May 11, 2006


'The Common Interest' No Answer For Democrats (Brad Carson, 5/10/06, Real Clear Politics)

The failure of Tomasky is that, like Lakoff, he seems to believe that the problems facing Democrats can be fixed with only a rhetorical shift. "If only we progressive had a Frank Luntz to wordsmith for us," they would seem to say. But the Democrats' problem is far deeper; it is not that they fumble for words, but rather that they have lost their voice.

A coherent political philosophy implies a certain understanding of human nature, of the proper ends of human life. Progressive politics across the world - from Britain's Labour to Germany's SDP to America's Democrats -- has no vision of a better world because these deeply philosophical foundations of left-wing politics have eroded over the last thirty years. Events like stagflation and the fall of the Soviet Union played a role in this, but, so, too, did a line of brilliant thinkers like Hayek, Friedman, Buchanan, Stigler, Lucas, Kydler, Prescott, Merton, Miller, Becker, Simon, and Coase, all of whom received Nobel Prizes for their now-accepted apostasies from left-wing orthodoxy.

Civic republicanism may well provide a new basis for progressive politics, which is, as Tomasky says, mired in stultifying proceduralism. But it will do so by changing more than the Democrats' rhetoric. The civic republicanism that Tomasky invokes will demand a rethinking of church-state relations, criminal procedure, abortion, antitrust law, and nearly every other policy that we associate with today's Democrats. Indeed, civic republicanism demands a rethinking of what human beings actually are and what ends are conducive to human flourishing. But, while much will change, one thing will stay the same: for progressives, any use of civic republicanism must and will be guided by a deep concern for social justice and a veneration of equality, the very principles that Tomasky derides.

A party that is so at odds with human nature is hardly capable of meaningful reform.

Posted by Orrin Judd at May 11, 2006 2:39 PM

Social justice and equality.The former almost meaningless and the latter, as envisioned by contemporary liberals, impossible.

Posted by: Tom C.,Stamford,Ct at May 11, 2006 3:29 PM

Noticed in reading oj's book review that the word "father" is okay for Republicans, but for liberals, "mother" is replaced by parent. I've wondered why the word "mother" is anathema in the PC world which has replaced it with the saccharine, "mom."

Posted by: erp at May 11, 2006 4:45 PM


Recall that the Left's prime directive is the realization of equality. To pretend that mother is different than father violates that.

Posted by: oj at May 11, 2006 4:50 PM

oj. Yes, that's indeed true, but that doesn't explain their use of mom, instead of mother, but not their use of dad, instead of father. It's weird.

Posted by: erp at May 11, 2006 5:41 PM

they don't use either, just parent.

Posted by: oj at May 11, 2006 5:49 PM

The Democrats are starting with a list of policies, and trying to devise a principle from which they can all be derived. As hard as it is to start with principles and devise policies, it's combinatorically harder to do it the Democrats's way. ("Combinatorical" makes "exponential" look merely "polynomial.")

It's almost certainly impossible theoretically. It's the sort of thing that's easier in practice than in theory, but how much luck have they had so far? Most likely, they'll end up with a principle that totally fails to meet the spec. All the true believers will believe in it anyway, and no one else.

Posted by: Bob Hawkins at May 11, 2006 9:49 PM

My hunch is that "Father" is used to show the patriarchial, hierarchical, old wineskin nature of conservatives. "Parent" is used to show the inclusive, collegial, new wineskin nature of liberals.

Posted by: Dave W at May 11, 2006 10:10 PM

And that is how it ends. Perestoika, Glasnost, and the wall comes down.

In order to compete, the Party must reorganize. To reorganize, it must change how it thinks. Then it is no longer the Party.

Posted by: Lou Gots at May 12, 2006 8:35 AM