October 10, 2004


Left in the wings: The looming fight for the heart and soul of the Democratic Party (Mark Hertsgaard, October 10, 2004, SF Chronicle)

Influential figures on the party's left wing are planning a long-term campaign to move the Democrats to the left, just as right-wing activists took over the Republican Party and moved it to the right over the past 30 years.

If the left's campaign is successful, it could transform the political landscape of the United States, changing the terms of debate and bringing dramatically different policies on local, national and international issues.

After George McGovern's landslide loss to Richard Nixon in 1972, some centrist Democrats argued that Democrats had become too liberal to win national elections.

The accusation was repeated after Michael Dukakis' lopsided loss to George Bush in 1988. Leading the charge was the Democratic Leadership Council, a group of centrist Democrats who subsequently pushed the party rightward on crime, economics and foreign policy during the presidency of Bill Clinton, himself a council supporter.

Now, leftist Democrats are planning to challenge the centrists' control. The leftists argue that many Democrats, especially the party establishment in Washington, have become too much like Republicans and too afraid to stand up to right-wingers like George W. Bush.

The Democrats had an opportunity under Bill Clinton to become America's permanent majority party, by eschewing New Deal/Great Society liberalism and embracing Third Way ideas for using market-based solutions to public policy problems as Mr. Clinton had done in his run for the presidency. But the cost of Hillary Clinton's support for her husband was apparently that she be allowed to try out one last Second Way idea, her Health Care plan, and that enabled the GOP to seize back control of the issues agenda. President Clinton's subsequent need for the backing of his party's Left, during impeachment, drove the final nail in the coffin of the New Democrats.

The Ownership Society that President Bush and congressional Republicans are erecting, integrated with the Faith-Based Initiative and the Culture of Life, is likely to confer dominance to the GOP for a period of some decades just as surely as the original Social Welfare State put Democrats in the driver's seat for seventy years. For most of that time Republicans settled for a bland me-tooism that enabled them to elect a couple presidents--Ike and Nixon--but only if they accepted the status quo. The Party basically traded significance for power and the nation was not well served. If Democrats choose to do the opposite--to return to their core ideals of socialism, secularism, unionism, isolationism, protectionism, etc.--rather than continually blurring their differences with Republicans, as Senator Kerry has so obviously tried to do, it will sentence them to a long period in the wilderness, but it will provide for real clarity in the nation's political dialogue and that seems a very good thing.

Posted by Orrin Judd at October 10, 2004 2:55 PM

No, No, No. What we are seeing in the Democrat Party headed for a crack-up. The idea that the hard left can take over the party and then take over the country is not even close to reality.

The "right" which took over the Republicans bears very little resemblance to the "right" of generations gone by. What we have now on the "right" is a sort of Richard Weaver conservatism: the paradigm of essences toward which the phenomennology of the world is in constant approximation.

None of the demographics favor a long-term turn to the left,least of all, the hope of our folk-enemies for a "minority-majority." The enthnological history of the United States is one of sucessive ethnic groups "becoming White." Is there any reason to believe that this will not continue? It might be painful to listen to one's "mutha'" tongue disappear from the face of the earth, but the pain felt by one hit with a falling rock does not repeal the law of gravity.

Posted by: Lou Gots at October 10, 2004 6:44 PM


They can't take over the country but it would be helpful for them to regain control of the Party and offer a genuine alternative, however unpopular.

Posted by: oj at October 10, 2004 6:50 PM

Yes. But they'll come out into the open only to be resoundingly crushed like a scorpion smacked with a brick. And that's a Good Thing.

Posted by: ray at October 10, 2004 9:46 PM

The country is still suffering from a hangover after the big economic party we had last decade. People are pulling it in a bit and not spending as much except maybe on their houses and they have turned in some of their hedonistic ways for a little church going is all. I really wouldn't get so excited about the possibility of 70 years of evangelism coming our way.

When the government starts to get smaller, and I mean really smaller, you may be on to something. But until that begins to happen, you guys are just smoking the good stuff.

None of the entitlement programs are getting any smaller and in fact Social Security is now just old fashioned welfare program repackaged. The game is to pretend to be hurt either mentally or physically rather than pretending to get a job.

Water doesn't flow uphill unless pumped, entropy doesn't increase it decreases, and people won't give up power once they have it. Someone speaks of demographics being in conservatives favor? Visit an American city or large metropolitan area. Some precincts in my city have illegitimacy rates of 95%. These people are not going to vote conservative. Don't be fooled into complacency thinking that they don't vote either. They will always hold power as a large and rapidly growing block of people who have no vested interest in seeing the size of government reduced.

Posted by: Perry at October 10, 2004 9:48 PM


It' not going to get smaller--it'll get much larger, but we'll all own it. Owners are conservative.

Posted by: oj at October 10, 2004 10:32 PM

People from areas with illegitimacy rates of 95% might vote, but not in high numbers.
Further, although such blocs might have local political power, they're a distict minority nationwide.

