ZenPundit
Saturday, May 28, 2005
 
ARE LIBERAL HAWKS FACING AN IMMOVABLE OBJECT ?

The ubiquitous praktike is posting on intra-Democratic Party politics today and the difficulty that the factional division between liberal hawks and left-liberals is causing the Democrats in terms of articulating a coherent and attractive foreign policy to the voters:

"What Democrats need to do is convince a majority of Americans that they will protect them from danger just as well if not better than the Republicans. I don't think Kosovo furthered that agenda one way or the other, because it wasn't about a threat to us except in an indirect "save NATO from irrelevance" sense. That didn't excite too many folks outside the beltway, and I think most Americans don't go for humanitarian wars either. Terrorism, on the other hand, is very scary, and the GOP is masterful at playing upon and amplifying genuine and understandable fears and offering a simplistic narrative as to how those fears are best combatted. Likewise, the spectre of "weapons of mass destruction" looms large in the American imagination."

I have said before that I wish praktike and his cohorts at Liberals Against Terrorism well. While the conservative in me likes to see the GOP trounce the Democrats at the polls the American in me realizes that to have one of the two political parties of the preeminent world power paralyzed on issues of defense, counterterrorism, foreign policy and covert operations is a very bad thing. While Democratic and Republican foreign policies should vary in emphasis and detail, this variance needs to revolve in an orbit around a core of commonly held assumptions about American national security. A core that in some important areas doesn't exist any more.

I think praktike and those like him will be stymied for the medium term. The left-liberal boomers and Gen-X anti-globos who control the mass of the Democratic base of activists are Oliver Stone Democrats who have internalized the New Left revisionist critique of American power. It's a visceral schema now for this crowd and it isn't going to change. Rational arguments on points of policy by centrists and liberal hawks along with appeals to electoral self-interest by Democratic Party political pros do not merely fall on deaf ears but they evoke enraged howls of " Republican lite" and worse by the fifty-something, MoveOn.org, ex- Deaniacs.

The left-liberals are not interested in policies that protect American security - they think our security is a problem for the rest of the planet. The perception of the American voter that the Democrats can't be trusted on security issues is a valid one at this point in time; the left-liberals simply have too much influence in the Democratic Party to be discounted when a voter casts a ballot. It's like discounting the power of the Christian Right on social issues when voting for a moderate Republican - party factions are political baggage.

On the other hand, these characters are aging fast and liberal hawks might do well to give up on these fools and instead cultivate a generation of recruits from college campuses today who can be the state and national party leaders of tomorrow. Something that means forming new organizations to challenge the dominance of established liberal NGO's jealously controlled and vetted by Boomer leftists. In short, liberal hawks need to do to the Democratic Party what the young Goldwaterites did to the GOP when they took the Republicans from being the Party of Nelson Rockefeller to the Party of Ronald Reagan in just 16 years. This will incidentally, help my party as well because a quality opponent will make it less easy for GOP leaders to adopt bizarre and harmful policy positions beloved by small sects of exceptionally vocal wingnuts.

There's a Party of Ted Kennedy just waiting to be refashioned for the 21st century.
 
Comments:
Very well written Mark.

Speaking of party factions, have you seen
 
Thanks YH !

Err...seen what though ?
 
I think you are absolutely correct that, regardless of party affiliation, we need to have strong stances by both parties on national defense as well as all other national issues. This helps keep policy closer to the middle and away from the far left and far right. When the Dems actually have a unified message, they connect with the public, such as with social security. The last two presidential cycles saw mixed messages from the Dem party leadership, whereas the GOP has been very disciplined in their message (just keep repeating the same thing over and over, and eventually the public will accept it). Rove is the one who saw this type of strategy works, and I think the Dems can learn from that.
 
Hey Dr. Von,

Well in fairness to Rove it isn't just a clever sales pitch - the GOP really is more unified on principles of foreign policy and defense than are Democrats. Discipline just reinforces that reality in terms of perception.

The Bush crowd was also helped immensely by Pat Buchanan's noisy, bitter, self-proclaimed, departure with his dwindling contingent of paleocon, protectionist, isolationist, anti-Israel, America Firster, wingnuts. If Pat had stayed " inside" things would be harder for Rove and Bush.

We had a bipartisan vital center from about 1952 ( defeat of Taft isolationism) - 1969 ( Vietnam splits Dem. Party). Unfortunately not since, outside of free trade, NATO and Israel, and even those issues are fraying badly.
 
I agree the GOP is more unified and consistent with foreign policy and defense. When I mention the 'repeat-repeat-,,,' strategy, I mean that for all issues. I believe that is Rove's doing. He is also the one who 'trained' Bush and other candidates he worked with to stick to just a handful (or less) of issues during a campaign and drill those into the electorate's psyche. Kerry, for example, had trouble connecting because he was all over the map with too many messages/issues, and that turned off many voters. Bush stuck with terrorism and tax cuts, and not much else. The Dems need to learn from this.
 
Sorry, looks like the tags were stripped. That sucked. Here is the full link:

http://www.economist.com/displaystory.cfm?story_id=3965662
 
YH

I mostly agree with the Economist.

The Bush administration feels pretty safe with the corporate welfare-rentier rich bonnanza because there's nothing in principle there that the Dem's will object to - just the particular recipients. Barbra Boxer is not going to stand up in the well of the Senate and start quoting Milton Friedman and Arthur Laffer in a plea for greater free-market evenhandedness.

If it continues though, it will dig the electoral grave of the GOP which runs partly on the Horatio Alger type American Dream being possible. Reagan was always keen in his tax cuts and 1986 tax reform to favor stimulating economic mobility and left stasis-redistributionist policies to the other party. Bush's crowd is into protecting established wealth and rentier rake-offs.

This is why Bush's economic team doesn't have a single first rate free market economist - he doesn't want that kind of level playing field advice, he wants CEO types to rationalize special pleading for fortune 500 corporations.

But what was I going to do - vote for Kerry ? The nature of the opposition gives room for GOP irresponsibility.
 
This pretty much sums it up, "Likewise, the spectre of "weapons of mass destruction" looms large in the American imagination." It's clear to me that the Dems have a way to go; i.e. they are still in denial. Once the Dems realize that they are the ones living a fairy tale then perhaps they can start to formulate a logical foreign policy position. No Democrat has reconciled their Iraq and general foreign policy statements that they issued when Clinton was in office and their moonbat statements now. Go re-read Clinton's speech after he bombed Iraq. His statements about Iraqi WMD and how Iraq is a threat are almost identical to Bush.

In their favor however (and one reason why they won't change soon)is that most of Europe is on the same page that they are.

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