In Defense of Zell Miller
Recently I was reading comments for a post at Colonel Tom Carter's blog that dealt with political labels and the branding of 'liberal' or 'conservative'. One of the readers commented that he was astounded at the 'fans of Zell Miller'. After all, he said, didn't Zell Miller once give a glowing introduction of the very same John Kerry before he lambasted him at the Republican convention? Wasn't that the ultimate 'flip-flop', he asked?
Let me be clear: I am not a 'fan' of Zell Miller. I am a 'fan' of the Pittsburgh Steelers. I was four years old watching a football game, the first I can remember watching. One of the teams had a sticker on only one side of their helmets. At the age of four, this amused me. And so, for 34 years, I have been a 'fan' of the Pittsburgh Steelers. I am decidedly not a 'fan' of Zell Miller. I respect Zell Miller. In many ways I even admire Zell Miller. Zell Miller leaves me felling that we could enter a room to discuss only what we disagree on and we would still be able to leave that room without wanting to rip each other's eye-teeth out.
Now, at first glance one would tend to agree with the assertion that Zell Miller himself 'flip-flopped'. However, has the commenter ever heard him speak directly to that issue and cite his own previous words for Senator Kerry that the commenter referenced?
To try and keep this comment brief enough to maintain readability, I will try my best to judiciously summarize. (On second thought, this is gonna take some 'splainin' and there are no shortcuts. Sorry...but stick with me here.)
Zell's words for Kerry that the commenter cited have several circumstances surrounding them, not the least of which was that he was a newly appointed (not elected) replacement Senator in Georgia. Not that he was a new politician. He was after all governor of Georgia. But he was new to the DC Dog and Pony Show. He had always been a 'good Democrat', as he puts it. To him, that meant (among other things) that you disagree privately amongst your own party and support each other once the doors open. He did not particularly know Kerry very well, or at least not nearly as well as he did once Kerry became more assertive in his positioning as a potential Presidential candidate.
Zell did what he figured a 'good Democrat' should do. Support him, as he is a member of your own party. But soon after came a point of critical mass and as his time in Washington DC wore on, he began to realize just how much of a real 'Dog and Pony Show' it really was...camera time, mike time, face time, back biting, self interest...all of which he knew were part of the atmosphere, but the degree to which he saw it astounded him. Say anything, do anything to get the sound bite out there and worry about the details some other time. But get the dig in for effect. This he saw going on on both sides, mind you, not just within his own party.
But let me ask you something: Two men are cheating on their wives. One is your friend, one is your brother. Which one saddens, angers or hurts you the most? Your brother, of course. He is your family and you expect more from family.
That's how Zell Miller saw it.
Now that in itself did not alone push him to write his book, A National Party No More, nor to speak at the Republican convention. One could argue it was National Security and Zell's perception that his party had abandon its responsibilities on that issue for sake of opposing the president (a view I would agree with). One could also argue it was the venomous fury they employed opposing anything and everything the president said, did or supported for sake of opposing him regardless of the merits. I would suggest that those ancillary views would be myopic and largely miss the mark.
The fact of the matter is simple.
It wasn't too long ago (relative, depending on your age) that the Republican and Democrat parties were really not all that far apart. They were close enough that they could disagree and debate issues and usually find some sort of middle ground to meet at and accept the outcome.
Truth be told, the Republican party has drifted leftwards toward the center and has for years. But this is a natural reaction to a Democrat party that has been, in a crescendo fashion, building to a sprint off the left-most regions of the charts over those same many years. (One could make the parallel arguement here that as a result, many conservatives feel under-represented, but that is another discussion for another day.)
Please note here that I have said 'parties'. I mean 'parties'. I am in no way suggesting that the American public has followed the trend of the political 'party' leadership. For certain, the voting Democrat public largely has decidedly not moved with the party leadership. And that in a nutshell is what drove Zell Miller to write his book and make that speech at the Republican convention.
Zell is one of those vast majority of Democrats who have never moved, but continued to support their party. The top leadership of the party has been dragging the platform and rhetoric so far to the left that it is barely recognizable as what used to be the Democrat party. The voting base has never really moved. We Americans are what we have always been. But the move of the party so far to the left has put a tremendous strain on itself and, as a result, a great many long-time Democrat voters no longer recognize the party line as consistent with the way they actually live their individual lives.
...and the base becomes porous...danger lurks for the leadership.
Do you realize that if the constant drumbeat of anger from the Democrat leadership and the largely leftist-dominated media tandem had not been able to promote and stoke the fires of hatred (and I mean hatred) for President Bush that no one would have shown up to vote for the Democrat candidate? Pick any of them that ran...don't settle for Kerry. Replace him with whom you choose. Without the hatred, there's no incentive. Nothing to vote for. Nothing else for the party faithful to identify with.
The press and the party will have you believe that the Democrat candidate was a dud or that no sitting wartime president ever loses. Or that evangelicals came out in droves to vote for 'values'. (Where are these 'droves'? How many 'evangelicals' do you know?)
They would have you believe anything and everything but what they themselves are closing their eyes to...and Zell sees it as clearly as I do: The Democrat party has taken a sharp left turn while the Democrat voters have remained right where they have always been...and this strains their system.
You can load up all of the sand in California and move it inland 150 miles. Some may be proud of such a feat and still call it the beach, but after a while its just a pile of sand out of place. But the ocean is where the ocean is.
The beach lies at the edge of the ocean. The ocean does not lie at the edge of the beach.