April 25, 2006


The Left's Big Ideas (E. J. Dionne, 4/26/06, Real Clear Politics)

What has become clear in recent months is that the impatience on the center-left with the hopeless endeavor of waiting for workaday politicians to come up with ideas -- Godot would deliver faster -- has spilled over the barriers of conventional politics. The brooding, musing and, yes, thinking since President Bush's victory in 2004 is starting to show results.

The biggest change is that moderates and liberals have begun to accept that they cannot simply adjust to conservative dominance of the political debate and alter their ideas to fit the current consensus. As Michael Tomasky writes in the current issue of The American Prospect, Democrats and their allies must destroy the current political ``paradigm'' based on ``radical individualism'' and replace it with a politics of the ``common good.'' Only a larger argument rooted in a different conception of government and society, Tomasky argues, will allow the party to ``do a lot more than squeak by in this fall's (or any) elections based on the usual unsatisfying admixture of compromises.''

In describing his common-good approach, Tomasky notes it has significant implications in challenging Democrats to stand for more than ``diversity and rights,'' however valuable these commitments might be. Both diversity and rights, he argues, would be better defended in a common-good framework.

Here are three common good proposals they could run on: universal education vouchers, universal health savings accounts, and universal retirement accounts. Of course, the fact that those are all part and parcel of the current political paradigm of George Bush's Republican Party puts paid to the truly deranged notion that the Left has to fight off radical individualism.

Posted by Orrin Judd at April 25, 2006 2:41 PM

That is another aspect of the fact that the Left's policies are destructive of the common good.

Posted by: Annoying Old Guy at April 25, 2006 3:38 PM


One question: do you want to improve things or maintain the influence of the public employees unions and the power and reach of the bureaucratic state? It's one or the other, my friend.

Posted by: Tom C.,Stamford,Ct. at April 25, 2006 3:52 PM

Man, EJ never disappoints.

Posted by: Pepys at April 25, 2006 4:00 PM

If they were to grasp real reform in all three areas they would regain the Reagan Democrats votes. Couple that with laying off gun control and they would push the GOP back into minority status.

Posted by: Pete at April 25, 2006 5:37 PM


No, they'd just pass the Republican agenda and get no credit.

Posted by: oj at April 25, 2006 5:44 PM

There are still too many vested interest groups feeding on the corpse to surrender it to people who could resurrect party. Essentially the party will need to stop defining itself in terms of the Culture War and return to its popular roots. I fear more years in the wilderness are needed.

That will allow it to start the form of coaltion building needed to regain the electoral majority. The 1980s-90s GOP was not the GOP of '30s-'60s. Entire blocs realigned. Neither will the new Democratic Party be the Dems of the '90s-'00s.

Instead of marketing the party differently, it will need a new theme to organize a winning coalition. The best one I can think of that has a broad enough appeal is to push non-statist environmentalism to the forefront. There is a burgeoning movement in free market green, and overall people like clean air and drinkable water. It will require the slaughtering of some sacred cows, but it's more realistic than the entrenched corporate interests in the GOP allowing any real reform.

Posted by: Chris Durnell at April 25, 2006 7:00 PM


The Party's roots are antithetical to Christianity and the Founding and it can therefore only hope for economic catastrophe that makes folks insecure enough they'll buy into socialism.

Posted by: oj at April 25, 2006 7:08 PM

FDR and the new deal.

they want a Depression.

Boy i thought they were living in the 60s, I never realized they're living in the 30s.

Posted by: Sandy P at April 25, 2006 10:04 PM

"I never realized they're living in the 30s."

You should have. This is the party that still runs against Herbert Hoover every four years and they're already disinterring his corpse for this year's elections.

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at April 26, 2006 10:13 AM