John Kerry has more experience eating duck in fine restaurants than shooting them in the wild. But this week he skipped Spago’s for hunting in camouflages, providing the Bush campaign with a new metaphor to define him — John Kerry, the camouflaged liberal.
As Howard Dean blurted out in the primaries, the Democrats camouflage their liberalism in order to fool conservative Democrats into voting for them. “I still want to be the candidate for guys with Confederate flags in their pickup trucks,” Dean said before the Iowa primary. “We can’t beat George Bush unless we appeal to a broad cross-section of Democrats.”
Since mainstream America finds the symbols of liberalism buffoonish, Democrats have to rely on the symbols of conservatism, even ones they normally disdain. To impress middle America, Kerry is donning all sorts of conservative camouflage, from hunting garb to retrieved war medals to his credentials as a former “prosecutor” and “altar boy.”
It’s as if Kerry, lacking substance of his own, needs the substance of conservatism to form any kind of identity.
If liberalism contained substance, Kerry wouldn’t need conservative disguises to form a winning identity. But liberalism is based on false claims about reality, so it has no substance to it, no power to persuade on its own terms. It is an illusion sustained only through rhetorical tricks and reliance on reassuring conservative images. Were liberalism presented to the American people in all of its irrationality and recklessness, the people would never vote for it. Reckless liberalism has to be dressed up in conservative attire. A chance to erode the Second Amendment, Democrats figure, is worth a duck-hunting trip or two. (Kerry, always getting the wrong end of the stick, interprets the Second Amendment as a recreational perk. He doesn’t want Reagan Democrats to use guns to kill criminals, but he will let them use guns to kill ducks.)
Kerry isn’t afraid that people will fail to see who he is. He is afraid that they will see who he is. Kerry’s disguises and flip-flopping represent his hope that his liberalism in camouflage will sell better than liberalism clearly stated.
Kerry can’t be specific and precise because that would disclose the meaning of his liberalism too starkly. He has to camouflage it in euphemism. He doesn’t say he is for abortion and de facto infanticide, but “for choice.” He doesn’t say he is for embryo-destruction and cloning, but “for science.” He doesn’t say he is for higher taxes but “for fairness.” He doesn’t say he is for socialized medicine but for “a right to health care.” He can’t say he is for homosexual marriage — though everyone know that he is, including his wife who has told liberals “we’ll get there” — so he says he is for “equality.” He can’t say he is for transferring American sovereignty to the United Nations, so he says he is “for respect in the world.”
A gaffe for Kerry occurs not when he misstates his liberalism but when he states it. “Global test” is one of the few honest phrases to come out of Kerry’s mouth in this campaign. His wife’s “real job” gaffe is another rare moment of liberal candor in the race. She revealed what the Democrats had hoped to conceal — the party’s basic contempt for mothers who don’t farm their children out to nannies and take advantage of Clinton’s no-feminist-left-behind bills. Liberalism denies the reality of the sexes, so it can see no “real” value in mothers. But since Americans aren’t enlightened enough in the Democratic view to accept a party that runs on hostility toward mothers, Teresa Kerry will deny what she obviously meant. Like her husband, she has a deep, deep “respect” for people who find “validation” in traditional mores.
Which brings up the most outrageous Kerry camouflage of them all — his sudden respect for God in government. Previously a loud secularist — Kerry feared that acknowledging God would corrupt government and endanger the minority’s rights — he changed his tune as it dawned on him that public atheism couldn’t carry Ohio. Kerry has a pretty good hunch that God is a liberal and Democrat who condones the party’s rewriting of Judeo-Christian morality. God is very important to his public life now, especially as he could lose an election without him.