See Y'All in New York
Why I skipped the Boston convention.
BY ZELL MILLER Saturday, July 31, 2004 12:01 a.m. EDT
Twelve years ago, I delivered one of the keynote addresses on the first night at the Democratic National Convention in New York. It was a stinging rebuke of the administration of George H.W. Bush and a ringing endorsement of Bill Clinton. This summer I'll again be speaking in New York, but it will be to the Republican Convention that renominates George W. Bush.
Many have asked how I could have come so far in just over a decade. Frankly, I don't think I've changed much at all. At 72, I don't feel much need to change my opinions. Instead, the reason I didn't attend the Democratic Convention in Boston is that I barely recognize my party anymore. Most of its leaders--including our nominee, John Kerry--don't hold the same beliefs that have motivated my career in public service.
In 1992, I spoke of the opportunity and hope that allowed me, the son of a single mother growing up in the North Georgia mountains, to become my state's governor. And I attributed much of my success to the great Democratic presidents of years gone by--FDR (a hallowed man in my home), Truman and JFK. The link these men shared was a commitment to helping Americans born into any condition rise to achieve whatever goal they set for themselves.
I spoke of Americans who were "tired of paying more in taxes and getting less in services." I excoriated Republicans who "dealt in cynicism and skepticism." I accused them of mastering "the art of division and diversion." And I praised Bill Clinton as a moderate Democrat "who has the courage to tell some of those liberals who think welfare should continue forever, and some of those conservatives who think there should be no welfare at all, that they're both wrong."
Bill Clinton did deliver on welfare reform, after a lot of prodding from the Republicans who took hold of Congress in 1995. But much of the rest of the promise I saw in his candidacy withered during his two terms in office.
Today, it's the Democratic Party that has mastered the art of division and diversion. To run for president as a Democrat these days you have to go from interest group to interest group, cap in hand, asking for the support of liberal kingmakers. Mr. Kerry is no different. After Hollywood elites profaned the president, he didn't have the courage to put them in their place. Instead, he validated their remarks, claiming that they represent "the heart and soul of America."
No longer the party of hope, today's Democratic Party has become Mr. Kerry's many mansions of cynicism and skepticism. As our economy continues to get better and businesses add jobs, Mr. Kerry's going around America trying to convince people that the roof is about to cave in. He talks about "the misery index" and the Depression. What does he know about either?
And when it comes to taxes and services, you'd be pressed to find anyone more opposed to the interests of middle-class Americans than John Kerry. Except maybe John Edwards. Both voted against tax relief for married couples, tax relief for families with children, and tax relief for small businesses. Now Mr. Kerry wants to raise taxes on hundreds of thousands of small-business owners and millions of individuals. He claims to be for working people, but I don't understand how small businesses can create jobs if they've got to send more money to Washington instead of keeping it to hire workers.
Worst of all, Sens. Kerry and Edwards have not kept faith with the men and women who are fighting the war on terror--most of whom come from small towns and middle-class families all over America. While Mr. Bush has stood by our troops every step of the way, Messrs. Kerry and Edwards voted to send our troops to war and then voted against the money to give them supplies and equipment--not to mention better benefits for their families. And recently Mr. Kerry even said he's proud of that vote. Proud to abandon our troops when they're out in the field? I can hear Harry Truman cussing from his grave.
I still believe in hope and opportunity and, when it comes right down to it, Mr. Bush is the man who represents hope and opportunity. Hope for a safer world. And opportunity for Americans to work hard, keep more of the money they earn, and send their kids to good schools. All the speeches we heard this week weren't able to hide the truth of what today's Democratic Party has become: an enclave of elites paying lip service to middle-class values. Americans looking for a president who understands their struggles and their dreams should tune in next month, when we celebrate the leadership of George W. Bush.
Mr. Miller is a Democratic senator from Georgia.