Letters to the Editors
Abandoning of moderates hurt the Democrats
© St. Petersburg Times
published November 15, 2002
I have read all the reaction by your editorial staff and your columnists trying to rationalize the results of last week's election, and I don't believe that any of them understand what has happened.
The Democratic Party no longer has a moderate middle. Vast numbers of Democratic moderates have defected to the Republican Party because the Democrats are perceived as the party of minorities, unions, tax-and-spend fiscal spendthrifts (including the redistribution-of-wealth extremists), those who would throttle free speech in the name of political correctness, environmental extremists, abortion rights extremists, and on and on.
The Democrats who attack the "religious right" are perceived by many as promoting a position that could be referred to as the "antireligious, unreligious, atheistic, agnostic, amoral, immoral left." This situation has resulted from the Democrats pandering to many very vocal groups whose views are at odds with middle-of-the-roaders.
I don't see any of the liberal opinionmakers acknowledging these things, but until they do, and the Democrats find a way to get the moderates back, things are not going to get any better for them.
Traditional values were the problem
Re: Democrats in disarray, Nov. 7.
I don't agree with your editorial in which you state "the Democrats should insist on new leaders who will reassert their party's traditional values . . . ."
These traditional values are actually responsible for their election debacle.
The Democrats displayed their traditional partnership with labor unions, especially the teacher union; their traditional increasing of taxes for their social programs; their traditional habit of trying to help the poor on the backs of the middle class.
Bill McBride is certainly a good example of your new leader with traditional Democratic values. He wanted to limit the number of children in classes and knew he'd have to raise taxes to do this, but wasn't quite sure where the money would come from.
The bedeviled middle class would be stuck with McBride's tax increase because rich people have methods of evading new taxes.
It's useful to remember that one of the successes of Bill Clinton's presidency was the achievement of welfare reform, a traditional Republican value.
Maybe what the Democrats should do is steal a few traditional Republican values.
Pandering to minority interests
I have been a lifelong Democrat because I have always believed that the Democrats had the interest of the middle-class America rather than the interests of big business and the monied classes at heart. So why would the Democrats take such a shellacking at the polls in this last election?
Over the years I have seen the party of the people become the party of minorities as the Democrats try to forge coalitions with minority groups to curry their favor at the polls. The Democrats have alienated most of their traditional base by championing causes that most of America simply does not believe in, i.e., affirmative action, country club prisons, lack of personal responsibility, etc. The real pity of this is that the interests of minorities and the interests of the middle and working classes are not that far apart. But the Democrats alienate middle-class Americans by bending over backward to accommodate the few at the expense of the many.
Many of the programs that Democrats fought for, that on their face were good ideas, have turned into disaster areas. Civil rights became affirmative action and then went from a helping hand to an assurance program. The Americans with Disabilities Act became an excuse, then set-asides, quotas and/or "goals," etc., etc. The middle and working classes of America are fed up. Frankly, who can blame them: They are paying the bill.
If the Democrats want to regain credibility, they must stop pandering to minority special interests and start working for mainstream America. Otherwise the Republicans and their patrons, the special interests with money, will continue to rule unfettered.
A refreshing contrast
I believe the media analysts have missed a couple of key points that led to the president's party winning the recent election.
I believe many citizens were, like me, simply so relieved to now have a principled man in the office of the president of the United States they voted for his party on that emotion alone.
Whether or not you like the man or his conservative agenda, his decisiveness, his position above the partisan bickering, his unwavering march toward his principled goals provides the nation a more stable feeling than the "poll-taking," spin and narcissistic leadership of the prior administration. The contrast between the two administrations is drastic. The nation was embarrassed regardless of the Clinton administration's "spin."
While this emotion will wear thin by re-election time, it can be rekindled if the Democrats so choose. Pushing Al Gore and Hillary Clinton (or a liberal House minority leader?) to the front pages to remind us that "it can happen again" will do the trick!
The second emotion that influenced the vote was the feeling that "I have lost my nest egg in the market and I simply cannot afford to pay for a lot of social engineering, feel-good Democratic programs on top of this necessary war on terrorism." A bit of realism and pragmatism has set in and affordability takes precedence over green and liberal agendas.
