Why I abandoned the Democratic Party

Check out: Why I mourn the death of JFK, America's first neoconservative president. The link is here

Hint: It abandoned me

I came across this column I wrote for the Chicago Sun-Times in 1996 just prior to the Democratic National Convention held in Chicago at which Bill Clinton and Al Gore for nominated for re-election as president and vice-president. I was struck by how much this resonates with my current reasoning and might help some readers understand why I have gravitated from a "liberal" to a "conservative" (even though I don't think I've changed all that much). And why I loathe how self-styled "progressives" have corrupted what I once considered to be liberal precepts.

An open letter to Democratic delegates:

Maybe you'd like to know why I voted for an unbroken string of Democratic presidential candidates, from LBJ to Michael Dukakis - but no more. Perhaps you'd be interested in why my votes once helped send liberals like Abner Mikva, Paul Simon and Paul Douglas to Congress - but no longer.

It started in the '70s, when I passionately agreed that young lives shouldn't be sacrificed to solve

Clinton-Gore 1996 campaign poster

Clinton-Gore 1996 campaign poster

someone's problems a world away. But then noticed how you extended, not your superior compassion, but your scorn to young people whose sense of duty led them to serve in Vietnam.

Or maybe it started when I noticed your waning interest in peace issues after the draft ended, and you no longer had to serve. And that today, it is a Democratic president, like the two Republicans before him, who leads us into yet another foreign military incursion.

You lost me after I cheered Simon and other liberals for battling the 1980s budget deficits, but then saw so many Democrats take a dive on their own president when he tried to reduce the burden we're heaping on our grandchildren.

You're for an activist government, intervening to protect the innocent and helpless, except when it comes to, for example, standard public health measures designed to protect infants from AIDS. You're for the complete disclosure of all risks, except when it comes to "choice."

You raged against a Supreme Court nominee, Clarence Thomas, for his alleged character deficits, but ruled out the same test for your presidential nominee. You condemned Thomas for once allegedly mentioning to a female subordinate a pubic hair on a can of Coke, but raised not a peep about a president who once allegedly exposed himself to a female subordinate. I guess that means talking about pubes is worse than showing them.

For you the right to privacy is absolute, unless you're a Republican whose FBI file is being scrutinized by a Democratic White House.

Once I was moved by the impassioned pleas of Martin Luther King Jr. and Hubert Humphrey that

Al Gore and Bill Clinton at the 1996 Democratic Convention in Chicago

Al Gore and Bill Clinton at the 1996 Democratic Convention in Chicago

we should judge each other by the content of our character, not the color of our skin. Now you sketch elaborate legalities about why some people of preferred color get to go to the head of the line.

You're for free expression and direct action, unless it is for protesters outside abortion clinics. You claim to have an optimistic and democratic faith in the people, yet you increasingly turn to the courts to impose your views on them.

You lecture the opposition for their meanspirited attacks, yet a poll shows that former Texas Gov. Ann Richards remains one of your favorite speakers, thanks to her meanspirited attack on George Bush four years ago. You demand civility in all respects, yet require that uncivil art that deeply offends people of faith be subsidized. You demand inclusion, but demean those who express "traditional, middle class values."

For generations, you have fought to expand the definition of rights and citizenship - for minorities, women, the poor, the voiceless and the helpless. Yet you oppose granting even the slightest of rights to the poorest, most voiceless and weakest among us - the viable fetus. You demand that not a single child among us suffer the abuse of an uncaring society. Yet, you are unmoved that "only" a few thousand viable, late-term fetuses are aborted each year.

Despite your limitless compassion, you came late to realizing that in a crime, the victim deserves as much sympathy as the criminal deserves punishment.

You really lost me, though, when my children, now grown, had to confront a world of your preference, in which self-gratification and choice are their own virtues, superior to justice, truth and giving. You go on about the village it takes to raise children, but until recently, had little criticism for an entertainment industry that profited by corroding our children's minds.

Despite all that, I still agree with the fundamental communitarian concepts embraced by your party, including the belief that an unguided and unregulated economy is no guarantee of the common good. But your heightened claims of compassion too often simply mask the growing strain of libertarianism and self-absorption that grips the party.

Maybe you think I've changed more than you. Maybe you can do without me. I'm sorry that it's so. 

Get two copies of my historical novel, "Madness: The War of 1812," for the price of one in this Christmas sale. For details and how to order, visit http://www.madness1812.com

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Comments

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  • Dennis, this is the case for many of us. I can not bring myself to join the Party of Chuck Percy. The GOP was the original Planned Parenthood Clown Posse. Then in 1972, the Old Dem Pros handed the keys over to Reds, Ninnies, lightly educated gals.

  • Well reasoned, this could start a very enlightened conversation.

    Okay Progressives, don't just attack his abortion stance; read, think and answer all of it. Odds?

    Oh, and explain our archaic birthing and alimony laws, where's your instincts for equality? Why are we paying young women to replace husbands with the state?

  • Unfortunately your cure is worse than the disease.

  • In reply to Aquinas wired:

    Aquinas, I had a friend in grade school that would say 'prove it!' to any fact that would be stated to him, even when one proved the fact, he would say 'prove it!' to the proof. In his mind, this allowed him to be in control of his world, he chose to deny life enhancing truths over the temporary discomfort of cognitive dissonance.

    I thought Mr. Byrne's post was well thought out, and even if don't agree, it deserves a more honest dialogue than a reactionary burp or 'prove it.'

    You pretend to be concerned with these issues, and I've noticed when confronted with facts, these tend to be your stock responses.

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    Aquinas...I'm interested to know your cure. you are so quick to objectify any other views than your own. I am guessing you are a liberal. Correct me if I'm wrong, but you and yours have had the helm for 5 years now, and yet the blame always goes back to Bush. Suck it up sycophant..you puckered up to the wrong ass. Liberals are petulant children...don't get your way, change the rules so that you do. Your Senate "leader" just proved that. No denying it you butt kissing ass bag...you lose. You voted for this wind bag...deal with it. Passing the blame is lame and beneath such an intelligent, philanthropic guru such as yourself...right?

  • In reply to If only:

    You prove my case.

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    Chicago Tribune contributing op-ed columnist and author of forthcoming historical novel, "Madness: The War of 1812." Reporter, editor and columnist for Chicago Sun-Times and Chicago Daily News. Freelance writer and editor.

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