It's not the poor or minorities who prevent the Federal government from shrinking, although they're most dependent upon it; it's America's largely white middle class that won't allow the Federal government to be downsized.

Posted by: Michael Herdegen at October 11, 2004 1:00 AM

"the paradigm of essences toward which the phenomennology of the world is in constant approximation."

Well, that's easy for you to say.

Posted by: Robert Schwartz at October 11, 2004 1:34 AM

If things work out as I think they will on 11/2 Red and Over. The left will be one of the forces contending for the carcass of the democrat party.

In some places, the uper left side of Manhattan and the foggier reaches of San francisoco they will win. In other places they don't stand a chance. Chicago, Michigan, the midwest in general.

My prediction is that the Democrats will become the home of the libertarian tendencies, a natural place for a party founded by Jefferson.

Small Government is a good slogan for an opposition party. A blanced budget will be a popular platform item.

Opposing governmental intrusion into private lives, will be a resting place for abortion rights and drug reform. Gay marriage -- get government out of the marriage business.

An isolationist foreign policy would seem to fit this pattern very well.

Posted by: Robert Schwartz at October 11, 2004 1:48 AM


I agree with your assumptions but not your conclusion. The party that combines libertarian social policy with economic conservativism and most importantly small government will be the dominant party. We could get there quickly if the Barry Goldwater Republicans or the Newt Gingrich clan were not being obscured by the war or we could get there after a few more cycles of socialism with a Hillary presidency or we could get there after the religious right (small group after you take abortion issue out) gets thrown back with Jerry Falwell and ridiculed again. Or we could get there staight away if Bush gets rid of SS system, IRS, public schools and the rest of about 28 million government employees not counting military.

We own the governemnt now, have you ever heard of T-bills?, and pay for it with taxes. Owning it is not the advantage, it is being able to get rid of government workers and other forms of socialism

- Perry

Posted by: Perry at October 11, 2004 8:34 AM


What % of Americans own T-bills? What % are owned by foreigners?

When Social Security is a $10 Trillion dollar program but is divvied up into individual accounts it will create a far different dynamic than a bunch of bogus bonds and IOUs sitting in a vault.

Posted by: oj at October 11, 2004 8:41 AM


So under your logic the growth upwards of the SS system would be good just like a owning a growing business would be good. If this represents true individual savings accounts reflecting what each indiviual has put in and always availbe to each indiviual then great, but the growth of SS is due to welfare type payouts and payouts to those that didn't fund it to the level of benefits they get. Still socialism - Perry

Posted by: Perry at October 11, 2004 9:10 AM

Yes, individualized SS will be vastly larger than the public version.

Posted by: oj at October 11, 2004 9:32 AM

Ok, we have had this discussion before as the new ownership SS system wouldn't actually be big goverment anymore than the SEC "owns" the stock market. The goverment would just have a regulatory function over many private accounts just like it does IRA's. I fail to see what the revolution is here. You still dodge the question whether you would remove welfare component of current SS system - Perry

Posted by: Perry at October 11, 2004 10:36 AM

We are headed for a re-alignment of some kind.

The economic concerns of working class Americans are being ignored by both parties. The social conflict between the Religious Right and the Metrosexual Left leaves most Americans cold.

Most Americans even those who oppose the Iraq war do not believe that the US is the fount of all evil, as the McGovernite left believes. However, most Americans have zero interest in solving all the world's problems and intuitively understand the essential impossibility of that task.

Posted by: Bart at October 11, 2004 10:39 AM


That's nonsense--the Religious Right has majorities around 70% on social issues. It leaves both you libertarians cold.

Posted by: oj at October 11, 2004 10:45 AM

Yes Bart, I fear we will squander a very big opportunity to re-align the pieces in a way that will beneift us all, not just some of us. After all, is that what government should be about? - Perry

Posted by: Perry at October 11, 2004 10:46 AM


Your IRA is government mandated?

Posted by: oj at October 11, 2004 10:46 AM


Of course, it is not currently taxed and has goverment rules and regulations attached. In practice very little differnce to a mandate as there is no alternative if one wants to save

Posted by: Perry at October 11, 2004 10:49 AM


70% on some social issues, not all and abortion being the only meaningful one, past that, the right has only the suburbs holding it toghtger

Posted by: Perry at October 11, 2004 10:52 AM


70% on every abortion restriction that the GOP has proposed, just not a complete ban.

Posted by: oj at October 11, 2004 10:59 AM


So it's your belief that 100% of the American people have IRAs?

Posted by: oj at October 11, 2004 11:01 AM

Yes oj, but the 70% support has many strings attached, go to far and support would fall way off.

On this topic I have a question if anyone wouldn't mind.

Let us say supreme court got stacked right, (common reason/fear for voting against President Bush), what would be the mechanism or - in what way would/could Roe v Wade be overturned? How realistic is this possiblity? Some say would never be challaged as supreme court would be taking away a right. (I don't agree, they have done it with patiot act) - Perry

Posted by: Perry at October 11, 2004 11:07 AM

OJ, you keep making that claim about social issues yet in referendum after referendum the less restrictive position always wins. Do you have an explanation of that or do you believe that polling data is a more reliable indicator of voter sentiment than actual votes are?

