The New York Times reports that the Democrat Party and the Left in general are looking at the party's political strategy of recent years and finding it wanting.
Ya think? There's a news flash.
The article does include an interesting summary of what the Dems and Left in general are thinking about thier strategy: It has been too centrist:
This discussion of first principles and big goals marks a psychological shift for many in the party; a frequent theme is that Democrats must stop being afraid, stop worrying that their core beliefs are out of step with the times, stop ceding so much ground to the conservatives.
So, the strategists and idea generators conclude, the Dems and Left in general must Look at the Big Picture, Go Back to Their Roots, and FInd the Great Cliches That Will Fool Voters into Thinking They're Not Crazy. (OK, that last one's my addition, but hey, we're here to analyze.)
Of course, it makes sense for a party that is out of power to rethink what it has been doing. Even the Republicans, who have been in power but have squandered much of their political capital, are doing that in turning away from their drunken-sailor spending habits of the past few years, if only rhetorically at this point.
The $6.4 trillion question, however, for the Democrats is what vision they should pursue. Of course, you know my preference would be for them to move to the right of the Republicans on all issues. But I would also like to own a Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost, and will probably have one before the Dems move to the Right (and I never will, just to be perfectly clear, unless my DEAR FRIEND AND THE SMARTEST AND FINEST GENTLEMAN IN THE WORLD Alan Reynolds gives me one for my birthday).
So, what are the core beliefs the Democrats should pursue? The Times story quotes Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) as providing his usual sage advice:
Representative Barney Frank, Democrat of Massachusetts, said, "One of the most successful right-wing ploys was to demonize any concern about the distribution of income in America as, quote, class warfare."
OK, so the Dems' core ideas are good, albeit unidentified at this point in the article, and their political problem is strictly a result of the American people being fooled into believing that angry diatribes against the "rich," with the latter defined as anybody earning more than about 5 percent above the median income, are "class warfare." That's certainly good to know, and it points the way toward a real winner of a political philosophy, as outlined by Michael Tomasky, editor of the liberal journal The American Prospect, in "a much-discussed essay in the May issue" of that august publication:
Mr. Tomasky argued in his article that "the party and the constellation of interests around it don't even think in philosophical terms and haven't for quite some time. There's a reason for this. They've all been trained to believe — by the media, by their pollsters — that their philosophy is an electoral loser.
"Mr. Tomasky argues that the Democratic Party needs to stand for more than diversity and rights; it needs to return to its New Deal, New Frontier and Great Society roots and run as the party of the common good — the philosophy, he says, that brought the nation Social Security, the Marshall Plan, the Peace Corps and civil rights legislation. After years of what he calls "rapacious social Darwinism" under Mr. Bush, Mr. Tomasky argues that the country is ready for the idea that "we're all in this—postindustrial America, the globalized world and especially the post-9/11 world in which free peoples have to unite to fight new threats—together."
Well, that certainly sounds meaty (or for Dems, tofuey), nutritious, and delicious. I concede that it would be a surefire winner. . . .
If we were in a Depression or trying to rebuild Europe after a devastating war.
But we aren't. And no amount of complaining about present-day conditions is going to change the fact that the economy is humming along nicely, the environment is cleaner every day, the War in Iraq is winding down, and that what really counts when crises arise is finding the most sensible solutions. Meaning that policy is indeed central.
A governing philosophy is essential, of course, if a political party is to have a coherent base, but people vote based on which philosophy they think works best at this time and for the future. The Republicans can plausibly claim that their philosophy is one designed for the common good. And that is in fact what they do argue. So the argument will become, as it always is . . . an argument about policies.
And if the Democrats run on the New Deal and the Marshall Plan, Republicans will surely be delighted.
Though not as delighted as I'd be if the Dems would move to the right of the Republicans and give the latter some actual competition.
Until then, I'll just have to keep driving my Mazda.