October 25, 2004


Pro Choice: A DEMOCRATIC OWNERSHIP SOCIETY. (Andrei Cherny, 10.25.04, New Republic)

Four years ago, George W. Bush's fall campaign centered on a domestic agenda that he said would put trust in people rather than big government bureaucracies. He ran on ideas like Social Security privatization and school vouchers. But, since he took office, his virtual silence on these proposals has been so overwhelming as to make his vanished "compassionate conservative" agenda look like a Bush administration centerpiece.

Now, with the campaign racing toward Election Day, these ideas--reformulated as parts of Bush's much-vaunted "ownership society"--are again front and center in his campaign speeches and advertising. And it's not just because he has nothing else to say that can reasonably pass as a second-term domestic plan. It is because the ideas respond to a real hunger among Americans.

Columnists like David Brooks and Alan Murray have pointed to Bush's "ownership society" as a potential building block of a new conservative outlook now that the era of big tax cuts has ended (thanks to the budget deficit). With many Democrats still wandering in the political bewilderedness, searching for a guiding philosophy now that the era of big government has ended, the party needs to seize political ground that can and should be its twenty-first-century home.

Mr. Cherny appears to be the last Democrat left to not realize what George W. Bush has accomplished while they were calling him an idiot--public school vouchers snuck into NCLB; HSA's snuck into Medicare reform; the Faith-Based Initiative enacted by executive order; just to name a few of the major ones. Obviously the privatization of Social Security is the big enchilada, but for that reason required a wider margin in the Senate than he's yet enjoyed.

At any rate, were John Kerry to be elected but with Congress staying in GOP hands he could indeed pull a reverse Clinton and govern as a Third Way Democrat rather than the LBJ clone he's run as. The GOP wouuld be only too happy to pass major reforms like making the education vouchers private as well as public and universalizing them and getting a Social Security deal done. However, that would require the Senator to forsake his entire history in public life, his ideology, and all of the folks who put him in the White House. It would make him a great president, but he would be so profoundly alienated from his party base and his own soul that it is extraordinarily difficult to imagine it ever happening.

It's far more likely that he'd just be a time marker, holding things static until the next Republican president came in to finish the Bush Revolution. He could satisfy peoples' understandable desire for a period of do-nothing quietness, but would leave no mark on the nation other than having briefly delayed the inevitable.

That wouldn't matter much here, but his attempt freeze the world in place would be disastrous for the Middle East where the President has torqued the pressure up so high that almost every nation is reforming to one degree or another. The process would still continue, even if a President Kerry let the steam out, but it could slow things enough to cause an already blighted people more anguish than they need suffer.

The election is about up-shifting or down-shifting, but we're not going to stop or reverse.

Posted by Orrin Judd at October 25, 2004 8:31 PM


Gone is your 60-40 nation rhetoric. Are you sensing something's amiss?

Posted by: BB at October 25, 2004 10:16 PM

his virtual silence on these proposals has been so overwhelming as to make his vanished "compassionate conservative" agenda look like a Bush administration centerpiece.

Has this guy been stuffed in a meat locker for the past four years?

Posted by: Matt Murphy at October 25, 2004 10:17 PM


We must always consider alternatives or risk going Gore on 11/02. Stranger things have happened than a Kerry victory and the Republic's survived. I'm still down for Bush 54% and 56 seats for the GOP in the Senate but wouldn't be stunned if folks wanted a breather.

Posted by: oj at October 25, 2004 11:21 PM

This probably sounds heretical but I don't think a Kerry victory would be an umimaginable disater like the Left is treating Four More Years of Bush.

The GOP will still be solidly in control of Congress and act as a major hindrance on Kerry's domestic plans along with the wider conservative movement. Internationally I don't know if there's much Kerry would do to reverse the trend American foreign policy has taken since the end of the Cold War. Major cleavages with Europe started occurring thanks to Kosovo and Bosnia under Clinton after all and the differences between the US and Europe are too fundamental (cf. Robert Kagan's book) for there to be a major reversal.

In terms of Iraq and the WoT I don't see much changing from Bush's plans whatever Kerry's instincts tell him. He's likely to adopt the same policies and make some half-hearted attempts at getting support from France and Germany which will be politely rebuffed.

Who knows, the Democrats may get out of their loony phase and go back to the liberal internationalist hawkishness that was being slowly developed under Clinton. But I suppose that depends on which Kerry shows up. The peacenik who was against action in Nicaragua and the Gulf War during Reagan or the guy who voted for action in Haiti, Bosnia, Kosovo and was making warning sounds about Iraq back in the late 90's.

So yeah, like oj said it would be a down-shifting but not a reversal.

Posted by: M Ali Choudhury at October 26, 2004 4:43 AM
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