Wednesday, May 10, 2006

A Democratic debate

The Democratic Party is looking ahead to November '06 and November '08, says The New York Times: "With Democrats increasingly optimistic about this year's midterm elections and the landscape for 2008, intellectuals in the center and on the left are debating how to sharpen the party's identity and present a clear alternative to the conservatism that has dominated political thought for a generation."

The Times evidently doesn't pay much attention to the blogosphere, where this debate has been going on for a long time.

In the blogosphere, the debate isn't always friendly — or, at least, there are often serious and sometimes harshly personal differences in perspective. A current debate pits The New Republic's Jonathan Chait against Kos and Atrios. You can find Chait's recent posts at TNR's The Plank here and here. Kevin Drum weighs in here, the Bull Moose here.

My abridged view is this: I don't think that the "left" is all that left. As I recently argued here, the rightward shift of America's perceived center of political gravity over the past few decades has made the left seem more extreme than it really is (or, rather, extreme when it isn't). In fact, the real center of gravity is well to the left of where conservatives claim it is. Given this, I think Kevin is right.

However, Chait's argument that the Kossack left has come to resemble the McGovernite New Left of the late '60s and early '70s is quite persuasive. What worries me is the demand for ideological purity and political conformity that seems to come from some parts of the pro-Democratic blogosphere. The Democrats will only win by being a broad-based party that welcomes and celebrates diverse viewpoints (including, perhaps, Joe Lieberman), not by enforcing a strict litmus test that alienates so-called "moderates".

Ultimately, there is a lot that unites Democrats and a lot that unites their supporters in the blogosphere, but, politically, winning requires compromise.

I welcome debate. It's good for us. The unexamined life is not worth living, and, in my view, the unexamined party isn't worth supporting. But let's have a healthy, constructive debate, not one that divides, not one where winning outright is the goal. We may not need our own 11th Commandment, but we do need greater respect for difference. And, differences and all, we need to pull together if we are to win in November and again in '08.

The Republicans will be enough of an opponent. We don't need to go up against ourselves as well.

Bookmark and Share


Post a Comment

<< Home