Sunday :: Sep 3, 2006

The Useless Centerists or "No sir, I don't want to buy that pig in a dress"

by soccerdad

[update under the fold]
I am so fed up with the talk of the "Center" as in the "Democrats must take back the center". Big Tent Democrat has a guest post over at Talkleft entitled The Value of Political Populism

Lets start with his conclusion:

As always, the important thing is to be proud of who you are and what you stand for - Democratic values on both domestic and foreign policy are the right ones for our country. We should not be shy about saying that, and saying what Republican policies have been - a disaster.

But exactly what the hell do we mean by that? The gist of the article appears to be how to sell the Democratic party. He summarizes his disagreement with Brad deLong who appears to support reaching out to conservatives.
Brad Delong is quoted as saying:

My natural home is in the bipartisan center, arguing with center-right reality-based technocrats about whether it is center-left or center-right policies that have the best odds of moving us toward goals that we all share--world peace, world prosperity, equality of opportunity, safety nets, long and happy lifespans, rapid scientific and technological progress, and personal safety. The aim of governance, I think, is to achieve a rough consensus among the reality-based technocrats and then to frame the issues in a way that attracts the ideologues on one (or, ideally, both) wings in order to create an effective governing coalition.

Big Tent Democrat appears to supports the idea of populism. Populism is defined to be:

a political philosophy or rhetorical style that holds that the common person's interests are oppressed or hindered by the elite in society, and that the instruments of the state need to be grasped from this self-serving elite and used for the benefit and advancement of the people as a whole. Hence a populist is one who is perceived to craft his or her rhetoric as appeals to the economic, social, and common sense concerns of average people link

Maybe I'm just in an uglier mood than usual or I'm missing something, but I find both approaches inherently condescending and repulsive. For what I see them arguing about is what dress and color lipstick to put on the pig to make people buy it. Both approaches seem to me to inherently, if not explicitly, say that we know whats best for everyone now lets find a way to sell it to the fools.

Maybe that is what I find so repulsive, that they are spending all their time arguing about dressing up the pig instead of really figuring out that maybe the pig is not such a good idea. What I get from these kind of discussions is the that they are trying to figure out how to get a majority out of that 35% or so who vote to vote for them instead of figuring out why the 65 % don't and address their needs. The answer as to why they dont do this is contained in the policies expoused by the so called Centerist Democrats.

Lets look at some issues. Anatol Lieven of the New American Foundation has an article Bipartisan Disaster He begins by explaining in detail the diaster that is the current American Foreign Policy in the Middle East. He cites the diaster in Iraq, Afghanistan, North Korea, and the support for autocratic regimes in the ME. This is all material we know all too well. So lets get to the crux of his argument.

Among the US public, there is growing unease. But oddly for a mature democracy, there is no formal foreign policy opposition. Both Democrats and moderate Republicans oppose the most extreme plans of Dick Cheney and the neoconservatives, but on the great majority of issues -- the environment being a partial exception -- the Democratic establishment stands squarely behind the official line of the Bush administration. There are, it is true, two separate political oppositions to the present course of the Bush administration, but both oppose their party leaderships

He continues

As to the wider issues of US world strategy, the almost identical approach of the two party establishments is easy to demonstrate. One only has to read the speeches and statements of the two figures who at present seem most likely to be the contenders for the presidency in November 2008, Senators John McCain and Hillary Clinton.

Both Clinton and McCain advocate early NATO membership for Ukraine, and have expressed strong hostility to the Putin administration in Russia. On Iraq, they differ mostly over the degree to which they criticise Bush’s execution of policy. But both oppose early or unconditional withdrawal. On the latest middle east crisis their words might as well have been drafted by the same speechwriter. Clinton states: "I want us here in New York to imagine, if extremist terrorists were launching rocket attacks across the Mexican or Canadian border, would we stand by or would we defend America against these attacks from extremists?... We will support Israel’s efforts to send a message to Hamas, Hizbullah, to the Syrians, to the Iranians... They do not believe in human rights, they do not believe in democracy. They are the new totalitarians of the 21st century."

In McCain’s words: "What would we do if somebody came across our borders and killed our soldiers and captured our soldiers? Do you think we would be exercising total restraint?... Israel has neighbours on its borders that are bent on its extinction." Both Clinton and McCain call for negotiations with Iran, but only on condition of Iranian surrender to US wishes, and with the military option as a threat.

On spreading democracy in the middle east, McCain says: "The promotion of democracy and freedom is... inseparable from the long-term security of the United States." In Clinton’s words: "Human freedom and the quest for individuals to achieve their God-given potential must be at the heart of American approaches across the region."

