Web Op-Ed: I Used to be a Democrat by David Epstein

By | Aug 15, 2008

By David Epstein

My trajectory from Democrat to Republican had a few curves of my own making. First, I volunteered to work for George McGovern as the 1972 campaign’s Ohio general counsel. I stood behind George McGovern, a brave World War II pilot and mushy foreign policy thinker, simply because he was the lesser evil alongside Richard Nixon.

In 1976, I voted for Jimmy Carter. As President, Carter said we had made bad decisions based on “an inordinate fear of communism.” I traveled in the Soviet Union and its satellites and spoke with the victims of the totalitarian states; my observation was that an inordinate fear of communism is totally warranted.

Later, Carter had a rude awakening when the Soviets invaded Afghanistan, saying, “My opinion of the Russians has changed more drastically in the last week than even the previous two and a half years.” Here was the President of the United States, and he obviously failed to understand the Cold War. Nor could he see that American interests need to be defended when Iranian Islamists attacked American sovereignty by taking the U.S. Embassy in Tehran.

Carter’s United Nation’s Ambassador, Andrew Young, had said that the Ayatollah Khomeini would go down in history as a “saint.” Wrong, wrong.

When the 1980 election came around, I walked into the polling booth in a figurative sweat. I had never voted for a Republican for president, but I voted for Ronald Reagan and it was liberating. Reagan defined the Soviet Union as the “evil empire,” and, by the end of his time in office, proved that communism was not the wave of the future.

In two elections during the past 28 years, I voted for the Democratic candidate as a registered Republican. One of the candidates, my dear friend Joe Lieberman (who was running for Vice-President), later realized the Democratic Party’s critical flaws as I had. Like me, Lieberman wholeheartedly supports John McCain. For me, foreign-policy may not be the only issue, but it is the number one issue. I want a president who recognizes today the threat of all forms of radical Islam. I want a president who is ready to act decisively and boldly when necessary.

Barack Obama is not Jimmy Carter, but sometimes they express similar approaches. The nation does not need another four years of what I call “a Jimmy Carter point of view,” the soft approach to foreign policy. Nor does it need a Clinton approach to foreign policy. As president, Bill Clinton chose to ignore the Iranian attack on the Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia, even when FBI Director Louis Freeh pressured him to do so. And Clinton did not give a sufficient response to the first attack on the World Trade Center, the embassies in Africa, or the U.S.S. Cole.

In 1960, I was serving as an officer candidate in the United States Coast Guard in Yorktown, Virginia, when on a cold snowy January day, I sprinted to the television room to hear John F. Kennedy’s inaugural address: “Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and the success of liberty.”

In 2008, I believe John McCain is the real heir to this JFK legacy statement; and John McCain is the best choice for president.

David Epstein is currently a trial lawyer in the Washington, D.C., area.

7 thoughts on “Web Op-Ed: I Used to be a Democrat by David Epstein

  1. Pablo Siegal says:

    I fully agree with Mr. Epstein on all counts.
    If we fail in the defense of our Country, all other issues will not matter anymore.

  2. Stephen T. Susman says:

    David Epstein hit the proverbial nail on the head. Appeasement, wishy-washy foreign policy; summit meetings without preconditions — all proven foolish in recent American history, and potentially damaging to the U.S. hereafter. Let’s get real in our realpolitik.

  3. jeremy says:

    just because you are right, doesn’t mean people will listen to you. Must be frustrating. It is the Jewish community that has become wishy-washy.

  4. Marvin Noble says:

    I sincerely hope many of our citizens will stop to contemplate before they vote this year. David raises good arguments as an American and a Jew. I, too, look at elections from multiple perspectives. My hope is that most people will not cast a party line vote, but that they will evaluate the candidates. I would love to see a 30% or greater turnover in both houses of Congress

  5. Ralph Perlberger says:

    David’s point, that recognition of the primacy of the terrorists’ threat, and its source, and willingness to act to protect our country, is his measure of the candidates, makes good sense.

    My problem is how to weigh additional issues, such as halting debasement of the Supreme Court (score for Democrats), halt debasement of U.S. international reputation and moral standards (score for Democrats), halt Administration’s willful violations of domestic laws (score for Democrats), rejoin community of adherents of international agreements both for economics and world peace (score for Democrats), versus my confidence that either candidate will actually save us from radical Islam.

    See embarrassment of Rice chiding Russia for invading a sovereign country.

    If we can be sure that Obama would do all the right things except properly address the terrorists threat, and McCain would do the wrong things but successfully address the terrorists threat, the vote might have to go to McCain, although the U.S. that we might save might not be the U.S. that we had.

    However, who can tell how the candidates will address the terrorists threat. Both are in politician-mode, where nothing they say is credible.

    David is guessing that McCain will act more successfully against the terrorists threat. I do not know who will act more successfully, but I do believe that a Democratic Administration will improve upon the Bush Administration’s many disasters.

    Perhaps speeches between now and the election will provide answers for us, but I’m not holding my breath.


  6. affilia says:

    David Epstein is Professor of Political Science at Columbia University. His fields of expertise include presidential and congressional elections, game theory, the regulation of markets, and political economy.

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