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You Hear an Echo Out There?

Aug
31
2004

For much of the summer, Micah Sifry and I have been going back and forth on the future of the Democratic Party with me warning that the new, tech-savvy young and wealthy folks currently getting into politics might be a lot more conservative than what East Coast Liberals like Sifry are used to.


Without realty thinking about it too much (if they did, they’d write better stories) The New York Times magazine has been covering both side of this story, a interesting trend toward a new, business-oriented sort of bipartisan politics. Before the Democrats gathered in Boston, the magazine ran a long piece about how guys like Andy Rappaport and Simon Rosenberg at the New Democratic Network were re-engineering the party. This week, as the Republicans gather 10 blocks south of the Times building, the magazine runs a long David Brooks piece on how that party should revamp its politics.
Brooks, the guy who brought us Bobos doesn’t say anything about tech in his piece on “Progressive Conservatives.” And he doesn’t really talk about the problem that Progressive Libertarians have with the Republican Party: Its conservative stance on issues like abortion and stem cell research, gay marriage, immigration, and civil rights. In other words, he dodges the stuff that keeps the “Progress” (as in change) in Progressive. What he does talk about, however, is how the Republican Party has got to revamp its agenda to break through the current logjam between the political parties.
“Trench warfare finally ended because somebody invested the tank. It is time for one party or another to invent the tank, some new governing philosophy that will broaden its coalition and transform the partisan divide. For Republicans the progressive conservative governing philosophy is the tank. It is the approach to politics best suited to the emerging suburban civilization, best suited to life during a way on Islamic extremism. It is the way Republicans can build a governing majority and leave a positive mark on the nation and its destiny.”
Translated: if Republicans build this better political philosophy, we can get those middle-of-the-road voters; the ones disappointed and dismayed by the way politics is currently practiced. In other words, we can get those people who voted for Democrats and Bill Clinton because they liked him and like to think they’re as cool and smart as Clinton.
Brooks is dead right about this. In my conversations and discussions with Micah, I’ve been saying – here, in particular – that Progressive Libertarians will bolt the Democratic Party if they can find something they like; something that meets their uniquely moderate needs. The Democrats have them now – barely. But this can’t last forever; the Democratic Party is all but ignoring California and other “safe” states where Progressive Libertarians are thick on the ground. A little more of this inattention combined with a cobbled-together political philosophy that’s more of an operating strategy than a set of beliefs and you bet they’re gonna bolt.
More importantly, Progressive Libertarians like to associate with people who get things done, who – like them – succeed. And, well, John Kerry’s presidential campaign is floundering it’s missing easy shots and taking too long to get going. For Progressive Libertarians, the president is the CEO of the country and Kerry is not doing well in his interview with the Board of Directors.
Bush claims to be a CEO. But he and his Cabinet are incompetent at governing – really, that’s the problem, they’re just stupid and dumb about running the country, let alone a war. But damn! They know how to politic! Ain’t nothing like a little moderation to get folks to vote for you. Which is, in a backhand way, what Brooks is getting at in the Times piece; if the Republicans are going to stay in office they had better be for something beside tax breaks for the rich.
Another four years of George Bush gives the Republican Party a chance to come up with a governing philosophy and start wooing this new business class of voters. Because they like Gov. Schwarzenegger. A lot. And they like John McCain. But most of all, they like folks like them – well-off, independent, self-made, and self-reliant. In other words, they like winners

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