March 15, 2010

IF ONLY:

The Decision That Changed the Dems (Peter Beinart, 3/15/10, Daily Beast)

This week’s last-ditch health care push may or may not prove the defining battle of Barack Obama’s presidency. It may or may not prove a defining moment in the history of the American welfare state. But here’s a good bet: The Democratic Party will never be the same.

For close to a decade now, Democrats have been arguing with each other about what kind of country this is, and what kind of party they should be. On one side stands a group of politicians, consultants and wonks who believe that America is, at its core, a pretty conservative place. These Democrats form something of a political generation. In their youth, they saw their party move left during Vietnam and get booted from power in 1968. Then they saw George McGovern, the most left-wing major party presidential candidate of the twentieth century, lose 49 states. Then they saw Jimmy Carter’s presidency destroyed in part because he looked weak during the Iran hostage crisis. Then they saw Ronald Reagan, once considered as an unelectable right-wing nut, become the most popular president of their adult lives. [...]

But in the Bush years, a new faction began to emerge. These Democrats were mostly newer to politics. They had never seen a McGovern or Mondale mauled for being too far to the left. What they had seen was the post-1994 Bill Clinton, who shied away from ambitious liberal reform. And they had seen the Iraq War, which DLC types largely supported, partly out of fear that opposing it would allow Republicans to paint Democrats as soft on defense.

By 2003, this new group of Democrats was angry as hell. The Iraq War, which party elders had mostly backed, was proving a disaster, and to make matters worse, Republicans were clobbering Democrats as weak anyway. So these Democrats began fashioning a different theory: Perhaps the problem wasn’t that Democrats looked weak because they were too liberal, perhaps the problem was that Democrats looked weak because they didn’t stand up for what they really believed.


It would be a very good thing for the country if Democrats were to--even though only temporarily--stand up loud and proud for the Second Way. It would afford us all the opportunity to move past it, most importantly those Republicans who are still terrified of being branded the party of Hoover.

Posted by Orrin Judd at March 15, 2010 5:46 PM
blog comments powered by Disqus
« JIMMY CARTER NEVER LIKED IT EITHER: | Main | UNLESS YOU'RE WILLING TO TAKE ON MARBURY V. MADISON, THEY WIN: »