The political party that is forever lecturing Republicans on the need to reform themselves lest they go the way of Tyrannosaurus rex is now in danger of becoming at one with Tyrannosaurus rex.
The Democratic Party’s alarmed potentates met over the weekend having finally noticed that the autumn elections did not go so well for them after all. Some have speculated on change, change not for their Republican opponents. Change for them, the Democrats.
Some Democrats less stupefied by ideological rigorism noted that Bernie Sanders might not be the wave of the future. Crazy Bernie’s socialism is not in the cards for a winning political party here in these United States. Nor is defunding the police, nor packing the U.S. Supreme Court, nor replacing the internal combustion engine with sails or steam engines or putting cornflakes in your fuel tank. The American people have tired of witless calls for change.
Maybe it is time for the Democrats to listen to those closer to the center than to Congressgirl Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and her squad of harpies. By the way, does the term “squad” not bring to mind violence? Was not violence what we experienced in Washington on Jan. 6? I think the American people have made their views very clear on the Jan. 6 riot. My suggestion to Democrats is that they give violence a wide berth.
The Republicans are not embracing the Proud Boys on their right. I would suggest the Democrats keep the Antifa and adepts of Black Lives Matter at arm’s-length, too. The same goes for a group of left-wing extremists who travel in a squad on Capitol Hill. The term puts many of us in mind of young Germans who once traveled in groups wearing Brownshirts.
There was in the Democratic Party a strain of thought that once provided renewal to the old boss-ridden party in Northern cities and to Democrats in the one-party South. It was called the reform movement. It was particularly strong in the North. The reformers centered around political people like Eleanor Roosevelt, Harry Hopkins and Harold Ickes. It got journalistic support from the Muckrakers, people like Upton Sinclair, Lincoln Steffens and Ida M. Tarbell.
Until recent years, people like Ralph Nader and Charlie Peters carried its tattered banner. That so few names spring to mind now suggests how in need of a resurgence of the reform movement is. Would-be reformers that are active today waste their time on the easy targets, such as the NRA and on hopeless causes. Once again the NRA comes to mind. Today’s would-be reformers ought to spend their time where their reforming impulse is really needed. They ought to spend it trying to reform the Democratic Party.
Actually, it sounds like President Biden might have nominated a straggler from all that is left in the reform wing of the Democratic Party. I am speaking of Merrick B. Garland whom Mr. Biden has nominated to be attorney general. In temperament, values and knowledge of the law, he could be a valuable aid in cleaning up the Democratic Party or at least suggesting the direction the party might be headed.
For starters, he is a centrist, and for a certitude the Democratic Party ought to start at the center and eschew the extremist course Congressgirl Ocasio-Cortez and Crazy Bernie want it to follow. The Bronx is not where mainstream America can be found.
Judge Garland’s career as a prosecutor was established in the 1990s prosecuting domestic terrorism cases. He is known to have taken a personal interest in the Oklahoma City bombing. It was the worst domestic terrorism case in American history. It involved a madman, Timothy McVeigh, driving up to the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City and detonating a 7,000-pound bomb.
It killed 168 people. Judge Garland was sent from the Department of Justice in Washington to prosecute the case. Every day that Judge Garland inspected the enormous damage to the building he wore a coat and tie. Judge Garland dressed formally, he said, to show his respect for the Oklahoma community that had lost so much.
He noted that when he observed McVeigh he noticed an extraordinary coldness in the man. Thanks to the judge’s work McVeigh was executed — coldness and all — by lethal injection in Terre Haute, Indiana, in 2001. The judge also played a major role in the prosecution of the Unabomber, Theodore Kaczynski, and the bombing at the Atlanta Olympics in 1996.
He has affirmed his intent to prosecute domestic terror if he becomes the next attorney general. He sounds to me like the kind of Democrat that Mr. Biden could use at his side. All indications are that domestic terrorism is a major threat to America, and it is coming from both ends of the spectrum. My guess is that an appointment like this will not be an appointment for defunding the police or any of the other silliness urged by the Democrats’ left. It might be an appointment that will begin to revive the reform movement in the Democratic Party.
• R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr. is founder and editor in chief of The American Spectator. He is the author most recently of “The Death of Liberalism,” published by Thomas Nelson Inc.
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