This material is fresh in my head, as the socialization topic was the subject of my summer school class meeting yesterday. I think about political socialization often in any case, especially my own political transformation over the last few years. Thus, this article by Seth Swirsky at Real Clear Politics yesterday seemed particularly interesting. Here's what he says:
I voted for Al Gore in 2000. When he lost, I was disappointed, mostly in my fellow Democrats for thinking that the election had been "stolen" and in having forgotten their American history. The Electoral College has elected three other Presidents in our history: John Quincy Adams in1824, Rutherford B. Hayes in 1876, and Benjamin Harrison in1888. The rush to judgment by the now conspiracy consumed Left put me off. Where, I asked, were all the "disenfranchised" black voters who would have given Gore a victory in Florida? No one could produce a single name. And how exactly were the voting machines in Ohio "rigged" in 2004? I now refer to the Democrats as the Grassy Knoll party.Swirsky's basically telling my story. I posted some similar comments in my inaugural post here at Burkean Reflections. I voted for every Democratic candidate from 1988 to 2000, and would have voted for Walter Mondale in 1984 had I voted that year. Most likely, September 11 served as my watershed event, working to consolidate a rightward shift in my personal ideological orientation that had building for some years.
Still, I approached the 2004 primaries with an open mind. I was still a Democrat, still hoping that leaders like Sam Nunn and Scoop Jackson would emerge, still fantasizing that Democrats could constitute a party of truly progressive social thinkers with tough backbones who would reappear after 9/11.
I was wrong. The Left got nuttier, more extreme, less contributory to the public debate, more obsessed with their nemesis Bush - and it drove me further away. What Democrat could support Al Gore's '04 choice for President, Howard Dean, when Dean didn't dismiss the suggestion that George W. Bush had something to do with the 9/11 attacks? Or when the second most powerful Senate Democrat, Dick Durbin, thought our behavior at the detention center in Guantanamo was equivalent to Bergen Belsen and the Soviet gulags? Or when Senator Kennedy equated the unfortunate but small incident at Abu Ghraib with Saddam's 40-year record of mass murder, rape rooms, and mass graves saying, "Saddam's torture chambers have reopened under new management, U.S. management"? What Democrat could not applaud the fact that President had, in fact, kept us safe for what's going on 5 years? What Democrat - even those who opposed the decision to go into Iraq - wouldn't applaud the fact that tens of millions of previously brutalized people had the hope of freedom before them?
What made me leave the Left for good and embrace the Right were their respective reactions to 9/11. While The New York Times doubted that we could succeed in Afghanistan because the Soviets in the '80s hadn't, George W. Bush went directly after the Taliban and Al Qaeda and crushed them in short order. Although many on the Left claim to have backed the President's actions, the self-doubt leading up to it, crystallized my view of the Left as weak and terminally lacking in confidence.
I supported President Bush's hard line against the father of modern terrorism, Yasir Arafat, remembering that Bush's predecessor hosted Arafat at the White House 13 times, more often than any other world leader. I applauded Bush's unequivocal support for Israel, which every day faced (and faces) suicide attacks against its people. But I was most disappointed with liberal Jews who don't understand that their very existence is rooted in Israel's existence and that George W. Bush has been the best friend that Israel has ever had. But because they are less Jewish than they are liberal, they didn't reward Bush with their vote in 2004.
Finally, I supported President Bush's decision to oust Saddam and make possible the only democracy (other than Israel) in this crucial region of the Middle East. Post 9/11, we had to figure out a way to lessen the chances of more 9/11s. Democracy is a weapon in that war. If people are free to build businesses, buy homes, send their children to schools, pursue upward mobility, live their lives without fear, read newspapers of every opinion, vote for their leaders, resolve differences with debate and not bombs, they will have no reason to want to harm us.
In response, the Left offered bumper-sticker-type arguments like, Bush lied and thousands died. But Bush never lied. He, like Clinton and Gore and Kerry and the U.N. and the British and French and Israeli intelligence services affirmed that Saddam's WMD were a vital threat - a threat, that post- 9/11, could not stand. An overwhelming number of Democrats voted for the war - but now the Left says they were "scared" into their votes by Bush. What does it say about Democrats if the "dummy" they think Bush is can scare them so easily?
Iraq is the "Normandy" of the War on Terror. The hope, once Iraq and Afghanistan are more stable, is that the nearly 70 million people in Iran will look at those countires (on it's left and right borders) and say: "Why do these people get to vote, send their women to school, and buy Nikes and we don't?" - and then topple their Mullah's dictatorial regime. The President understands the big picture -- that if the U.S. doesn't help to remake that volatile region, we will face a nuclear version of 9/11 within the next two or five or 10 years. He is simply being realistic in his outlook and responsible in his actions. Iraq is succeeding, slowly but surely, but that's not a sexy enough story to lead the news with: the relatively small amount of casualities are. Don't forget, we occupied Germany and Japan for seven years and we still have troops there, more than 60 years after World War II ended.
And what have the Democrats contributed to the war effort since 9/11? Democrat Sen. Russ Feingold has suggested censuring our president; Former President and Vice President Bill Clinton and Al Gore, while visiting foreign countries, have blasted President Bush - acts of unconscionable irresponsibility; Democrat Rep. John Murtha, has invoked a cut-and-run policy in Iraq, supported by Democrat Senate Minority leader Harry Reid and Democrat House Minority leader Nancy Pelosi. Do they think the Middle East and the World would be safer if we had cut and run, as Murtha's plan wanted us to do? Under that plan, our troops would have been out of Iraq by May 18th and al-Zarqawi wouldn't be dead, but pulling the strings in an Iraqi civil war. With these kinds of ideas and behaviors, I just don't trust Democrats when it comes to our national security.
And so, as any reader of this article can well understand, it became impossible for me to relate to the modern Democrat Party which has tacked way too far to the left and is dominated by elites that don't like or trust the real people that make up most of the country.
Although I haven't always agreed with President Bush, I proudly voted for him in 2004 (the only one of the 4-winning Electoral College - elected Presidents to win re-election). And I now fully understand Ronald Reagan's statement, when he described why he switched from being a liberal to a conservative: "I didn't leave the party - It left me!"