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Thursday, April 20, 2006

Philosophy of the Dems

There seems to be a theme recurring in criticisms of the Democratic Party---most recently in today's (4/20) Opinionjournal Best of the Web---to the effect that the Democrats will have trouble winning elections on a consistent partywide basis because no central organizing philosophy is to be found underlying their policy pronouncements, other than animosity toward Republicans and conservatives generally, and George W. Bush in particular.

This view, seemingly held quite widely, strikes me as fundamentally wrong. I think that the Democrats do have a central policy goal, which crudely can be summarized as making ordinary people more rather than less dependent upon government. I cannot think of an exception in terms of a policy prescription promoted by the mainstream Democratic Party, and by its left wing in particular, that violates that central principle. Somewhat less charitably, I think that the mainstream Democratic Party believes, again crudely, in a strong government and a weak nation.

This observation should not be interpreted in any way as an endorsement of the Republicans, the Congressional wing of which has become largely unhinged from principle, and the Presidential wing of which has gotten five or so Big Things right and everything else wrong, and which does not understand both the distinction between loyalty and sycophancy and the need to make the policy case clear publicly in support of its preferred policy outcomes.


Tom Van Dyke said...

I'm always cheered to see you pop in, Dr. Zycher. Your entire essay is worthy of discussion, but I'll speak to the last point first:

It's unanimous across the political spectrum that the Bush Administration is crap at explaining its reasons.

Partly because Dubya shares his father's arrogance/dismissal (which cost his dad a second term) of PR and the concept of the Permanent Campaign in a democracy. If it was vital in 1990s, it is now de rigeur in the 21st century 24/7 news cycle.

No matter their competence, the Bush Administration is devoid of people who can explain, with the exception of the (love him or hate him) Donald Rumsfeld.

Tony Snow is being reported as a candidate to succeed Scott McWhoever as Press Secretary. Bush has a unique chance to put a highly qualified, enthusiastic advocate into the job. Hiring a professional communicator would be a first for Bush, with the exceptions of Powell and Rummy.

I wish I were confident that Bush will make the right and obvious choice. It's impossible to conceive of a more perfect candidate. This appointment, as insignificant as it really is substantively, is pivotal to the success of his second term.

Matt Huisman said...

There must be something in the name, but I had another Tony in mind - Tony Blankley.

While either one would be excellent, Snow strikes me as the one you'd choose at the start of your first term - a winning personality, gracious, and very good at promoting the big themes behind the message.

But the Bushies are not starting from Square One - they're digging themselves out of a hole. The reassertion of message has to happen no matter what, but Team Bush needs to learn to 'dispense' quickly with the angle shots and other nonsense that gets thrown at them. They've ignored too much in the past, and it has accumulated rather than disappeared.

Their primary audience is now their base - not winning over the independent - and they must recapture the base's confidence by showing that they know how to stand up for themselves.

James F. Elliott said...

Dr. Zycher's point comes at an interesting time in American politics. I think that given the right leader, now is an excellent time for a viable third party to emerge, taking with it the moderate middle-ground of both Republican and Democratic voters. The party would need to have a bit of the old Teddy Roosevelt trust-busting vibe along with a "back to common sense" theme to appeal to the moderate.

Love him or hate him, I'd have to say that John McCain is in precisely that spot right now when it comes to public opinion.

Evanston2 said...

No doubt Dr. Zycher is correct about the unifying principle of the Democratic party: Uncle Sam as great protector. The irony, of course, is that Democrats would never express the thought this way because their self-image is that of cynicism and distrust of government. The truth is that they are cynical and distrustful of patriotism and patriots, but the bigger the government, the better. Adding governmental oversight or outright nationalization of an industry is always seen as a "good" (see medical care, energy policy, etc.) while everyone knows that the Department of Motor Vehicles is the last place you want to go for service. This infatuation with big government is why the UN holds such attraction for Democrats/Lefties. An unnacountable agency running everything is their idea of a "Last, best hope." Truly amazing.