disagreement. But I would rather that should you choose thereafter to continue with commentary and suggestions about me and my motivations, that you do so from a base of thorough knowledge rather than inaccurate speculation.

AUTHOR: Bil Browning

DATE: 10/13/2005 12:07:28 AM

If Kay doesn't take you up on the dinner invitation, I might be able to scrape some spare time together... *grins*