Sunday, October 22, 2006

9-11 Republicans Are Most Welcome

There is a phrase gaining attention, "9-11 Republicans" – alluding to philosophical Democrats who vote Republican now in their disgust at the “peace at any price” activists who have taken over the Democratic Party. Paul Kujawsky, a member of the California Democratic Party Central Committee seems to have captured the meaning and the driving force of this phenomenon in the following piece he authored recently for the LA Daily News.

The following article was written before the votes were cast in Congress 1. to establish military tribunals, 2. to establish rough questioning techniques for captured foreign terrorists, and 3. to establish military tribunals. On all of these votes a large majority of Democrats voted against these measures - further establishing that they just don't get it - that they are more interested in granting rights of US citizens to foreign terrorists than in protecting the American homeland. These votes make the following article even more on target:

Paul Kujawsky, Guest Columnist
LA Daily News

IN the 1960s, my sister was part of the Free Speech Movement at Berkeley. She was arrested in a civil rights sit-in. Naturally, she was a lifelong Democrat.

Today, she is a “9-11 Republican.” She is not alone.

My sister is no less committed to civil rights than before. But she believes that not being murdered by Islamist terrorists is also an important civil right. She is not sure that the Democratic Party completely agrees with her.

For 9-11 Republicans, this is the most significant political issue. The GOP “gets it,” while the Democratic Party doesn't.

Many recent former Democrats are astonished and a bit embarrassed to see where they have landed politically. The rest of the Republican program may leave them cold. They may have doubts about Bush's handling of the war, treatment of prisoners and everything else. But unless and until the Democratic Party fixes its national-security problem, my sister and others like her will not vote Democratic in November's congressional races, nor in the 2008 presidential contest.

How can the Democratic Party woo back the 9-11 Republicans? It won't be easy. The key is for the Democratic Party to adopt the following, or something like it, into our party platform:

There is a war between civilization and the political-religious movement usually called Islamism or Islamo-fascism (not Islam). We didn't seek this conflict, but we cannot avoid it.

While not the only issue facing America, this war is the single most important issue of our generation.

We must unequivocally win this war, however long it takes.

This would be a liberal platform plank, because liberal democracies have an obligation to defend themselves against and defeat the darkest, most illiberal force in the world today. As we led the war against fascism in 1940s, the Democratic Party could and should lead this fight. A Democratic Party that took seriously the war against Islamism would do a better job of defeating it than the current administration.

Such a Democratic Party would realize that the war of ideas matters as much as the clash of arms: There are Muslims who can be persuaded, not bullied, to support liberalization.

We would be more consistent in supporting Muslim liberal democrats, who are everywhere ready to move their societies towards freedom.

We would insist that elections are the end, not the beginning, of democratization: A free press, an independent judiciary and a bureaucracy purged of corruption are among the preconditions of a successful transition to genuine democracy.

We would do more to make America energy-independent, uprooting the influence of Middle East dictators over America.

We wouldn't claim to be enhancing homeland security while consistently failing to appropriate the funds necessary to protect our ports, nuclear facilities and borders.

But before we can differentiate our approach from Bush's, the Democratic Party must establish its bona fides with the above three-point plank. If Democrats said: “President Bush is botching the war against Islamism; we can do better,” we would begin to earn some credibility. Instead, we're obsessed with getting out of Iraq, not with winning.

Under pressure from the party's activists, the main quarrel among congressional Democrats appears to be whether to set a firm deadline and leave as soon as possible, or a flexible deadline and leave as soon as “reasonably” possible. Either way, it's a losing proposition with 9-11 Republicans.

They understand that the Iraq war is not a senseless blunder — it is the principle battlefield of a global war against us. It may be that Saddam Hussein didn't have WMD when we invaded, but President Bush didn't “lie” about it. Democrats and Republicans alike believed that Saddam had them, and there is no doubt that Saddam had maintained the infrastructure to resume production of WMD as soon as sanctions were lifted.

The claim that Saddam had nothing to do with Islamist terror because his regime was secular is equally foolish. It simply disregards the facts, from financial support for families of Palestinian suicide-murderers to meetings with al-Qaida agents. It's rather like saying there was no Hitler-Stalin pact, because there couldn't have been one; after all, Nazis and Communists were enemies who could have no common interests.

Nor is Iraq a quagmire. Bush has made many mistakes, but there has never in history been an error-free war. The battle for Iraq and the war against Islamism are winnable, if we are patient and steady.

Thus, on the one hand we have a party that is trying to win the war against Islamism, however ineptly. And on the other hand we have a party whose 2004 presidential candidate said, “We have to get back to the place we were, where terrorists are not the focus of our lives, but they're a nuisance.” In short, a party that is serious about this war, and one that is not serious.

Amending the party platform as I have proposed — and meaning it — would recapture some defectors, but would alienate most of the current Democratic activist “base.” Fine. Today, the party's loudest voices are damaging the party.

The party's left wing defeated Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman in the Democratic primary over the single issue of his support for the war. Despite Lieberman's lifelong record of sensible liberalism, agreeing with Bush on national security was an unforgivable sin for the “netroots.” These are people who apparently believe that Bush is more to be feared than Osama bin Laden and his followers.

The party would benefit if such people would be more quiet, or just go away.

After all, the Democratic Party as a whole is more centrist than its leftist activists. For example, a 2005 Penn, Schoen and Berland poll shows that only 27 percent of registered Democrats describe themselves as “liberal,” while almost twice as many — 53 percent — consider themselves “moderate.” (The remainder are “conservative.”) These centrist folks, the weight of the party, need to become its dominant voice again.

If not, the Democratic Party can expect to lose my sister, and national elections, for the foreseeable future.

Paul Kujawsky is a member of the California Democratic Party Central Committee.

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