Democrats will need to learn
One can hope that the Democrats will have learned something from this election disaster, the most important lesson being that they have to offer a reasonable alternative to Republican rule. Whatever message they might have had was pitiful or pointless.
They should also have learned that the media won't do their work for them, as most Americans remain dismally ignorant of President Bush's policies, which are steadily undermining hard-won environmental protections, loading the Food and Drug Administration with drug industry lobbyists, and, as the appointments of Harvey Pitt and William Webster showed, caved in to corporate and accounting industry pressure.
Bush will demand, and the Republicans in Congress will deliver, a permanent tax cut that delivers more than half of its benefits to the wealthiest 5 percent of the country, and a good portion of that money will find its way back to Republican politicians. The rest of us might get enough for a Visa payment or two.
Democrats will have to become smarter and meaner (because they're certainly not going to get richer) and hope that a massive federal deficit, wide-spread turmoil in the Middle East, millions more without access to decent health care, more and more guns on our streets, and a widening of the already obscene gap between wages and executive suite rewards gives us a stark reminder of the results of one-party rule.
Soul-searching needed locally
Like myself, many Democrats felt like going into hiding following the party's Election Day freefall. At every level, the Democratic Party experienced a true political nightmare, and such a wakeup call prompted many people on the national scene to talk about "reorganizing" or "regrouping." Such talk should begin to trickle down to both the state and county levels, where the real work of politics takes place.
With another election cycle just around the corner, the current leaders of the Pinellas Democratic Party should take a good look in the mirror, and decide if they are up to the task. Are they willing to advance the very important causes of the party without egos and infighting? Are they willing to set aside their own agendas for the sake of community, and for the sake of those less fortunate?
With little to currently be proud of, the Pinellas Democratic Party must answer those questions to the satisfaction of all party loyalists. If not, any talk of "reorganizing" must then become action, for so many are relying on this. It's time to deliver.
Voters want what GOP offers
Re: Gore ready to re-emerge in wake of midterm losses, by Sara Fritz, Nov. 11.
You liberal Democrats just don't get it. What the American people want is what Republicans stand for. Republicans stand for giving people a chance to improve their lives and those of their families. They want people to have the opportunity to succeed on their own merits. They don't want a Democrat's handout and story that they are being deprived by those nasty Republicans who want to take it away from you. The Democrats want to take it away from us.
A presumptuous attitude
Re: Todd family deserves an apology, letter, Nov. 8.
I read with great interest Thomas E. Todd's letter. It is a great pity that his father's great qualities were not passed down to his children. The letter's overall tone is one of family ownership of the Pinellas School Board seat that was contested in the recent election. Your description of donations by his mother's supporters as a "shakedown" is entirely accurate. How else can you describe these contributions? How can you explain away the large sums of money contributed for a School Board seat?
How does Mr. Todd reconcile the fact that his sister, who has no experience in public service, should somehow be "anointed" to the seat? The election proved that the voters want qualified people (Charlie Crist notwithstanding) to hold public office.
I believe it is Mr. Todd who owes the apology for his presumption that the seat in question belongs to the family.
Ungraceful in defeat
Both Tiffany and Tom Todd accuse the St. Petersburg Times of slander that caused Tiffany to lose the election for the Pinellas County School Board. I resent the implication that my reason for voting for Mary Brown was due to the Times' writing about unusual contributions to Ms. Todd. I, and others, voted for Mrs. Brown's qualifications, such as experience, education, and service to our community, which, by the way, are superior to Ms. Todd's.
I also believe Mr. Todd when he wrote that he and Tiffany were raised with family values. The one virtue missed, however, is how to lose gracefully.
Do we really need a Legislature?
I think it's about time that we abolish the Legislature in Florida and just retain the executive and judicial branches. The reason being the preponderance of issues important to the public are more and more often submitted to a plebiscite process of amendments. The executive (governor) and related governmental agencies would simply do what the title suggests and execute the laws. This, under the watchful eye of the Florida Supreme Court, responsible for the constitutionality of the laws.
A fringe benefit of this, among others, would be the enormous savings of funds now expended on the Legislature and its concomitant, ancillary employees.
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