Dean and the need for party building

Kos and others have been lamenting the lack of direction and focus in the Democratic Party. Dean ran a successful DNC head campaign at least partially on this principle, stating that at times the party had been captured by their left wing and prevented from being centrist enough to win over moderate voters.

There are also dissenters who say that the oldest Party lacks a message and simply stands for contrarianism today. Daschle was blasted for being obstructionist and it seems like President Bush can’t get a word in edge-wise without threat of filibuster or harassment. But one must wonder, and I do, if this is not simply multiple ploys by the Majority Republicans to villainize the Minority Democrats even further.

It seems to me that if the President were interested in bipartisan progress, as he claimed post-election, he would be nominating U.N. Ambassadors with clean slates and exemplary service records, not chicanery and cover-ups. John Bolton might be a hardliner and might be what the U.N. needs, but there wasn’t a no-nonsense diplomat somewhere in the stack that both parties could agree on? Additionally, the nomination of judges who lean a bit too far right for people’s tastes, even one Republican (Lincoln Chafee), seems to be a direct challenge to the Democrats. Does Mr. Bush really believe in Priscilla Owen, et al, or is he just pushing our buttons and keeping us from doing anything meaningful while the far-left and middle-left bicker amongst themselves?

Which brings me to the point of party loyalty. In the Republican Party, stepping outside party lines is risky business. On the other side of the fence, where we still believe in democracy (apologies, Dan) that’s not out of the ordinary, it’s the norm. Democrats regularly vote for Republican ideas if the ideas are sane. I wonder what blowback Sen. Arlen Specter and Rep. Mike Castle will face for trying to move toward scientific progress in the stem cell debate.

As a loyal and fierce Democrat, not a Bush contrarian, I must agree that our Party is lacking direction and cohesion, but I am afraid to take the steps that brought the Republican Party from nowhere to everywhere post-Nixon. At this point, I don’t know where the answer is, but I’m not sure that Dean has it. He claims that he isn’t too far left to take the party somewhere and grow it, but his track record isn’t great on that front. Even before the famous scream, leftist voters were leaning toward Kerry. I don’t want to toe a Party Line, but it feels like our hands might be tied until we gain some ground. Is it OK to declare martial law and put up a dictator for the Party if it takes us from rabble-rousing to revolution? And once we’re there, can we keep him leashed? I’m sure there are old-style Republicans (fiscal responsiblity, small government, state’s rights, privacy) out there that are regretting their decision to back Bush no questions asked. I met some in Texas. I’m sure there are Republican politicians who cringe at Frist and DeLay taking advantage of the religious right in the Schiavo case… But they’re being mostly silent.

If we want to get somewhere as a party, do we abandon democracy as well?

Aaron

One thought on “Dean and the need for party building”

  1. Excellent post!

    It is wonderful to have tdaxp so well taken cared of. Like a submarine fittingly piloted, it’s a fantastic machine.

    I am leaving pretty quickly, but your post definitely deserves comment

    “It seems to me that if the President were interested in bipartisan progress, as he claimed post-election, he would be nominating U.N. Ambassadors with clean slates and exemplary service records, not chicanery and cover-ups.”

    There’s no contradiction. Bush said he would work with Democrats to forward his (Bush’s) agenda. Like most ideological insurents, Bush tells the world exactly how he will work.

    Bush is struggling to build a “future worth creating.” In his mind’s eye he sees the America he wants — a vision shared by a substantial fraction of Republicans. This gives him a forward policy of progress, with every decision judged on whether or not it progresses to that goal.

    “Bipartisanship” is a tool, not an end. Criticising Bush for not being bi-partisan is like criticizing the North Vietnamese for not taking the Paris Peace Talks seriously, or the Federal government for not honoring the Indian Wars treaties. The goal isn’t to be biparistan/to negotiate meaningfully/to honor treaties — the point is to /win/.

    I don’t think this was Bush’s style when he became President, but he is a fast learner. Attempting to be bipartisan almost got him politcally killed.

    So Bush is working towards a goal.

    What are Daschle and Reid working to? This isn’t rhetoric — I don’t know. I don’t think they know. The Democrat Party is non-ideological – it is a partisan mix of factions that have little sympathy for each other. Some controlling high ground (Courts, Academia), some out of power (Feminists, Unions), none banding together for a coherent program.

    To use a historical analogy, Bush is Mao. He knows what he wants and how to get it. Daschle and Reid are Kaishek — they want power but can’t hold it.

    Which leads to..

    ” Democrats regularly vote for Republican ideas if the ideas are sane”

    The Republican Party is oriented around an idealist goal while the Democrat Party is not. So clearly the Republicans will display much more ideologicla cohesion. It isn’t an issue of sanity — it’s an issue of Republicans knowing what they want.

    “I am afraid to take the steps that brought the Republican Party from nowhere to everywhere post-Nixon”

    Which are? Again, not rhetoric. I’ll love to read your thoughts when I get back. 🙂

    “Is it OK to declare martial law and put up a dictator for the Party if it takes us from rabble-rousing to revolution? “

    Ideological networks aren’t Great Leader Networks. Loser insurgencies (the original FLN, the Indian warriors, even the Nazi Party) relied on the Leader to provide direction. But “roll up” the party — kill higher and higher people — and the movement dies.

    The GOP is closer to al Qaeda. Killing bin Laden would be almost meaningless. Likewise removing Bush from power would be almost effectless.

    Is the Democrat Party willing to sacrifice every special interest to a self-organizing ideology? That’s the question. Probably not.

    Alternatively, the Democrat Party could co-opt enough Republican ideas so that the differences fade into meaningless. Blair did this with Thatcherism. Clinton tried to do this with Reaganism.

    “If we want to get somewhere as a party, do we abandon democracy as well?”

    Maybe the old style — the old generation — of democracy, yes.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *