The Democratic Party's preoccupation with the question of when America
will leave Iraq rather than with how America will win in Iraq reminds me of how
and why this nearly lifelong liberal and Democrat became identified as a
conservative and Republican activist.
I have identified as liberal all my life. How could I not? I was raised a
Jew in New York City, where I did graduate work in the social sciences at
Columbia University. It is almost redundant to call a New York Jewish
intellectual a liberal. In fact, I never voted for a Republican candidate for
president until Ronald Reagan in 1980. But I have not voted for a Democrat since
What happened? Did I suddenly change my values in 1980? Or did
liberalism? Obviously, one (or both) of us changed.
As I know my values, the answer is as clear as it could be -- it is
liberalism that has changed, not I. In a word, liberalism became leftism. Or, to
put it another way -- since my frame of reference is moral values --
liberalism's moral compass broke. It did so during the Vietnam War, though I
could not bring myself to vote Republican until 1980. The emotional and
psychological hold that the Democratic Party and the word "liberal" have on
those who consider themselves liberal is stronger than the ability of most of
these individuals to acknowledge just how far from liberal values contemporary
liberalism and the Democratic Party have strayed.
Here are four key examples that should prompt any consistent liberal to
vote Republican and oppose "progressives" and others on the
The issue that began the emotionally difficult task of getting this
liberal to identify with conservatives and become an active Republican was
Communism. I had always identified the Democratic Party and liberalism with
anti-Communism. Indeed, the labor movement and the Democratic Party actually led
American opposition to Communism. It was the Democrat Harry Truman, not
Republicans, who made the difficult and unpopular decision to fight another war
just a few years after World War II -- the war against Chinese and Korean
Communists. It was Democrats -- John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson -- who
also led the war against Chinese and Vietnamese Communists.
Then Vietnam occurred, and Democrats and liberals (in academia, labor and
the media) abandoned that war and abandoned millions of Asians to
totalitarianism and death, defamed America's military, became anti-war instead
of anti-evil, became anti-anti-Communist instead of anti-Communist, and embraced
isolationism, a doctrine I and others previously had always associated with
conservatives and the Republican Party. This change was perfectly exemplified in
1972, when the Democratic presidential nominee George McGovern ran on the
platform "Come home, America."
This in turn led to the liberal embrace of the immoral doctrine of moral
equivalence. As I was taught at Columbia, where I studied international
relations, America was equally responsible for the Cold War, and there was
little moral difference between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. They were essentially
two superpowers, each looking out for its imperialist self-interest. I will
never forget when the professor of my graduate seminar in advanced Communist
Studies, Zbigniew Brzezinski, chided me for using the word "totalitarian" to
describe the Soviet Union.
I recall, too, asking the late eminent liberal historian Arthur
Schlesinger, in a public forum in Los Angeles in the late 1970s, if he would say
that America was, all things considered, a better, i.e., more moral, society
than Soviet society. He said he would not.
It was therefore not surprising, only depressingly reinforcing of my view
of what had happened to liberals, when liberals and Democrats condemned
President Ronald Reagan for describing the Soviet Union as an "evil empire."
Identifying and confronting evil remains the Achilles' heel of liberals,
progressives and the rest of the left. It was not only Communism that
post-Vietnam liberals refused to identify as evil and forcefully confront. Every
major liberal newspaper in America condemned Israel's 1981 destruction of Saddam
Hussein's nuclear reactor (in which one person -- a French agent there to aid the
Israeli bombers, and who therefore knowingly risked his life -- was killed). As the New York Times editorialized: "Israel's sneak attack…was an act of
inexcusable and short-sighted aggression."
Most Democrats in Congress even opposed the first Gulf War, sanctioned by
the United Nations and international law, against Saddam Hussein's Iraq and its
bloody annexation of Kuwait.
And today, the liberal and Democratic world's only concern with regard to
Iraq, where America is engaged in the greatest current battle against organized
evil, is how soon America can withdraw.
There were an even larger number of domestic issues that alienated this
erstwhile liberal and Democrat. But nothing quite compares with liberal and
progressive abandonment of the war against evil, the most important venture the
human race must engage in every generation.
I can understand why a leftist would vote for the party not one of whose
contenders for the presidency uttered the words "Islamic terror" in a single
presidential debate. But I still cannot understand why a true liberal