Wednesday, November 13, 2002

What Are The Democrats?

I was pondering just this question when I came upon this piece by Joe Klein in Salon this morning that gives more than a few clues as to the answer. The article is in the form of a letter from Klein to Robert Reich, who last night on O'Reilly was beside himself trying to get Bill to define "Left" for him, as if he himself didn't know. The short form: today's democrats exist solely as a counterpoint to the republicans. The Democrats are, at least lately, a coalition of leftists, socialists, unionists, and so-called "new democrats" who are really well at home among the republicans, but just can't bring themselves to say so. Thus, when Klein says:
Some say move left. Some say move right. Both are right and both are wrong. If we're to have a vaguely interesting national debate, the Democrats have to move forward—away from the boring, tiny, and tactical issues, and language, and interest groups that the party has championed in recent years. This will mean a change in style as well as content. Above all, it will mean an extremely risky change in focus from the beloved and reliable geezers to the edgy, cynical, apathetic young people. The electorate has to be expanded. But the most valuable cache of votes isn't to be had in the poor neighborhoods....
What he is revealing is that the donks will say and espouse more or less anything that will allow them to tap into a suitably large group of voters.

Meanwhile, Klein admits that:
The Republicans are never so masochistically introspective; they never seem to question their essential beliefs, even when they get clobbered
which means that Klein recognizes that the GOP does have a core set of beliefs that vary little, whether they prove to be tactically effective or electorally disasterous. Of course, flush with last week's big victory, expect the pack to move incrementally toward the right. Don't, however, expect that they will abandon any of their core constituency groups, the way B.J.'s DLC abandoned the hard left and the welfare moms.

Still, it is gratifying to see the sort of self-flaggelation that the dems are going through today. Thank goodness that such advice as this
Last week, Nancy Pelosi—the very sort of political anachronism the party should studiously avoid—launched her campaign for House minority leader with a self-delusional whopper: "The Republicans are the party of the special interests," she said. "The Democrats are the party of the people." What nonsense. It was the Democratic Party's obeisance to its special interests—specifically, to the public employees unions, the trial lawyers, and the AARP—that helped lose the election. Organized labor forced the party's disastrously witless position against the homeland security bill. The trial lawyers insisted that punitive damages be included in the terrorism insurance bill. The AARP has backed the Democrats' foolish and expensive prescription drug plan. (The Republican plan, which targets only those seniors who can't afford to buy their medicine, is, literally, far more progressive—as you know, Bob, a version of this plan has been successfully implemented in Massachusetts.)
will be ignored by the party leadership.

The disaster for the democrats was engineered by those who valued electoral tactics over core beliefs. It seems that we can expect more of the same. It's a good thing, too. Otherwise, the party could splinter into its various constituencies and, thus fractured, would no longer stand as an effective opposition to the republicans. If the right had the nation in the same kind of control vise-grip as the left has had for the last few decades, the effect would be just as bad, IMHO.