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A 'Liberal with Sanity'

By Ed Koch

In the wake of the scandal surrounding former Congressman Mark Foley, what will Republican voters do? I believe they will hold their noses and go to the polls to reelect a Republican Senate and Republican House of Representatives. They will comfort themselves with the thought that between now and 2008, they can cleanse their party. We will soon know. Tempus fugit.

An article in The New York Times this week makes this same point, stating, "As word of Representative Mark Foley's sexually explicit e-mail messages to former pages spread last week, Republican strategists worried -- and Democrats hoped -- that the sordid nature of the scandal would discourage conservative Christians from going to the polls. But in dozens of interviews here in southeastern Virginia, a conservative Christian stronghold that is a battleground in races for the House and Senate, many said the episode only reinforced their reasons to vote for their two Republican incumbents...[A]ll [interviewed] insisted the episode would have little impact on their intentions to vote."

The Republican base, at least one-third of Republican voters, according to the Times, is comprised of the Christian right and Evangelicals. They will never vote for the Democratic Party, believing as they do that Republicans will ensure their primary goal of securing a safe conservative majority on the U.S. Supreme Court.

The Democrats have a lot of work to do if they are to make serious gains in the upcoming elections. Sadly, the Democratic party has lost the white Southern voter who now overwhelmingly votes for Republican candidates. The Democratic Party in the South is now overwhelmingly operated by and supported by African-Americans, while the Republican Party is the exact opposite -- operated and supported by whites. This is not good for the country and certainly not good for the Democrats. The Democratic Party has to undertake a strategy to win the white Southern voter back while keeping African-Americans in the party without compromising its position on civil rights. It can be done.

While I believe that the Democratic party is capable of accommodating the left and right wing, I believe that when either wing takes over the party, our party suffers. It happened in the 1970s when George McGovern and his supporters took over the party and began its destruction. When Bill Clinton and his moderate political philosophy came to the fore, the party made a comeback.

But the Clinton years are long gone and the radical left has again taken control of the Democratic Party, as reflected in the election of Howard Dean to the chairmanship of the party. The most recent exhibition of the power of the radical left wing of the party was its ability to defeat Senator Joe Lieberman in the Connecticut primary. Most distressing was the Democrats' abandonment of Lieberman after he chose to continue to run as an independent. Stalwart Democrats, people I support, like Hillary Clinton, Chuck Schumer, Chris Dodd and others, walked away from Lieberman. They believe that they and Lieberman were bound by the primary results. That is simply not true. There is no law, party rule or ethical principle that prohibits a candidate from attempting to win as an independent. What's more, Lieberman is not only the incumbent, but he is also a recent Democratic Party candidate for vice president. He stated that should he win, he will be part of the Democratic Party Caucus in the U.S. Senate.

Interestingly, the people of Connecticut in a recent poll voiced support for Lieberman, who is now 10 points ahead. Last week, I campaigned with Lieberman at Grand Central Station. Hundreds of Connecticut-bound commuters stood in line to shake his hand before boarding their trains. Only two people yelled at me for supporting the Senator.

Last week, I also traveled to Maryland at the request of Democratic Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley to help him campaign for Governor. O'Malley told me that in his second term election he received 88 percent of the vote. In his first term, he got 91 percent and said while laughing, "The fall off was because I had to make some controversial decisions." I was chagrinned, since my highest vote tally in 1985, when I ran for a third term, was only 78 percent of the vote in the general election. In my second election, I got 75 percent of the vote. When I ran for a fourth term in 1989, I got 42 percent of the vote, and David Dinkins won. I have always believed that 25 percent of the voters will always vote against any candidate -- getting elected and holding public office can be a really tough job. So I thought that my 78 percent in 1985 and 75 percent in 1981, which were record-breaking in New York City, were really good. They don't hold a candle to O'Malley's vote.

I also recently campaigned for a really great Congressman, Republican Peter King, in Nassau and Suffolk counties, which entitles me to keep my self-appraisal as a "liberal with sanity." I did both a radio and television commercial for him.

I am in what used to be called the declining years -- I am almost 82 -- but I am trying to remain relevant. I supported Hillary Clinton when she ran for U.S. Senator from New York in 2000. On my office wall is a picture taken with Hillary on the night she won, on which she wrote, "Ed -- Thanks for standing up with -- and for -- me (and for watching my back too!) All the best. Hillary." I hope to be around and able to take a role in the campaign to elect her as President of the United States.

Ed Koch is the former Mayor of New York City.

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