April 13, 2011
The Radically Confused Harry ReidBy Ed Kaitz
Commenting on the budget impasse recently, Senate leader Harry Reid decided to offer unsteady Republican leaders the benefit of his political wisdom. Reid repeatedly warned Republicans that -- for America's sake -- they can no longer be dragged into highly dangerous and irrational territory by the "radical and unpopular" Tea Party faction:
Indeed, according to the New York Times, marching orders were issued earlier that week by Reid's colleague Senator Chuck Schumer when Schumer advised fellow Democrats during a conference call to depict Republicans as being both "extreme" and "painted into a box by the Tea Party." According to the NY Times report:
In our present political context, resting the definition of terms like "radical" and "extreme" on the specious designs of politicians like Reid and Schumer will prove extremely harmful to America. What Americans need, in other words, is a more astute and trustworthy standard of "extreme" and "radical" in order to make judgments about the Democrats' highly volatile rhetoric.
In order to determine what is and isn't "radical" in today's context, Americans need look no farther than the very precise standard outlined by America's most important Founding Father: James Madison. In other words, without Madison's political and philosophical genius, the world would never have known the existence of what history now calls "American exceptionalism."
Most of Madison's truly exceptional thinking concerning the idea of America is contained in the Federalist Papers. The abridged version of this monumental work is a beautifully crafted seven-page essay that serves as the philosophical nucleus: Federalist #10. And while Federalist #10 touches upon politics, philosophy, history, human nature, economics, and even geography, the essay concludes with a rather stern warning about America's future radicals.
"Factious leaders," says Madison, will attempt to inflame the country with their "wicked projects" from time to time, but thanks to a healthy number of opposing factions, the radicals will have trouble pervading the entire Republic with their malignant ideas:
Simply put, "a rage for paper money" (inflationary government spending, among other things), "an abolition of debts" (federal bailouts), and "an equal division of property" (federal redistribution programs masquerading as nationalized "health care") constitute the bread and butter of the modern Democrat Party platform.
Indeed, it could be argued from Madison's point of view that the most strikingly radical perspective on American politics in the last decade surfaced quite unexpectedly during a radio interview in 2001 with a certain Illinois state senator named Barack Obama. Mr. Obama argued that although the Warren Court during the Civil Rights era was portrayed as somewhat "radical," the Court really wasn't radical enough since it did not venture into "the issues of redistribution of wealth" in our society:
According to Mr. Obama's definition of "radical," then, the contemporary Tea Party should be considered pretty boring since they merely defend the "essential constraints" and "negative liberty" tradition of the Founding Fathers. Harry Reid and other Democrats of the "federal government must do on your behalf" persuasion should constitute America's true extremists and radicals. Does Harry Reid think he's smarter than Barack Obama?
On another radio program back in 1936, former Democrat presidential candidate Al Smith sent a bracing message to Americans about certain radicals who had hijacked his own party and set out to undermine what Mr. Obama later called the "essential constraints" and "negative liberty" tradition of the Founding Fathers: "Let me say that it is not the first time in recorded history that a group of men have stolen the livery of the Church to do the work of the devil."
In other words, Smith argued that FDR's administration claimed the mantle of the party of Jefferson and then deviously went on to build "vast new bureaus of government, draining resources of our people in a common pool of redistributing them, not by any process of law, but by the whim of a bureaucratic autocracy."
For Smith, then, if the young "Brain Trusters" who represented the intellectual force behind FDR's massive bureaucratic autocracy "want to disguise themselves as Norman Thomas or Karl Marx or Lenin," then that's fine. What Smith would not stand for, however, was for these budding socialist radicals to call themselves Democrats.
Half a century after Al Smith's famous speech, former radical revolutionary and Black Panther Eldridge Cleaver claimed that the modern American left has become "so ideologically attached to anti-Americanism and pro-communism and Third Worldism that I believe that we have a problem on our hands."
When asked in an interview about how to solve the problem of poverty, Cleaver responded that in the long run, "it would have to be the private sector":
Reflecting on his turbulent past and on his subsequent split from his radical socialist colleagues, Cleaver said, "I had a great burning desire to help enlarge human freedom and no desire at all to increase human misery or totalitarianism."
In other words, Senator Reid, the former "radical" Eldridge Cleaver became -- like Al Smith and James Madison before him -- just another harmless and ho-hum American of the Tea Party variety.
For some insight into what really constitutes an unrealistic, unreasonable, unpopular, and radical faction in contemporary politics, perhaps Senator Reid should start by taking a close look at those pulling from the left in his own political party.