Most Americans are quite capable of making a distinction between tolerance and approval. Why aren't you?

Posted by: Bart at October 11, 2004 11:11 AM


100% of American people would not pay into a new style SS system as many donot currently pay taxes anyway. I agree it would be higher though than percentage that have IRA's, but again were is the revolution, and why won't you address welfare componet of current SS system, would you leave it in place?

Posted by: Perry at October 11, 2004 11:11 AM


The method of challenging Roe would be a state legislature passing a law directly in opposition to its pernicious requirements. Planned Parenthood or someone would challenge it, and the case would rise through the circuits until it hit the Supremes.

Posted by: Bart at October 11, 2004 11:13 AM


Everyone with a job certainly would and we'd eventually have to create a system that starts at birth and is universal.

Posted by: oj at October 11, 2004 11:14 AM


Restrictions routinely pass but are then overturned by courts. Planned Parenthood estimates that abortion would return to being illegal in 30 states, which seems about right. That's 60% right off the bat.

Posted by: oj at October 11, 2004 11:16 AM


30 states is not 60 percent of the US.

California and New York will not pass an abortion restriction in our lifetimes and those 2 states alone are like 20% of America. It is unlikely that any state west of the Rockies or east of the Delaware will pass an abortion restriction.

Posted by: Bart at October 11, 2004 11:34 AM

They'll have partial birth, parental notification, etc. restrictions and as CA and NY become more Hispanic they'll adopt even more restrictions.

Posted by: oj at October 11, 2004 12:05 PM

Does the SF Chronicle think that Gavin Newsom has a national political future? They better think again.

Posted by: jim hamlen at October 11, 2004 12:09 PM

Perry: The Republicans have discovered that it is more fun to spend money than to be ideologically pure. Only an opposition party can be a small government/balanced budget party. Read Anne Applebaum's insightful column on Newt Gingrich; Small Government Is So 1990s.

Posted by: Robert Schwartz at October 11, 2004 2:07 PM

Thanks Robert, maybe I am late to the party but I think I see how the current GOP conservatives have decided buying abortion restriction (and other conservative social issues) is the most expedient way to get that job done. Why fight over small government and the non-statist ideal, when after all liberalism is really quite palatable when social issues are served as the main course.

Posted by: Perry at October 11, 2004 6:21 PM

Bart, et al,

Would Roe v Wade literally get overturned or just not apply. I guess I don't see how surpreme court would be able to say it no longer applies. (I am not arguing here, just asking)

Posted by: Perry at October 11, 2004 6:24 PM

My best guess is that the decision would be overturned in the sense of permitting states to regulate abortion as they see fit, in other words, the status quo before Roe.

Posted by: Bart at October 11, 2004 6:29 PM


Here is similar sentiment expressed by Bob Barr. The last line is the gotcha OJ.


Posted by: Perry at October 11, 2004 7:10 PM


The Democrats are the libertarian party.

Posted by: oj at October 11, 2004 7:31 PM


Bob Barr never reminded me much of a libertarian

Posted by: Perry at October 11, 2004 7:40 PM


He is. He's working for the ACLU to repeal the PATRIOT Act.

Posted by: oj at October 11, 2004 7:45 PM

OJ, now that he IS, is the point. He WAS one of the most conservative congressman I can remember.

Posted by: Perry at October 11, 2004 8:01 PM

Bob Barr's concern about the Patriot Act is that the increased level of surveillance might result in his record of alimony payments to his multitude of ex-wives being put under scrutiny.

Posted by: Bart at October 11, 2004 8:15 PM

The article details his strong conservatism and in no way contradicts his life long political philosphy.

"I realized -- and I think they realized the same thing -- that the size of government and the expansiveness of government power were creating a smaller sphere of personal liberty and personal privacy, and that we needed to find allies in this fight, and work together on those issues in which we agree and agree to disagree on the other issues."

He thinks the PATRIOT act had/has problems, so do I.

The point here still stands, there are many ways for the Right to lose support and let liberalism off the ropes, I hope it doesn't happen, after all, wouldn't that be immoral?

P.s Chris Reeves dying is bad timing for Pres. Bush.

Posted by: Perry at October 11, 2004 9:26 PM

What do you know, the website doesn't like Kerry's civil liberties record either!


Posted by: Perry at October 11, 2004 9:36 PM


They're libertarians, every libertarian is a party of one.

Posted by: oj at October 11, 2004 9:52 PM

"The Democrats are the libertarian party."

Posted by oj at October 11, 2004 07:31 PM

Posted by: Perry at October 11, 2004 9:59 PM

Yes, they're the party of atomization and libertinism and thus of libertarians.

Posted by: oj at October 11, 2004 10:41 PM