OK, here’s an article that explains why I keep reading the New York Times (you’ve seen Okrent’s column this week, right? – and if you don’t want to register, just cut-and paste the URL into Google or use this link):
Wiring the Vast Left-Wing Conspiracy, by Matt Bai
I met Rappaport, who is 46, in early June in his firm’s offices on Sand Hill Road, Silicon Valley’s answer to Wall Street. As we talked in a plush conference room flanked by a sunlit terrace on one side and a pool table on the other, events in the world outside seemed to be tilting strongly in the Democrats’ favor. Public support for President Bush’s handling of the war in Iraq was dropping precipitously. The price of oil had shot up to $42 a barrel. Only hours earlier, voters in South Dakota sent a Democratic woman, Stephanie Herseth, to the U.S. House in a special election — a race widely viewed as a potential harbinger for November.
But if all of this made John Kerry a good bet to become the next president, it did nothing, in Rappaport’s view, to solve the Democrats’ underlying problems. When I asked if he was skeptical about the direction of the party, he smiled, then said dryly, ”If you’ve been able to discern a direction on which to be skeptical or optimistic, then you’re doing pretty well.”
In fact, Rappaport was surprisingly downcast about the party’s prospects, which, he said, would not be improved simply by winning back the White House. Though he sat and thought about it, he said he was unable to name a single Democratic leader in the years since Bill Clinton left Washington who he thought was articulating a compelling new direction for the party. ”There is a growing realization among people who take very seriously the importance of progressive politics that the Democratic Party has kind of failed to create a vision for the country that is strongly resonant,” he said. ”And our numbers” — meaning Democrats as a whole — ”are decreasing. Our political power has been diminishing, and it’s become common knowledge that the conservative movement has established a very strong, long-term foundation, whereas we’ve basically allowed our foundation, if not to crumble, to at least fall into a state of disrepair. So there are a lot of people thinking, What can we do about this?”
Actually, Rappaport says he may be on to an answer.
That answer – an effort to build a network of Democratic think tanks, and to try and come up with some kind of a meaningful Democratic ideological core – something other than ‘pro-woman, pro-black, pro-union, pro-trial lawyer’ – may be the best news I’ve seen all month.
Read the whole thing, I’ll be writing up something extensive in response by tomorrow night.