Zell Miller: Why I Skipped the Boston Convention

Zell Miller explains how he went from being a keynote speaker at the 1992 Democratic National Convention to skipping the 2004 convention and being a featured speaker at its Republican counterpart.

n 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.

This is an interesting point. Clinton earned the antipathy of Republicans for a wide variety of reasons, none of them having to do with his ideology. Indeed, many Democrats viewed Clinton as many Republicans do his successor: someone who didn’t stand for the core values of his party.

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.”

Again, this is in stark contrast to Clinton’s famous Sister Souljah moment. Had Kerry rebuked Whoopi Goldberg’s vulgarities, he would have probably gained 5 points in the national polls.

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.

If John Kerry loses in November, it will most likely be that vote that’s to blame. While it’s not technically true that he opposed funding the troops–he favored a smaller alternative measure that excluded 20-odd billion in rebuilding funds–it was a symbolically damaging position to take after having voted to authorize the president to go to war. Indeed, he had said so himself on national television.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2004
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. John "Akatsukami" Braue says:

    Indeed, many Democrats viewed Clinton as many Republicans do his successor: someone who didn’t stand for the core values of his party.

    A telling point. It can be reasonably argued that Clinton:

    1) Ran significantly to the right of the Democrat center of gravity in 1992;
    2) Veered well to the left (back to the Democrat c.o.g) in 1993-1995;
    3) Was sharply repudiated at the polls when the Republicans took control of Congress in 1994, and;
    4) Spent the next six years governing as a moderate Republican in consequence.

    Clinton was not abandoned by the left in 1992, for a variety of reasons, clear and unclear. I’m not sure that Kerry can put off the same trick this year.

  2. McGehee says:

    Clinton earned the antipathy of Republicans for a wide variety of reasons, none of them having to do with his ideology.

    None?

    One word: HillaryCare.