One of my most distinct memories from psychology classes is seeing for the first time Harry Harlow’s disturbing and fascinating experiments on love. In one set of these, baby monkeys were given the choice of two surrogate “mothers” in their cage. One was a wire frame containing the bottle from which the rhesus infant drew its entire sustenance; the other was a cloth-covered frame without any bottle. This second surrogate could give comfort, but not a drop of milk.
Prior to the time of these experiments (the 1950s), many psychologists, being educated into imbecility, believed that babies loved their mothers because their mothers were a source of food. But the results of Harlow’s experiments were clear: given the choice of a huggable mom or a nutritious one, baby monkeys love the huggable mom best. In this way, science revealed that a baby monkey’s emotional needs are more precious to it than even its need for food.
This introduction will undoubtedly raise two questions in the minds of most readers: 1) Did my tax dollars pay for this baby monkey torture? And 2) what in the heck does this have to do with politics? The answers should be obvious: 1) You betcha, and 2) Last week liberal Democrats in Congress had to face an equally fascinating (and for them disturbing) dilemma that revealed their highest love. The dilemma was so stark and the result so clear that it made me think of those poor little baby monkeys when I saw the Democrats squirming. My apologies to the monkeys for the comparison.
The conundrum faced by the baby Democrats came down to this: what if the only way to increase their political power was to allow citizens more individual freedom? Given this hellish no-win situation for liberals, would they choose the practical need of feeding their appetite for power, or would they choose to feed their basic emotional need of micromanaging the misguided wards of the Nanny State?
Let’s examine this fascinating congressional experiment in more detail. Liberal need number one, power, was represented by the surrogate dishonestly known as the “D.C. Voting Rights Act.” This blatantly unconstitutional monstrosity has been a long-standing ambition of Democrats in Congress. It seeks to turn the nation’s common capital into an illegal pseudo-state less than 5% the size of Rhode Island, so that the tiny District — no more than the downtown area of one medium sized city — can have its own voting delegation in Congress. Why do Dems want to do something this ridiculous? Because they believe that, since 27% of the District’s population work for the federal government and another 15% are on food stamps, the District’s voters make natural Democrats! Essentially, the act is an attempt to pack the Congress with an extra Democrat or three so that the Democrats don’t have to worry so much about the will of the people of the states in future elections. The bill is thus in the well-established mold of previous Democrat efforts to use power to keep power by changing the electoral process (“motor voter” registration, voting rights for felons, opposition to photo ID at the polling place, voting rights for illegal immigrants, Al Gore recount numbers 2, 3, and 4, etc.)
And last week, the D.C. measure came barreling out of committee and onto the House floor where it was all but guaranteed passage by the new Democrat majority.
But then that’s when the comfy fur was taken off the loveable D.C. Voting Rights Act by Republicans, who offered an amendment to the bill that would simultaneously repeal the District’s effectively total ban on individual ownership of handguns (a ban that was found unconstitutional by a Federal Appeals Court just two weeks previous). Since many Democrats from moderate districts were on the record as opposing further gun control, they would have to vote for the amendment or risk losing the votes of gun owners in the next election. Both the gun ban repeal and the D.C. Voting Rights scam would therefore need to live or die together on the House floor. So what did the Democrats do? Did they choose the sustenance of electoral shenanigans (surrogate 1) or the good old-fashioned liberal comfort of gun control (surrogate 2)? What does a Dem do when the only way to accrue more power is to let the people have the most hated of all individual rights, the right to keep and bear arms?
The D.C. Voting Rights Act was summarily withdrawn from further consideration.
Which proves that a liberal’s highest emotional need is restricting the power of the people to make choices that the liberal regards as wrong. It’s a need even more pressing than the need to suckle at the teat of power. Such stark choices, though painful to watch, can teach us a lot about what really makes our fellow creatures tick.
Editor’s note: no baby liberals were harmed in the making of this column.