They call him an enigma, but Zell Miller makes more sense than most politicians out there. If the senator and former governor of Georgia is difficult to pigeonhole, it may be because he is one of the few who tells things as they are.
His new book, A National Party No More: The Conscience of a Conservative Democrat, is part memoir, part political analysis. While celebrating the greatness of the American people and system of government, Miller simultaneously dishes out a searing critique of the men and women running the show in Washington, especially in his own party.
Miller’s story will fascinate and inspire. With an affable style he recalls his roots as a poor mountain boy and his rise to political prominence in his native Georgia. But his tone changes to the bark of the former Marine sergeant when the subject turns to the state of politics.
Miller’s disillusionment with his party first became evident, he writes, when duty called and the state of Georgia sent him packing to D.C. Gov. Roy Barnes (D.) appointed him to replace the deceased Republican Sen. Paul Coverdell. Miller-who earned the nickname “Zig-Zag Zell” while himself serving as governor because of his tendency to vacillate between left- and right-wing policy-gives the explanation that in his advanced age, his conscience is growing “stronger . . . and louder.”
“What I saw gradually drew back the curtain on Washington’s political stage and over time my awe turned to shock,” he writes. “‘The [special interest] Groups’ and money. Money and ‘the Groups.’ It was like a bad song you can’t get out of your mind . . . when ‘the Groups’ say ‘frog,’ each party jumps. It doesn’t seem to matter how it affects the people or the nation as a whole. I’m sure this is true with both parties, but my yardstick says the Democrats clearly win the vertical leap when ‘frog’ is yelled.”
Submission to “the Groups,” Miller claims, has become the defining characteristic of his party-and he refuses to play along.
Why did Al Gore, a son of the South, lose every state of the Old Confederacy, including the two border states? All he needed was one and he’d be President today. The reason according to Miller is clear: Democrats have become so tied up in appeasing left-wing special interests that people are sick of it-even in the once heavily Democratic South.
“Obviously, Southerners believe the national Democratic Party does not share their values. They do not trust the national party with their money or the security of their country.”
Miller points out that the last two Democratic Presidents won because they talked about values. He cites this as proof that the current Democratic run at the presidency is doomed: the only candidate he sees with a shot is Howard Dean.
Yet even Dean proved Miller’s point that national Democrats are out-of-step with average southern voters with his recent condescending remarks-suggesting that they should stop voting based on “guns, God, and gays.”
“Regular Americans see through it all,” Miller explains in his usual unambiguous way. “The day has passed when you can piss on them and convince them it’s raining.”
The senator covers the major issues and why he stands where he does on: Homeland Security, taxes, welfare, crime, abortion, the environment, and so on down the line. He exudes a common sense approach and integrity in his views.
But why does Miller remain a Democrat? Simple. He believes that the party of Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Jackson, FDR and JFK has long stood for something that today’s party leaders don’t. But that doesn’t mean things can’t change.
Democrats, Miller argues, must remember that the welfare of the nation-not just the next election-is at stake in the task of governing.
When Democrats do this-and only when they do this-will they again capture the imagination, the hearts, and the votes of the American people.