Because so many people ask me what my party affiliation is, I may as well use my last column to answer them. I’m a moderate liberal. Far left on race and somewhere in the middle on everything else. Still too vague? Do journalists ever take strong positions?

Jasmine Clair

What happened to the Democrats on Capitol Hill? Besides voicing opposition to conservative policies and nominations, what’s the defeated party doing these days? If you think I’m a conservative because I ask such questions, know that you’re a big part of the Democrats’ problem.

It’s called the “Bush is wrong, therefore we’re right” syndrome, and it needed to die alongside Kerry’s shot at the presidency. The norm for Democrats now consists of choosing reactionary policies rather than creating solid policies to champion behind.

Noticing this, many moderates and independents are drifting to the right.

As a moderate, I may not agree with some of Bush’s policies, but I know what Bush stands for. His platform consists of war, money and a quasi-values system that’s simultaneously pro-life and pro-death in Arab nations. Though contradictions in the compassionate conservative agenda flow like water, Bush sent a steady stream of religious voters to the polls.

With a stroke of political genius, Republicans used Bush’s first term to stage a monopoly on morals and values. Bush captured orthodox Christians through his pro-life and anti-gay marriage positions. He garnered the orthodox Jew vote by endorsing Ariel Sharon’s actions in the Gaza strip. Catholic Hispanics gladly embraced Bush, thankful for his amnesty and immigration provisions.

Promoting himself as a born-again Christian, Bush connected to traditionally liberal voters through faith, morals and values. Americans are overwhelmingly religious. Our government claims to separate church from state, but we still depend on our representatives to represent our values — including those taught in religion.

Providing health care to everyone, not just those who can afford it is a morally sound position. Protecting lives of soldiers and improving the quality of life for the poor are principles grounded in faith, especially in contrast to Bush’s opposition of abortion and gay marriage. But why weren’t these principles linked to religious appeals to the masses?

Kerry proclaimed, “I don’t wear my own faith on my sleeve,” arguing that faith is exhibited through deeds. Liberal deeds involved calling Bush everything from a Nazi to an evil Hitler-like fascist. These inappropriate gestures were perpetrated by individuals and organizations outside of government like moveon.org and were also contradictory to deeds of faith and value — undermining the Left’s position and conceding the moral high ground to the Right.

Democrats often forget that Bush makes himself look bad better than anyone else could. When attacking the president, they only bring more attention to the Republican platform, overshadowing their own policies. People don’t need reminders about Bush’s wrongs — even Republicans have issues with his actions.

In complaining about the Republican’s divisiveness, the Democrats fail to see how detrimental their staunch anti-Bush rhetoric is to progress. It creates more division between liberals and the highly coveted moderates, who were essential to winning this past election.

Some moderates and independents gave Democrats another chance to redeem themselves, waiting patiently for Kerry to provide a tangible platform. The Left has values that it’s historically stood for that many predicted would be very evident in the Kerry platform. From all the scathing critiques of Bush, many assumed that the Democrats would take strong stances on the war, health care, education and equal rights issues — traditional liberal strong points. Unfortunately, after the debates and right up until the election, the Center still encountered more uncertainty.

I kept thinking: Kerry hates war, but Kerry supports a more aggressive strategy in Iraq with more financial support. The Democrats despise Bush’s health care and education programs, yet Kerry advocated Bush’s No Child Left Behind Program and fought to halt Medicaid legislation.

Considering all of this, traditional Democratic values appeared to collapse before America’s eyes. Despite Kerry’s strong presence in the 2004 elections, the quiet liberal presence today shows how damaging its reactionary practices have been. Instead of taking the forefront on issues, Democrats in Congress spend the majority of their time fighting the Republican agenda and challenging the president’s nominations. With great talents like Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, the Left has potential. But unless Democrats regain their compassion and values, the compassionate conservatives will continue to capitalize on the very ideals that the Democratic Party has traditionally championed.

Bush may have divided the nation, but he remained loyal to his base. His supporters felt safe in supporting him. We still have three long years to go, but if the Democrats don’t create a base and support it, we may have to wait much longer to see the first woman and/or black president.

Clair can be reached at jclair@umich.edu.

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