Is a new breeze really blowing through the Democratic Party these days? U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) would like you to think so.
In a little-reported interview with Wall Street Journal writer Kimberly Strassel, Schumer detailed how he helped unseat Pennsylvania's conservative stalwart, Rick Santorum. "I thought Santorum was the most vulnerable of all the incumbent Republicans because he was out of touch with Pennsylvania. And I called Governor [Ed] Rendell and I said, 'Who is the best candidate?' . . . And he said, 'Only one person can beat [Santorum]-but (a) he doesn't want to run and (b) you wouldn't want him to run if he did.' Well, I said, 'If he's the only one who can beat him, why wouldn't I want him to run?' And he said, 'Because he's pro-life.'"
"Mr. Schumer pauses here," the newspaper's reporter notes, "to make sure the next part is clear."
"I said, 'Governor, the days are over when a Democrat has to check 28 boxes before they get our support.' So we actively recruited him, and once he entered the race, he was never behind."
The reporter adds: "The New Yorker, here, looks pleased as punch." Indeed, she points out, it was Schumer's recruitment of similarly "moderate" candidates that enabled his party to retake control of the Senate. "They'd have to run the table to do that," experts had skeptically observed before the election. The Democrats ran the table.
A huge question, of course, remains. When Schumer says the 28-point litmus test "no longer" applies for Democratic candidates (the "no longer" implicitly acknowledges such a test was in play at some point), some of us would like to know just exactly why the test was set aside. Is there (a) genuinely now more space within the Democratic Party? Have the party honchos learned from their declining fortunes over the last decade or two and concluded their tent should be enlarged, a debate permitted on issues like abortion, and the electoral base expanded?
Or (b) was the whole motivation simply to get Santorum out of the way-a "win-at-all-costs" maneuver that included temporary acceptance of a utilitarian and sacrificial pro-lifer? Now that Bob Casey has been elected as Pennsylvania's junior senator, should he expect to be muffled if he ever dares to speak out on the abortion issue-just as his father was pointedly and blatantly prevented from speaking at the 1996 and 2000 Democratic national conventions?
Democrats, of course, are hardly the only professional politicians with a gift for welcoming people with minority views to the table-only to discard them when they're no longer needed. Many folks within evangelical Christianity feel almost as much abused by the leadership of the Republican Party. And part of the reason for the GOP failure on Nov. 7 was, without a doubt, the sense of betrayal so many felt at the hands of their party leaders.
But it's understandable if those same people hold to a double dose of wariness toward people like Chuck Schumer. For Schumer and his colleagues have tended, ever since Republicans assumed leadership of Congress, to walk in lock-step loyalty to such radical liberal causes as NOW and NARAL (on abortion issues), the NEA (on education issues), and the AFL-CIO (on labor and economic issues). And, of course, they regularly voted against any important judicial nominations-just because they came from a Republican president. While Republicans embarrassed themselves for their inability to demonstrate unity of any kind, Democrats should have been embarrassed to be so intent on unity they couldn't afford to let any within their party enjoy freedom to think for themselves.
So maybe, in good Ronald Reagan style, we should "trust, but verify." What could be better for any minority group than to have both major parties competing for our involvement and support?
But, hey. This verification business might not have to go on too long to learn all that we need to know. Take Bob Casey, for example. Less than a week after defeating Rick Santorum, the new senator was explaining how he would be giving his support to an "Employment Non-Discrimination Act" that would add sexual orientation to federal civil-rights employment laws.
The skeptics say it all boils down to choosing between which party you'd rather have snooker you. Christian citizens should never get that cynical. But neither should we be as gullible as Chuck Schumer seems to assume we are.