He goes on to make a number of points which I will summarize here:

I am afraid that the bulk of the Democrat and Republican establishments speak the same way on foreign policy because they think the same way. And of course the elites do not just react to popular views, they also shape them. First, both wings of the bipartisan establishment are American nationalists....... Second, the bipartisan establishment is made up of American imperialists. [My note: anybody who doubts that read Kinzer's new book for historical perspective]..... The third reason why the Republicans and Democrats sound so alike is that both identify so closely with Israel, whether out of genuine belief or fear of the influence of the Israel lobby........

His conclusion

A more hopeful prospect in the long run lies in a coalition between the moderate realists and populists in the heartland in revolt against the costs of empire. As soon as it becomes clear to the white middle classes that a continuation of present levels of military spending and foreign policy activism will require sharp reductions in middle-class entitlements-social security, Medicare, mortgage relief and so on -- mass pressure for a withdrawal from present levels of engagement will become overwhelming.

In the long run I have faith in America’s ability to return to the path of rational and enlightened self-interest. My fear is that for this to happen, the US and the world will have to plunge into even greater disasters; and that before America returns to sanity, America’s obedient and much more vulnerable British vassals will have been attacked a dozen times, and with increasing degrees of savagery.

I think his point is pretty much proven by B. Clinton's actions especially his desire to keep the sanctions on Iraq for primarily economic reasons related to Iraq's pending oil contracts with China and Russia.

One could also make a simliar case for economic polices. Just look at who voted for the Bankruptcy reform bill. Clinton pushing for and signing NAFTA. Globalization is a fact of life, but the way you go about handling it reveals whether you have any concern for its effects on average Americans. We have not seen the Dems stand up to the Repubs on supreme court appointments, torture, illegal wiretaps, etc etc. Is it because they are afraid or is it simply that their priorities are driven by who gives them money for their campaigns and thus theur priorites are not much different than the Repubs? I will continue to assume the latter until evidence surfaces that says different. We already know that the Dems have recently raised more money from Wall Street. So where are their loyalities.

The truth of the matter is that the Democratic party as well as the Repubilcan party have abandoned the middle and lower classes as well as minorities. Look at the 65% who dont vote. For the first time in my life I am contemplating not voting in 2008 unless there is an alternative to the pig in a dress. Neither party represents my interests or those of my children in any real way.

Don't talk to me about how you are going to dupe people into voting for you, give me some hope that you have really learned some leasons from this unmitigated diaster of the last 6 years. Unless there is some new revelations that indicate such lessons learned culminating in a new way forward evidenced by concrete proposals, then I have to conclude that the two party system has devolved to a point in which we have two groups of corporate funded elitists fighting over who gets to control the rest of us.

Contrary to what all you academic, philosophizing elites and political science wonks think, we aren't that stupid. We know whats going on.


more wisdom from a Centerist

Even if it were possible for Democrats to create a national platform, moreover, doing so might be too risky this cycle. Thomas Mann of the Brookings Institute recently cautioned Democrats against getting into policy specifics because Republicans will jump at any chance to divert the voters’ attention from a retrospective focus on the GOP’s policy failures. The New Republic’s Peter Beinart goes a step further, arguing that Democrats should aspire to be the “party of no ideas” in 2006. link
Gee that worked so well in 2004! But it does avoid showing everyone that your ideas are no different, in principle, from those of the people in the white house.

or how about this gem from Biden this am.

"I think the key question is not, are we at war, but are we winning that war?…Are we safer than we were five years ago?" Biden speculated, looking toward the 2006 midterm elections.

Is this the response the Dems are looking for

In this fall’s congressional and gubernatorial elections, Maryland voters are going to hold their noses and reluctantly vote Democrat. I say reluctantly because I don’t know anyone who will be voting for the Democratic Party out of genuine interest or excitement about the party or its positions. After all, the primary accomplishments of the Democratic Party in the post-Sept. 11 era seem to be pathological spinelessness in confronting the Bush administration’s lies and usurpation of American freedoms and devotion to Hillary Clinton, easily the most nakedly cynical politician since Richard Nixon. link

like shooting fish in a barrel

But Democratic challenger Bob Casey accused Santorum of failing to hold the administration responsible.

Casey, though, said he wouldn't "abandon" the mission in Iraq by setting a timetable for troop withdrawal. And he said he would have voted to go to war in Iraq, given the evidence available before the 2003 invasion. link

soccerdad :: 7:03 AM :: Comments (12) :: Digg It!