Van Hipp: America needs Harry Truman Democrats again
America, now more than ever, needs Harry Truman Democrats.
Both of my grandfathers were Harry Truman Democrats. They loved this country and believed in American exceptionalism. They believed in a strong America and did not apologize for it. They understood that the reason the states came together to begin with was to provide for the common defense.
They believed in working people because they themselves came from the blue-collar ranks. They believed that we are all children of God. They believed in the rule of law, rather than mob rule. And they understood that small businesses, not big business, are the backbone of the free enterprise system.
Harry Truman was a proud Democrat, and his campaign against a “do-nothing Republican Congress” in 1948 helped him win a full presidential term of his own. Harry Truman, however, would work with Republicans when it was in America’s interest.
In fact, when President Truman had a chance to appoint his first justice to the Supreme Court in 1945, he nominated Republican Sen. Harold Burton as a bipartisan gesture. The U.S. Senate unanimously approved Burton’s nomination.
Other Democrats carried on the Harry Truman tradition. They would not oppose a Republican president or a piece of Republican legislation simply because it was Republican. The test was, “Is it right for America?”
Harry Truman Democrats realized that they could do this and still be “good Democrats” because in the end, a good Democrat wanted what is best for the nation.
One Democrat who carried on this tradition was President John F. Kennedy. JFK understood the threat that communism posed to the free world. He stood up to Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev and fought communism with a vigor that today would make a Reagan Republican proud.
He also advocated tax cuts to stimulate the economy, something that today would be an anathema to most Democrats. He did these things because they were right for America.
Another Truman Democrat was Sen. Henry M. “Scoop” Jackson from Washington. Jackson fought to rebuild the military and maintain a strong national security posture with a zeal that would resemble President Trump’s current effort to restore our military readiness.
Again, Jackson put country above party, and he understood that being a good Democrat meant doing what was best for the nation.
Today we live in a 24-hour, 7-day news cycle. The focus of both parties is quick messaging to try and keep up. In so doing, politicians on the left and right rely too much on the daily talking points put out by their respective political committees. As such, it is easy to get caught up and forget what really matters.
The Founding Fathers did not have talking points from political committees. They knew who they were and what they believed.
These days it is tough to find a Harry Truman Democrat. To be fair, there are a few still left.
Jeh Johnson, who served as secretary of Homeland Security for President Obama, is one of them. He stood up to calls from his own party to abolish the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE) and stated: “Calls to abolish ICE only serve to sow even greater division in the American public.”
Johnson also testified to Congress last year that there was no concrete evidence that Russia’s cyberattacks actually altered any votes in the 2016 presidential election. He iterated that our main focus should be on securing our critical infrastructure, including our election system, from cyberattack.
As general counsel of the Department of Defense, it was Jeh Johnson who gave the legal approval for U.S. Special Forces to go into Pakistan and take out Usama bin Laden.
Another contemporary Harry Truman Democrat is Alan Dershowitz. Dershowitz, who supported both Hillary Clinton and President Obama in their campaigns, has bucked the party establishment and defended President Trump on numerous occasions.
A strong believer in the Constitution, Dershowitz calls it like he sees it. He even authored the book "The Case Aganst Impeaching Trump." Obviously, Dershowitz doesn’t follow the script of the Democratic Party’s daily talking points.
Former Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut is another who fits the mold of a Harry Truman Democrat.
Strong on national defense, Lieberman consistently worked with Republicans to promote America’s national security and foreign policy interests. President Trump considered Lieberman for FBI director and reportedly is considering him to be the new U.N. ambassador.
Jeh Johnson, Alan Dershowitz and Joe Lieberman are Harry Truman Democrats and the kinds of Democrats that America needs more of today. They put America, not party, first. They don’t need the scripted talking points to find out what they believe in on any given day.
They are the kinds of Democrats who will work with Republicans when it is in America’s national interest, but who will oppose Republicans when it goes against their core values.
Regardless of party or ideology, we are all Americans and we are all in this together. We want to be able to provide for our families and ensure a better future for our children. We want to be able to worship our God in our own way, and we want to be safe and secure.
Harry Truman Democrats understand this. These are the kinds of Democrats we need more of, working with Republicans to put the interests of our country, not party, first.