November 8, 2002
FORTY YEARS IN THE DESERT?:
Into the Wilderness
(PAUL KRUGMAN, November 8, 2002, NY Times)
To have a chance of breaking through the wall of media blur and distraction, the Democrats have to get the public's attention--which means they have to stand for something.
It's obvious what the Democrats should stand for: Above all, they should be the defenders of ordinary Americans against the power of our burgeoning plutocracy. That means hammering the Republicans as they back off on corporate reform--which they will. It means defending the environment against the administration's sly, behind-the-scenes program of dismantling regulation.
And it means doing what the party has refused to do: coming out forthrightly against tax cuts for corporations and the rich--both the cuts passed last year and those yet to come. In the next few months the Bush administration will once again demand tax cuts that benefit a tiny elite, in the name of economic stimulus. The Democrats mustn't fall for this line again; they must insist that the way to stimulate the economy is to put money in the hands of people who need it.
If the Democratic Party takes a clear stand for the middle class and against the plutocracy, it may still lose. But if it doesn't stand for anything, it--and the country--will surely lose.
Mr. Krugman is absolutely right. For the good of their own souls and of theb nation, Democrats should return to their core principles and present a real alternative to conservatism, just as conservatives steadfastly opposed the New Deal and Great Society. Of course, that may mean that their time in the wilderness, as did the GOP's
(1932-1994?), will last longer than even the normal Biblical span.
Posted by Orrin Judd at November 8, 2002 11:27 AM
You generously skipped over this laughable gem from earlier in the piece:
"They can spend far more money getting their message out; when it comes to free publicity, some of the major broadcast media are simply biased in favor of the Republicans, while the rest tend to blur differences between the parties."
Hey, I'm trying to be generous...
I think maybe the significance of 1994 is overestimated- of the 73 incoming Republicans, less than half are still in the house. People forget 1998, where the Democrats made small gains despite Clinton's troubles. The GOP's gains were more significant, but then Bush is much more popular than Clinton was.
I guess the point is, every election is a new ballgame.
Krugman's "war against the plutocracy": I recommend reading Virginia Postrel's economics column from the NYTimes (I think it's from Nov. 6th but you can link to it through her site www.the dynamist.com). She argues that increasing income inequality is not matched by any corresponding consumption inequality (the rich spend more than the poor but not by anywhere close to the amount they outearn them, to put it simply). She suggests that this statistic indicates annual variability of income is much greater than commonly reckoned. Of course, the amount of movement between income deciles is one of the blank spots in Krugman's arguments (literally "blank" -- he doesn't address the issue at all). Postrel's argument has the advantage of explaining why the emergence of a "plutocracy" doesn't seem to be matched by either our observations from every-day life or by political ramifications. Unbelievably for an economist, Krugman is long past explaining these facts; he merely derides those who don't consider a war against the plutocracy a political imperative. Anyway, I recommend the article which is very clear and interesting.
Overestimated? The GOP took the House for the first time in forty years, held it for the first time in 60+ in '96, and still has it.
Noel: I'll concur with OJ, in politics power is its own justification. It really doesn't matter who the faces are if the party is the same over the long term.
I didn't say that 1994 was insignificant- only that it wasn't quite the quantum leap it was supposed to be. I really think GW Bush is a different type of Republican than Gingrich/Gramm "Contract with America" guys.
Moreover, after '94 the Democrats made small gains, until last week. And the consequences of last week were magnified precisely because the Senate was so evenly split.
In other words, the Democrats lost this round, but we're not out of it.