I’ve been pretty much away from the computer for the last two days, so I missed the first wave of responses to Peter Bienert’s piece on Liberals and Terrorism in TNR (registration required and well worth it).
In a sense, that makes me lucky, because not only do I get to comment in passing on an article that many of you will have read (and if you haven’t, just stop reading this right now and go read it), but I get to comment on the responses.
First, as to the article itself; well, given what I’ve written and talked about for the last two years, I’m wearing a giant bulls-eye on my shirt. I’m the choir, and I’ll stand in back of him and sing harmony for as long as it takes.His core point – that a left that sees the world only as a Manichean struggle with the forces of conservatism is a losing left – is certainly true.
Like the softs of the early cold war, MoveOn sees threats to liberalism only on the right. And thus, it makes common cause with the most deeply illiberal elements on the international left. In its campaign against the Iraq war, MoveOn urged its supporters to participate in protests co-sponsored by International answer, a front for the World Workers Party, which has defended Saddam, Slobodan Milosevic, and Kim Jong Il. When George Packer, in The New York Times Magazine, asked Pariser about sharing the stage with apologists for dictators, he replied, “I’m personally against defending Slobodan Milosevic and calling North Korea a socialist heaven, but it’s just not relevant right now.”
Well, yes it is. It is both in terms of creating and defending a truly moral left – one that can stand without shame on it’s principles – and in terms of creating a left that is more than a political curiosity.
I’ve railed enough in the past (and surely will in the future) on the ideological failings that led the Democratic Party to this cliff.
Lots of smart people (Mickey Kaus, Kevin Drum) suggest that there’s really no cliff, because after all we’re just 3% away from taking back the White House.
They are mathematically right, and factually wrong.
GM gradually lost market share to Honda and Toyota; there was no single year when Honda suddenly leapt forward, just a gradual, inch by inch progression that left GM on the wrong side of the curve and headed south.
But if you looked at the product – at the cars they made – it was pretty clear who had a clue. GM tried everything; marketing, financial engineering, cost cutting – everything except making great cars efficiently. It wasn’t hard, back in 1984, to guess what the long-term trend was going to be.
Similarly, I don’t have a hard time guessing what the long-term trend is for the Democratic Party as it’s being run today. The Democratic Party isn’t only selling it’s soul to coke-addled Hollywood celebrities and telecom zillionaires by pandering to their corporate interests at the expense of – say – the working folks of the country. They are also mobilizing a base of activists and functionaries – really the bones of the party – who are consciously taking the party to a place where it will be unable to speak intelligently about defense for a generation.
Let’s go to the comments on Beinart’s article.
Matt Yglesias has a favorable piece up on the article. Could it be? We agree on something? But let’s go to his commenters.
What “war” are we in?
War On Terra.
Posted by: abb1 | December 2, 2004 12:50 PM
Perhaps the reason MoveOn and other Democratic leaning organizations don’t see the importance of the “war on terrorism” is that there really isn’t any such war. Certainly, even if one agrees that a “war on terrorism” is justified, that doesn’t excuse invading Iraq, which never did engage in any terrorism against the US. And, we have to be talking about terrorism against the US and the US only, or we have to engage ourselves in war, since we were the terrorist nation that supported terrorism against certain Central American countries not so long ago. Now, about “totalitarian Islamism”, pray tell why should we be concerned if a Islamic country decides to have a totalitarian government? And, how is it better for that totalitarian government to be imposed on them by the US, as we have done in Iraq? Come on people, the only justification for use of the US military is to protect the US or to protect US allies. And, neither Afghanistan nor Iraq threatened either the US or our allies.
Posted by: Vaughn Hopkins | December 2, 2004 01:17 PM
But you get the picture…
Then Andrew Sullivan approves, and gets this email:
Only one problem with Beinart’s thesis. People like me will not vote for the kind of Democrat he pines for. And people like me are the base of the Democratic party. I would not vote for Joe Lieberman or any Iraq-war supporting Democrat (that includes Hillary, by the way). People like me are the mirror images of the Republican right. We would rather lose than sacrifice our principles. The operative principle here is our opposition to big-foot neoconservatism which views the entire world as America’s playground. You may think we are wrong but understand this: we are the Democratic party (which is why Lieberman sank so quickly). Our model is that of the Goldwaterites. They did not change. They fought and eventually they prevailed. We will prevail too. Iraq is our trump card. And maybe Iran. The continued ascendancy of neoconservatism guarantees the triumph of neoisolationism. As George Mc Govern said, “come home, America.” The day is coming.
No, you’re not the Democratic Party, not if I can help it. But it’s going to take a fight.
And yes, it’s a small and self-selected sample, but MoveOn sits close to the throne of the Democratic Party today (sadly), and Michael Moore-smooching is up there with baby-eating as a Democratic campaign strategy.
I’d better get back to my reformation principles…