What’s the matter with the Democrats?

The radicalization of the Democratic Party occurred under the rules adopted by the McGovern-Fraser Commission in the aftermath of the Democrats’ disastrous 1968 convention in Chicago and culminated in the nomination of George McGovern as the Democratic presidential nominee in 1972. In Party of Defeat, the invaluable new book by David Horowitz and Ben Johnson, the authors date the dissolution of bipartisan unity over support for the war effort in Vietnam to the presidential campaign of 1972, by which time both parties had concluded that military victory was no longer politically possible.

I slightly disagree with Horowitz and Johnson only on the dating of the transformation of the Democratic Party into the party of defeat. The inauguration of Richard Nixon in January 1969 unleashed the forces of defeat within the heart of of the Democratic Party. Such establishment Democrats as then-Senator Walter Mondale, who had dutifully supported Lyndon Johnson’s war, felt free to betray their own war once Nixon was responsible for it, or for acquitting America’s role in it with honor.

Mondale of course went on to be tapped by Jimmy Carter as his running mate in 1976. Carter’s foreign policy essentially incorporated the McGovernite foreign policy agenda until the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in December 1979, but not before it paved the way for the removal of the Shah and the installation of Khomeni in Iran. Andrew Young, the Carter-appointed United States Ambassador to the United Nations, described Khomeini as “some kind of saint.”

As Matthias Küntzel recalls, Young was not alone in his disposition toward Khomeni. Carter administration National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski was also favorably disposed toward Khomeni, since he seemed to Brzezinski to represent an effective barrier against Soviet influence. “We can get along with Khomeini!” was the motto in that summer of 1979. We contend with the consequences even today.

Quoted by Horowitz and Johnson, Democrat Daniel Patrick Moynihan provided the most trenchant critique of Jimmy Carter’s foreign policy. Moynihan said of Carter in 1980: “Unable to distinguish between our friends and our enemies, he has essentially adopted our enemies’ view of the world.”

A relatively straight line runs from George McGovern to Jimmy Carter to Barack Obama. Like George McGovern, Barack Obama staked his candidacy on the purity of his opposition to the war in which we are engaged. Like McGovern, his avowed policies would guarantee defeat. Like Jimmy Carter, he has essentially adopted our enemies’ view of the world.

Tonight Jimmy Carter is scheduled to address the Democratic Convention. As I recall, Bill Clinton had the sagacity to keep Carter off the podium in 1992 and 1996, as did Al Gore in 2000, though Gore provided for a ceremony honoring Carter at the 2000 convention. Picking up the mantle of the party of defeat, John Kerry hauled Carter out of mothballs to address the Democratic convention in 2004. Tonight as Barack Obama calls him back for an encore, Carter stands as an apt symbol of the follies of a bygone era that Obama now seeks to update and repeat.

UUPDATE: Amir Taheri demonstrates that Joe Biden fits right into the picture I sketch here.

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