This column was written by Michael Novak.
Talk about a weird ten years!
Ten years ago National Review Online was founded. At that time, just as it is today, the nation was in the throes of a Beltway sex scandal.
The climate of the Clinton years is back again. The former president wagged his finger at Chris Wallace earlier this fall, in exactly the same tone of voice and with the same angry face he showed when he told the television camera, "I did not have sex with that woman."
And on every talking-head shot today there are spokesman from the Hypocratic party. I call them "Hypocrats" because the Democrats today seem to be shocked, shocked, that a gay man in Congress should be preying upon young male pages. But 20 or so years ago they gave standing ovation after standing ovation to Congressman Gerry Studds of Massachusetts, who was not just writing sick e-mails, but was convicted of having had sex with a page, with whom he took long junkets overseas.
What was his punishment from Hypocrats? What "irresponsibility" was laid at the door of the speaker of the House?
Nothing and none, or course. Being a Hypocrat means never having to recognize a moral fault — in oneself.
Make no mistake: Congressman Foley's behavior was creepy, seductive, and sick (as even a seventeen-year-old could see), and it was possibly criminal. His resignation should have been demanded long before he stepped down. However, according to the standard they set in dealing with Studds, the Democrats, far from having called for Foley to resign, or having found his behavior disgusting, should have applauded him.
The Republicans were wrong. They really ought to have acted like Republicans from the first signs of questionable conduct. They should have pushed Foley out long ago. His district is so Republican, any Republican could win it. Instead, needlessly, the Republicans behaved too much like the other party, not the way their own base would have wanted them to act. They did not grasp the peril they were in.
Hypocrats are uncommonly skillful at shifting sides on matters of yesterday's principle, according to their purposes of today. Compare the way the feminist Hypocrats scorned Clarence Thomas, and fawned over William Clinton.
Who Values What
Since Hypocrats today are living in a world of illusions about public policy, the only way they can win elections is by deception and dirty tricks.
I have heard Hypocratic operatives explain on television that the moral failings of Hypocrats do not lower turnout among Hypocratic voters. Why? Because their followers are more "liberal" in their moral values, and speak softly about "family values." In other words, they are "looser living," "more liberal." They openly admit it. The other party's "values voters" are more vulnerable on moral questions, they explain, because they take them seriously, and are repelled by disgraceful conduct.
That's why, they say, Republicans are tying themselves in knots, and breaking out into factional war, over the fact that one of their members seems to have sent disgusting e-mails and instant messages to 16-year-old pages (and older). Such a man offends everything "values voters" stand for. That is supposed to divide and confuse conservatives, and turn the election in the direction of the Hypocrats.
Hypocrats hold that the Boy Scouts are wrong for demanding strict rules regarding gay scoutmasters. Simultaneously, they think that gay congressmen should not be trusted with male pages, except under close supervision, in order to "keep our children safe" — but only if the congressman is a Republican.
Hypocrats are simply too ignorant about religious people in America to recognize that many of them know rather a lot of gays personally, and admire them. Most religious people expect to find a small percentage of gays among all the elite — in the arts, medicine, politics and journalism, the military, the clergy, the professoriate, personal services. Many gays are smart and creative people. Many are brave and noble. "Live and let live" is the conservative impulse, unless you try to push them too far.
Most religious people, at least those who are serious about churchgoing, and who reflect on what their beliefs actually mean, try hard to cut individuals a lot of slack in mercy and forgiveness. Yet the slack they cut is for individuals, not for principles. Conservative religious people tend to be faithful to principle, but nonjudgmental about individuals: "Forgive the sinner...etc." They are not willing to cut slack about what is right and wrong.
Hypocrats do pretty much the reverse. They are wholly flexible on principle, and merciless to individuals who get in their way — from gay men like Congressmen Foley (whom they would have treated differently, were he a Democrat) to a Hall-of-Fame wrestling coach from Illinois, with a proud, unblemished record of dealing with young men. That is, they are merciless to Republicans. And only to Republicans.
In much more important matters, Hypocrats affect not to recognize the deadliest threat to the integrity of the United States ever. I refer, of course, to the threat from mad, aberrant, but deadly serious jihadists, who aim to force the people of the United States to accept Islam under coercive threats. The jihadists plan to commit random acts of violence here, there, and everywhere, until Americans tire, and resistance is worn down.
The jihadists mean to pull the U.S. down into the dust, no matter how long it takes them. They intend to kill a lot of Americans along the way. They would enjoy cutting off a lot of heads, on television.
The Hypocratic response to jihadism seems to be preemptive surrender. "The best way to get rid of a threat is to give in to it." I doubt if Hypocrats actually think that this is a good idea, but they sure seem willing to get out of Iraq and to appease Iran. If they win the election, hard reality will smack them in the face.
Notice the Dow? Didn't Even Happen.
On economic policy, the Hypocrats continue to share illusions that ought to have been swept out the door when Socialism collapsed in 1989. Hypocrats simply cannot get their minds around the fact that today both business corporations and the top one percent of income earners are paying higher tax revenues than they have ever paid before. Tax revenues from the rich are setting records month by month. The revenue pouring into government coffers is unprecedented.
Hypocrats can't grasp that their hatred of the rich is simply a delusion. They depend upon the rich far more than Republicans do. Where would they be without George Soros, the Kennedys, Ted Turner, and a thousand other financiers of their party?
However, the Hypocrats, more clearly than twenty years ago, are a party bankrupt of sound ideas. They must pretend to be what they are not. They must disguise what they are. They have become, as they did not used to be, the dishonest party.
All Is Not Lost
I wrote on NRO last June 15 that the Democrats would lose seats this November. They will lose seats precisely because they have not yet gone back to the drawing boards after the fall of socialism. And after the tangible failures of nearly every major idea they have had since 1965. (Even then, the Republicans carried more water than the Hypocrats in initiating the civil rights movement, because the Democrats were held back by the Dixiecrats, and Republican votes carried the day.)
The new Hypocrats need a thorough re-thinking soon. Their self-delusions began in the 1960s. That's far too long without a re-thinking.
It would be better if it is electoral defeat that makes the Hypocrats rethink things. As James Carville put it, if they don't win big in 2006, they really do need to "go back to the drawing boards."
They desperately need a new set of ideas, more consistent with their earlier creativity, and with their earlier habit of being down-to-earth. Let us hope that they again become the party of churchgoing, ordinary, flawed, humble, middle Americans, as they used to be, and not, as too many of them have become today, the party of Hollywood, wealthy trial lawyers, and other rarefied, fancy, enclave-based elites.
It ill becomes the traditions of their own party when Hypocrats allow "liberal" to mean "less constrained by traditional values," so that the word becomes synonymous with "looser living." At least, that's what it looks like to the more traditional.
The Hypocrats need a sharp dose of reality. They might get it, right on the nose, sooner than they expect.
And this remains true, whether they win or lose, because reality today is not what the Hypocrats are pretending that it is. If they do take over both the Senate and the House (which they have prematurely boasted of), they and their huge cheering section in the press will be mugged by reality. If so, let's hope the nation does not pay too high a price for their education.
Michael Novak is the winner of the 1994 Templeton Prize for progress in religion and the George Frederick Jewett Scholar in Religion, Philosophy, and Public Policy at the American Enterprise Institute. Novak's own website is www.michaelnovak.net.
By Michael Novak
Reprinted with permission from National Review Online