1) Drum says bashing what he calls "the left" is misguided because that battle has already been won by the "neoliberals." I'd say the battle is not so much against the "left" as against old-style ("paleo") liberalism, which includes what passes for a "left" among Dems, but more importantly includes the conventional interest groups that made up the mainstream party in the 70s and 80s--not "deranged hippies" but the unions, the civil rights lobby, the elderly lobby, the whole array of bureaucratic institutions dependent on federal money. (McGovernism, remember, was in large part a rebellion against these groups. Read the 1972 Democratic platform--or Thomas Geoghegan's famous TNR essay, "Miami and the Seeds of Port Huron.")
2) Have these groups been routed? Have "nearly all the prescriptions that the centrist neoliberals had been fighting for" been adopted by the Dem leadership? On crime and welfare, maybe (though last time I checked Senate Dems were still trying to undermine the 1996 welfare reform). But what about education--which is not just a philosphical issue but one of the four or five biggest practical problems still facing the nation. I hadn't realized, until I read Drum, that the teachers' unions had ceased to be a force in state and national politics. Democratic politicians no longer define the education problem as one of "resources" (and never mind what the money is spent on.) The neolib message has gotten through! In state after state, mediocre teachers can now be efficiently fired, so the taxpayers are confident that any added resources will actually go to better education, as opposed to the same old mediocre teachers. That battle's been won. I should be celebrating. ... Oh wait ... where am I? That was a deluded Drum dream. On the non-astral plane of reality the teachers' unions are a large part of what's left of the institutional Dem party and are busy frustrating worthwhile education reform around the nation. Wouldn't want to attack them! ... Similarly, the PC left is now pushing an immigration semi-amnesty that will, among other things, lower wages for unskilled workers and make it much harder to fight poverty among Americans earning way less than 400X less than CEOs. But we wouldn't want to criticize La Raza! Why, their influence is "barely detectable." ...
3) Many of the unfortunately persistent paleolib practices are ones that prevent government from working well and will prevent any future Democratic government from working well. I'm talking about institutions like the civil service system, defended over the years by both federal employee unions and liberal legalists, which prevents government from ever operating as efficiently as the private sector--or the notorious Davis-Bacon Act, a bureaucratic prop for the construction unions, which makes it more expensive for the government to build anything than for a private company to build it. Democrats may temporarily benefit when the bureaucratic sclerosis that results from these and other practices leads to government failure, as in the Katrina rescue. But as the party of "more government" Democrats should be even more concerned about reforming those practices than Republicans. That was once the point of a small magazine called The Washington Monthly. (Sorry. Slipped into a bit of nostalgic fogeyism there.) ...
4) Is it true, as Drum contends, that it that Democrats are split while the GOP remains ominously "united behind the barroom gibberish of George Bush"? That's funny, because-I've just been reading persuasive op-eds by E.J. Dionne and Peter Beinart arguing that it's the Republicans who are split (on immigration, the war, the deficit, stem cells, etc.) while Democrats are relatively united, policy-wise. In fact, at this point the impediment to a Democratic victory is hardly the need to convince voters it's time to throw out the GOPs. The Democratic problem is precisely the lingering distaste of the voters --those fogies!--for Democrats, and their vestigial fear that if elected Democrats will start doing the things that led the neolibs in the '70s and '80s to rebel. Given the institutional power of the unions and the lobbies in the Democratic party, that's not an irrational fear. The way to dispel the fear, and get Democrats elected, is to forcefully renounce (i.e. attack) the undesirable paleolib solutions, not to paper them over and hope the voters are too stupid or angry to care.
5) Another thing that turns voters off is the angry "which side are you on?" politics of the Kos crowd. Maybe Drum and Markos Moulitsas prefer a journalism of unity, in which Democrats never get criticized, fruitful bipartisan reforms (e.g. school choice) are suppressed for the sake of the common fight, and the need to bash the enemy breeds a bullying conformity. ('It's been three hours and you haven't denounced Mel Gibson yet!') I'd rather waitress.
Point of Personal Privilege (in response to Drum's comments section): Have I defended Lieberman? I don't think so. I've never particularly cared if Lieberman or Lamont represents Connecticut--Lieberman's annoyingly sanctimonious, and less of a neolib than a neocon. Maybe the self-righteousness is why he's never actually convinced many fellow Democrats to change their minds on anything, the way President Clinton changed minds on welfare, for example, or Fritz Hollings changed minds on the budget.** Lieberman blew his chance at greatness when he kowtowed to the race-preference lobby at the 2000 convention. ("Please don't end it." It's the pathetic 'please' that cuts it for me.) Nor am I especially anti-Dean. Dean was a plausible president, especially compared with Kerry. I am anti-Kos, because it seems to me (perhaps ignorantly) that he represents the most forceful form of tendency Drum defends, and that turns off voters--the tendency that says Democrats shouldn't spend much time questioning their traditional positions or their institutional allies because that prevents them from being as aggressively and nastily partisan as possible.
In the 1960s they told us we must be the change we seek. Do we want to become a nation of Kos-like partisan a_____es? Better a New Politics of Gene McCarthyesque candor! Very Fogey of me. ...
**--Beinart praises Lieberman's stands on Bosnia and Kosovo--which seem to have helped change one mind, namely President Clinton's. What I'm talking about is changing the minds of large numbers of Democratic and Dem-friendly voters. ...[Via Room Eight ] 5:41 P.M. link
Loss of Focus: In January. I predicted "Ford, not GM, will rebound this year" because Ford had two strong new products (the Fusion sedan and the Edge SUV). It's sure looking as if I was wrong--and The Truth About Cars has an argument as to why. Especially inexplicable are a) Ford's apparent willingness to let the competent Focus die on the vine, and b) Ford's " move to deep-six (rather than re-engineer) their big sedans and people carriers"--such as the Crown Vic and Lincoln Town Car--just "when the American market is flooding with SUV refugees" who might want to move down into big sedans. ... I still think the Edge will be a hit, though. (The Fusion already is.) ... [via Autoblog] 2:26 A.M.
Friday, August 4, 2006
"There's a chicken in my nest and she won't lay until I've given her my best": Arthur Lee, singer and songwriter of the great L.A. psychedlic band Love, died yesterday. LAist has more. ... I prefer the early Byrds-like numbers (i.e., "No Matter What You Do") to the trippy, orchestral material that won Lee a following as a Beatles-esque genius. But it all holds up! ... Update: Steve Smith has a post. ... Here's an informative page on the band. ... A good Sara Scribner piece appeared in the Dallas Observer on 3/25/99, but I can find it only on NEXIS. ... 11:17 A.M.