"…Democrats have chosen Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi to replace Dick Gephardt as Minority Leader…Could it be that Democrats are really that out-of-touch with the American people?" WARNING: SHARP LEFT TURN AHEAD

President Bush triumphed in last week's midterm elections. His party recaptured control of the United States Senate and strengthened its majority in the House of Representatives, a feat of historic proportions that has Democrats still pondering the question, "What went wrong?"

Despite the recriminations and finger pointing, the Democratic Party is now searching for new direction and "fresh ideas" as it gears up for the 2004 elections. (The "fresh ideas" of Walter Mondale and the obstructionist styles of Teddy Kennedy and Tom Daschle just didn't cut it.)

According to some of the party's more astute members, Democrats are in dire need of somebody, or somebodies, who can expand the party's appeal and put forth an agenda to "compete" with that of the popular president -- a tall order now the politics of the people has officially moved to the center, or dare we say, is "progressively" moving right of center.

Yet, Democrats have chosen Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi to replace Dick Gephardt as Minority Leader in the House of Representatives. Could it be that Democrats are really that out-of-touch with the American people?

Pelosi is an unapologetic liberal whose politics -- even before the midterm elections -- starkly contrasts with the country's mainstream, regardless of party affiliation. In all fairness, no one can fault her for that. Being from San Francisco, she represents one of the most liberal constituencies in the country. To put that reality into perspective, Al Gore won her district with 61 percent of the vote. President Bush finished a mere seven percentage points ahead of Ralph Nadar.

Pelosi's voting record speaks for itself. On economic issues, she is adamantly opposed to the Bush tax cut, and since its passage, the Minority Leader-to-be has worked to reverse it. In fact, we couldn't find one example in the 16 years Pelosi has served in Congress that she's supported taxpayer relief.

On social issues, Pelosi has pushed for substantial increases in taxpayer-funded social programs. Among the things she's advocated are federally subsidized needle-exchange programs for drug addicts and expanded welfare benefits for immigrants, stances that many in her own party have criticized for being too liberal.

On national security and defense issues, Pelosi has long pushed for drastic cuts in military spending, and recently bucked her party's leadership to vote against the resolution for use of force in Iraq. Not surprisingly, in 1991 she voted against the Gulf War resolution. So did many of her colleagues, but none based their opposition to the war on environmental concerns. "While we are gravely concerned about the loss of life from combat in the Persian Gulf War, environmental consequences of the war are as important to the people there as the air they breathe and the water they drink," Pelosi stated on the House floor.

In politics, as in life, you are defined by the company you keep. Pelosi has long been a leader of the House "Progressive Caucus" and a member of its executive committee. The Progressive Caucus espouses the principles of Socialism and, in fact, has reportedly signed onto the agenda of Socialist International. According to nationally syndicated columnist Balint Vazsonyi, the caucus was formed some years ago when 58 members of the House of Representatives formed a subdivision of Democratic Socialists of America (DSA/USA), the U.S. arm of Socialist International. WorldNetDaily reports that until just a few years ago the caucus' website was hosted by DSA/USA. One of Pelosi's closest allies in the House of Representatives is Vermont Independent Bernie Sanders, a fellow leader of the Progressive Caucus and the only member of Congress openly professing to be a socialist.

Representative Pelosi is an extraordinary fundraiser, one of the best the Democrats have ever had. She raised more than $7 million dollars for her colleagues this past election cycle. But, despite supporting the McCain-Feingold/Shays-Meehan Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (BCRA), which subverts First Amendment rights and places strict restrictions on the evil money that's created the "appearance of corruption," Pelosi has played fast and loose with her own fundraising practices.

Less than a month ago, then-Minority Whip Pelosi made headlines for her twin leadership PACs, used to circumvent limits on campaign contributions. While the PACs -- working suspiciously close to one another -- enabled her to raise twice the amount of money, they violated the Federal Election Commission's (FEC) "affiliation rules." When questioned, Leo McCarthy, the treasurer of both PACs, claimed he had received approval from the FEC for the creation of the joint committees. That claim turned out to be untrue, as the FEC has no record of having given Pelosi or McCarthy an opinion. One of the PACs was immediately dissolved. (It's still unclear what happened to all the money that was raised and distributed illegally.)

It also remains unclear if Pelosi's ascension to the top leadership post in the House will "save" the Democratic Party. Odds are against it and, in fact, the new Minority Leader is likely to do more harm than good for the party's future. There is already dissention among the ranks, as many Democrats believe her leadership will force them to govern from the fringe, further polarizing the American electorate. She will definitely energize the base, but as for those swing voters -- the ones who determine outcomes of elections -- Democrats can likely kiss them goodbye. Maybe they'll get lucky, as Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle could monopolize the media spotlight. (Although that didn't work this go-around.) Maybe the Democratic presidential hopefuls will steal the spotlight. (It's hard to believe that the combination of John Kerry, Al Gore and John Edwards will be any more appealing than Daschle.)

Could it be that Democrats are really that out-of-touch with the American people? Their choice in Pelosi over more moderate and populist Representatives Martin Frost (D-TX) and Harold Ford (D-TN) as the new Minority leader would appear to confirm it.

The age of the "New Democrat" is over and the job of the moderate "Blue Dogs," who promised to reform the party, just got tougher. As Vazsonyi wrote in the Washington Times, "If the moment has come when the Democratic Party sees no other way 'to be different' except by embracing socialism, that is a sad day for all Americans."

November 14, 2002
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