A Senator With Principles and Courage
When Zell Miller arrived in the United States Senate in 2000 after spending most of his adult life in public office, he was headed in the opposite direction as most of the professional politicians on Capitol Hill.
He was seeking the truth; they were fleeing from it.
Miller, a Democrat, served as a U.S. Marine, and then as a mayor, state senator, lieutenant governor and governor.
Along the way, he usually supported liberals for president.
But, in 1984, when he was lieutenant governor, he initially backed former Florida Gov. Reuben Askew for his party’s presidential nomination. Askew favored banning abortion and had signed a state law prohibiting same-sex marriage.
When it became apparent Askew could not win the nomination, Miller switched to the very liberal Walter Mondale.
At the time, according to the Miami Herald, Miller called himself “a political realist.”
Yet Ronald Reagan beat Mondale in 49 of 50 states.
In 1992, Miller gave the keynote address at the Democratic convention that nominated Bill Clinton — and pledged allegiance to every Democratic president after Woodrow Wilson.
“My family would still be isolated and destitute if we had not had FDR’s Democratic brand of government,” Miller declared.
“I made it because Harry Truman fought for working families like mine,” he said.
But then Miller, whose father died shortly after he was born, asked a question that may have been prophetic.
“But what of the kids of today?” he asked. “Who fights for the child of a single mother today?”
Eleven years later, three years after he won a special Senate election, Miller published a book about Democrats: “A National Party No More.”
In the book, he explained, among other things, how he had moved from being pro-abortion to pro-life.
In an interview I did for Human Events in 2004, I asked Miller about this change in his views.
“I tried to explain that in the book by pointing out that I sort of automatically took that position back then because that was the position that was being taken by a lot of Democrats, by a lot of people,” he said explaining his support for legalized abortion.
He said he was moved by his grandchildren and great-grandchildren, by books he read, and by pro-life demonstrators who marched on Washington.
“I realized how blessed I was to have these little ones and I could not imagine how my life would have been, how my life would have changed, had one of my children, or one of my grandchildren, made the decision to abort one of those little, wonderful human beings,” he said.
“So, all this time I was also reading more on the subject,” he said. “I was particularly impressed with Sean Hannity’s chapter on it in ‘Let Freedom Ring,’ in which he talked about the Dred Scott decision and how at that time it was argued and how that later it was changed, and why it was changed.”
“I watched the demonstrators as they came to Washington, and the advocates for life, and the number of 42 million human beings having been killed because of Roe v. Wade,” he said, “and it just grabbed a hold of me very strongly that what if one of my four great-grandchildren or four grandchildren had been one of those that never did get to enjoy the life that they have now.”
I asked Miller: “(D)o you believe there’s hope that if we continue debating this that more Democrats such as yourself can be converted and that in the end we actually can overturn Roe v. Wade and return to being a pro-life country?”
Miller responded: “I think without any question it ought to continue to be debated because I think there are more and more people out there, hopefully, like I am who are troubled by the way that it is now. And I think the more discussion, the more troubled they may become, until they finally come to the same conclusion that I came to.”
Then, referring to the filibusters Democrats were holding in the Senate to block President George W. Bush’s judicial nominees, I asked Miller: “Do you think that some of your Democratic colleagues in the Senate who have voted to maintain these filibusters (and who) in their professional political careers are adamantly pro-abortion, that in fact in their hearts they really are pro-life and that they are capable of going through the same evolution you are, it’s just that these interest groups and fear for their political careers is what’s holding them back?”
He responded: “I think that’s true. I think that’s true. In fact, I know it’s true.”
Zell Miller became pro-life, but never stopped being a Democrat. America would be a better country today if more Republicans could match his moral courage.
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