Hart’s latest treatise puts Democrats on the spot
November 30, 2006
Former U.S. Sen. Gary Hart, D-Colo., thinks the Democrats, as a party, have lost their ideological rudder and are floundering in a reactionary sea of failed or borrowed ideas.And, he maintains in “The Courage of Our Convictions – A Manifesto for Democrats,” published in September by Times Books/Henry Holt & Co., the only chance the party has to regain the respect, trust and support of voters is to return to its historic roots.The roots to which Democrats must return, Hart declares, are beliefs in “a national community based on social justice and equality for all; restoring popular sovereignty and civic duty in the American republic; new international alliances to respond to the challenges of our time.”These core beliefs, he said, stand in harsh contrast to the mindset of the Republican party, which he condemns as self-serving and favoring military adventurism, inclined toward enriching the already wealthy at the expense of the majority of Americans, and uninterested in providing any kind of social-welfare safety net for the less fortunate.Hart ran in the 1988 presidential race and at one point held a 20-point lead in the field of candidates before being toppled by scandal. He had also entered the 1984 presidential race, but was perceived by many as too much of a centrist until he whipped Walter Mondale in the New Hampshire primary. That was the year Mondale fought back by labeling Hart as lacking substance with the famously borrowed slogan, “Where’s the beef?”
Since 1988, Hart has written furiously, compiling an impressive list of novels and nonfiction works. He also has consulted on national security matters, and is now a professor at the University of Colorado.In this latest book, Hart hammers away at the failure of Democrats to come up with a coherent statement of the party’s basic beliefs and goals, as well as clear programs by which to achieve those goals. He uses the war in Iraq as emblematic of the Bush administration’s failures on many fronts, military as well as social, international as well as domestic.”The Courage of our Convictions” is a slim volume of fewer than 200 pages, a critique of Democrats for their adherence to politics of caution and calculation rather than principle. It is a personal treatise that Hart terms “a work of political exhortation,” long on emotion and an admittedly biased reading of the historical record.But Hart has been in the thick of the battle for some time now, both as a legislator and as a thinker and scholar. It is worth the time it takes to read it, if only to see what is going on with a man that once might have become our president – and could still.