February 23, 2005


Breaking the grip of secular fundamentalists (Steve and Cokie Roberts, Feb 21, 2005, Jewish World Review)

Democrat Tim Roemer won a Congressional seat in a Republican state, Indiana. As a member of the 9/11 Commission, he had strong credentials on fighting terrorism. Yet his bid for the chairmanship of the Democratic National Committee went nowhere, and for one reason: as a practicing Catholic, he opposes abortion in most cases.

"It was a very difficult mountain to climb from the beginning, and people tried to hang a radioactive anvil around my neck on abortion," says Roemer. "They threw a couple of kitchen sinks and then some at us, with phone banks and mailings and efforts to derail the candidacy just based on that one issue."

Instead, the new chairman is Howard Dean — a favorite of pro-choice activists, and a leader of what evangelical Christian writer Jim Wallis calls the "secular fundamentalist" wing of the Democratic Party.

Which choice made more sense for a minority party that's lost control of every branch of government? A man of faith who doesn't need a visa to visit Red State America? Or a classic Northeastern intellectual who said, during his failed bid for the 2004 Democratic nomination, that he had just discovered that Southern voters take religion seriously?

From any practical perspective, Roemer was the better option, but the abortion rights lobby was simply too powerful.

Wing? Secular fundamentalism is the raison d'etre of today's Democratic Party.

Posted by Orrin Judd at February 23, 2005 12:33 PM

OK then, lets play metaphor. The Dems are the doughnut party; all fringe, nothing at the center, and fried.

Posted by: Luciferous at February 23, 2005 1:04 PM

No, cops like doughnuts.

Posted by: oj at February 23, 2005 1:11 PM

Being a member of the 9/11 Commission qualifies no one with terrorism "credentials".

The main activity of the Commission was spreading any blame so thin that no serious questions were addressed. Roemer certainly was not culpable (like Jamie Gorelick or, to a lesser degree, Lee Hamilton and Bob Kerrey), but terrorism just isn't (wasn't) a sexy political issue. The 9/11 Commission served basically one constituency: the families, who have always been slavered over by the media (when they dissed President Bush).

Had a building in Atlanta or New Orleans or Memphis or Miami been hit (instead of NY), the families would never have become such a constituency, and the media would never have granted them infallible status.

Posted by: jim hamlen at February 23, 2005 1:48 PM

I find the distaff side of who wrote this column to be as interesting as the column itself. Given the longtime Democratic Party ties Cokie's side of the family has (let alone her NPR and ABC past), this is a pretty sharp rebuke of the incluseiveness of the party as it stands today. Of course, if Hale was still alive and wanted to remain in Congress representing Louisiana nowadays, he'd have to seriously think about switching parties to stay viable.

Posted by: John at February 23, 2005 1:55 PM

If the doughnut metaphor doesn't work because cops like them, how about the "Space Shuttle Challenger O-Ring Party?" Nobody likes those, and they're also hollow and fried.

Posted by: Governor Breck at February 23, 2005 2:03 PM

And it took a genius to figure out how they'd gone so wrong, even though it was quite simple.

Posted by: oj at February 23, 2005 2:08 PM


You are close but no cigar. Tim Roemer is the son-in-law of former Louisiana Senator J. Bennett Johnston, who was such an electoral powerhouse he nearly lost his seat to David Duke. But more importantly, Cokie Roberts is the daughter of former Congress-critters Hale and Lindy Boggs and the brother of uber-bagman(ahem, lobbyist) Tommy Boggs, and, as such, is concerned that the Dems are going to be on the outside looking in for the foreseeable future, or that if they should somehow win control again that her crowd of Louisiana boodlers, cheats, swindlers and con men would still be powerless. No luxury box for those Redskin games, no power table at Morton's. Just muttering softly in your flagon of ale at the Renaissance Weekend. Life can be pretty rough when you have no clout.

Politics is a winner-take-all game and if you are the loser in elections, you have no power. I was trying to figure out who would be backing Roemer other than the K Street slime, and it turns out the relatives of the K Street slime were his only other base. Hence, his ignominious defeat to the buffoonish doctor.

Posted by: Bart at February 24, 2005 7:15 AM