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Red On Red. Blue on Blue

Nov
9
2004

It’s been a week and Democrats are in full self-pity mode. This being the party of Bill Clinton, former self-justifier in chief, it could last a while. Enjoy the peace, an all-party civil war is on the way.
Barring a miracle of reconciliation and the complete departure of the family Clinton from the Democratic Party, leadership will spend the next few years in the Democratic WayBack Machine. Hillary Clinton is positioned to claim the party’s nomination for 2008. Word is that Harold Ickes, one of her close advisors, will take over the Democratic National Committee replacing Bill’s close friend, Terry McAuliffe. McAuliffe, of course, is the guy who engineered the bruising early primary schedule that gave us a seemingly never-ending campaign season.


The Clintons are corporate Democrats. They place great emphasis on fund-raising, moderately liberal politics, and polling to find out what – exactly what – they can get away with as they seek office and craft legislative policies. It’s a funny kind of leadership. It’s really following loudly. Corporate Democrats give people what they want so they can stay in office all the while telling their core supporter – that’d be the few real Liberals left in America – that compromises need to be made in exchange for staying in office to do the “good” work that needs to be done. It’s a cynical hollowing out of a set of principles that has created – in John Kerry who was following their lead – a candidate who stood for almost nothing. This is the party that refused to stand up to George Bush during his first term in office. It’s hard to believe they will grow spines and begin to articulate a set of views or ideas. It’s simply too late for that.
What about non-corporate Democrats, the self-styled Progressives? Well, they’re too disorganized, too elitist, and too contemptuous of anyone who doesn’t share their world view to accomplish very much in the short-term. These are the open-minded individuals who are sitting around calling Bush supporters “stupid” and wondering why the religious nuts out there in the fly-over country “hate” them. It ain’t hate, by the way, it’s resentment or indifference. Howard Dean will probably lead them — the young and the gay — in a rhetorical assault on the corporate crowd. But Dean for all his strengths – and he does have them, he is a smart, funny, and articulate politician – isn’t a long-term player. If Clinton is the Nixon of the Left – the man who led the party astray – Dean is William Jennings Bryan. Great ideas, wonderful rhetoric, poor execution.
All of which is a nice way of saying that the Democratic Party as we know it and have known it for the past 70 years is toast. The handwriting was on the front page of the New York Times Saturday in a story talking about how Sens. Chuck Schumer, Chris Dodd, and John Corzine were thinking of running for governors in their respective states. Can party leaders come up with something new and different to keep the Democratic Party a national party? Not as long as the Clintons — with their focus on consolidated power at the top of the food chain — are in charge.
But what about the Republicans? Don’t they have a similar problem? They do. Within their party, Conservatives are taking on moderate Republicans and making their lives miserable with the same sort of ideological ranting that’s undermined the Lefty Democrat’s credibility. It’s unclear whether Pennsylvania Republican Arlen Specter is going to get his Senate Judiciary Committee Chairmanship; he’s enough of a fighter and the Senate is a clubby enough place that he may survive. But if he doesn’t, well, Democrats are the ones who will suffer.
Over in the House, conservative Republicans run the show. And the House works closely with the White House which is making no bones about its agenda for the next two years. So political power in opposition to the Bush administration is going to be wielded by a handful of moderate Republican Senators who will find their strongest allies in the Democratic Party. In this you see the beginnings here of something that’s already being talked about in California: bipartisan politics. The far left falls away because it can’t get anything done; it’s too busy looking back to the 1970s. The far right falls away because its politics aren’t viable, it’s too busy trying to recreate the 1950s. Both are principled but they don’t have the votes they need to get what they want.
This is how the group that I call Progressive Libertarians start to make their political presence know as a group, on the national level. Preaching fiscal responsibility and social tolerance, they’ll continue to draw moderates – and this is fundamentally a nation of moderates — to their way of doing things. They’re already a force in the Republican Party: Rudy Guiliani is looking at 2008, Arnold Schwarzenegger has just started laying out his agenda to reform California. Progressive Libertarians “small is beautiful” attitude – the emphasis on the stripped down corporate attitude the entrepreneurial “what works best” approach to solving problems – is well suited to the U.S. return to its federalist roots. It solves, among other things, the gay marriage problem because it would let each state make it own rules. It’s a great replacement for the monolithic social services infrastructure that Democrats are having a harder and harder time defending. In essence, it creates a sensible moderate response to arguments made by both Conservative Republicans and Liberal Democrats.
UPDATE:There’s been some mail and comments around the web on this post. Here’s follow-up and some clarification to the questions.

Share  Posted by Chris Nolan at 10:32 AM | Permalink

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