Saturday, January 06, 2007

Whither the Democratic Party?

The Democrats may have won the recent election, but they still lack a coherent governing philosophy, according to political scientist Dan DiSalvo. Unable to overcome the legacy of 1968, which represents the collapse of the New Deal coalition, the Democrats are caught between the vital center and radical politics.

In his review essay, DiSalvo shows how some old SDS campus radicals such as Todd Gitlin have taken on the trappings of the Cold War liberals they once denounced and whose purpose was to elevate the standard of living of working class Americans while unabashedly believing in America as a force for good in the world. The other intellectual wing of the party consists of the "identity politics" crowd, the residue of the 1968 radicals championing the "authenticity of the oppressed" and doubting "American beneficience in world affairs."

According to DiSalvo, the intellectual life of the Left is somewhat removed from politics, yet necessarily of great concern to the Democratic Party, whose image the intellectuals shape. For now, it seems unlikely that intellectuals, party strategists, and elected officials can forge a coherent message subduing or resolving the tension between the revival of Harry Truman's patriotism and radical Left multiculturalism.


Blogger As Bjorn said...

I was 18 in 1968 and as far as I can see that split was already there. But the radicals lusted after power and press and got it and now the body politic thinks that that was who ran the sixties underground scene. It was never thus. I hated the politicos mainly and was always a patriot, like Phil Ochs ("maybe treason is worth a try/this country is too young to die").

But people into power will tend to win out. Look at the repubican party. All those good intentions sunk by the inherent greed for power (and money, but that's so true of those same leftists and always was). So is there any hope for the dems? Not much. Is there any hope for the republicans? None at all now. We are left with very little. Just don't classify me, a hardcore libertarian liberal who think the CEOs get paid way too much for doing way too little, as anything like those people on the left who denounce everything american as essentially flawed, just like those on the right who denounce everything democrat as essentially flawed.

For the power freak it is all about their own pathetic egos.

12:23 PM  
Blogger Chris said...

One of the problems I always had about Beinart was that I believed he was putting the cart before the horse. Basically, he was saying that only liberalism was capable of winning the war on terror. Now that might be true, but the liberalism of Harry Truman is hardly comparable to that which dominates the Democratic Party today. Reagan won two smashing victories for that very reason. Clinton had to submerge his liberalism to convince people he was safe to vote for, and only then after the Cold War had ended.

Democrats can't bring back Give 'Em Hell Harry if they still have problems bombing Hiroshima, which their activist base really, really does. That's what Americans know in their bones about the Democrats.

2:39 PM  
Blogger desider said...

Aside from being a bit rough at the edges and taken sometimes less seriously than it deserved, what was wrong with Clinton's foreign policy as a standard for Democrats? Isolationist? Hardly. The approach he used for Milosevic is what won in the Ukraine and Georgia as well. Kept Hussein isolated for 8 years. Worked in Haiti even though we backed out of harbor for a few days (better than going for an unneeded bloodbath). Got respect for Middle East efforts despite the futility, and for the most part sealed Northern Ireland peace. And tried to do something about terrorism on a number of levels.

Sometimes I think people have a weird Harry Truman fixation. Was Korea such a great war? In any case, isn't it reasonable after the last 6 years to doubt "American beneficience in world affairs"? Hubris got us into this mess, a bit of thinking, planning and humility can get us out. And after all the damage Republican unity has brought the last 12 years, isn't it nice to have real debate and competing ideas instead?

6:28 PM  
Blogger randomfool said...

The Democrats and Republicans suffer from the same basic problem: they are both locked in internal struggles between their respective centrist and extremist elements. However, the two parties are not rudderless and incapable of articulating coherent governing philosophies because of platform debates. We shouldn't, after all, confuse the Democrats for liberalism or the Republicans for conservatism just like we shouldn't confuse religion for faith. The two miserable excuses for political parties are rudderless and incapable of developing coherent governing philosophies because the only purpose they really serve is to raise hundreds of millions of dollars (billions, probably) in a desperate attempt to convince a cynical and apathetic electorate that there is a real choice. That Democrats and Republicans spend that kind of effort and money to bicker (let's not insult good debates by using that label here) over a minor "issues" by lobbing sound bites at each other and avoiding any real political discourse on issues critical to the survival of our republic strikes me as no more or less wasteful than the millions spent by corporations on CEO compensation by cynical and apathetic stockholders.

11:56 PM  

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