Monday, August 22, 2005

 

Party Rule or Party Ruin?

Perhaps both, to the detriment of the country

The Washington Post reports about the deepening rift among Democrats over Iraq:
Democrats say a long-standing rift in the party over the Iraq war has grown increasingly raw in recent days, as stay-the-course elected leaders who voted for the war three years ago confront rising impatience from activists and strategists who want to challenge President Bush aggressively to withdraw troops.

Amid rising casualties and falling public support for the war, Democrats of all stripes have grown more vocal this summer in criticizing Bush'’s handling of the war. A growing chorus of Democrats, however, has said this criticism should be harnessed to a consistent message and alternative policy,— something most Democratic lawmakers have refused to offer.
AJStrata comments:
That is because rooting against a US success in Iraq is political suicide - something the manic leftward fringes could care less about. They don'’t want to be popular, they want to be right!
Unfortunately, it isn't political suicide to seek vindicationion of their particular beliefs above all else, though it is electoral suicide. Recognizing this, centrist Democrats seek vindication via spin (registration required, see BugMeNot):
Some pro-Democratic commentators are urging a cease-fire, lest the party play into the hands of the GOP. In the words of Kevin Drum, who aired his concerns online the other day, "This is about the last thing we need." Unless warring Democrats "knock it off," he warned, "we can be sure that Karl Rove will do his best to hammer this wedge straight through the heart of the Democratic party, as the 2006 [congressional races] begin to heat up."

But prominent liberal activists such as David Sirota aren't going to knock it off. Sirota looks at the latest Gallup poll and finds that 33 percent of Americans now favor full withdrawal from Iraq - which beats partial withdrawal (23 percent), status quo (28 percent), and sending more troops (13 percent). And he notes that a majority now believes the war has made Americans less safe at home.

"This sentiment gives Democrats an opening," he said recently. "We can now make the case that an exit strategy from Iraq will actually strengthen our national security. We have to stand up for our principles. There is strength in national-security prudence. There is weakness in national-security impulsiveness, as Bush has demonstrated. People will believe us. They have the evidence in front of their eyes every night on the evening news."
Other Democrats see in the current situation an opportunity to redefine patriotism:
Since 9/11, patriotism has become the most potent "values issue" in U.S. politics. To compete in America's heartland, Democrats must challenge Republicans' claim to be the authentic voice of American patriotism.

The problem for Democrats is that an important part of their base -- upscale white liberals -- seems torn about the meaning of patriotism. Republicans are ruthlessly effective in exploiting this ambivalence. Questioning Democrats' patriotism has been an ugly, but undeniably effective, GOP tactic from last year's "Swift Boat Veterans for Truth" campaign against John Kerry to Karl Rove's recent canard that liberals counseled "therapy and understanding" rather than retaliation in response to al Qaeda's attacks on America.

Even so, many Americans are beginning to wonder just how much more Republican-style patriotism they can afford. In Washington today, conservative hotheads abound who think diplomacy is for sissies and who delight in throwing America's military weight around. They belittle longtime allies who have the temerity to disagree with Bush administration policy. They complain, illogically, that the United Nations is both hopelessly weak and an intolerable check on U.S. sovereignty. This belligerent, overbearing chauvinism has stirred anti-American passions around the world, made U.S. efforts in Iraq more costly and difficult, and tarnished America's moral reputation.

You might think that Congress would have its hands full with escalating violence in Iraq, exploding public debts, a growing competitive challenge from Asia, and plunging public confidence in President Bush's Social Security plan. But GOP super-patriots ignored such distractions and found time recently to ram through the House a constitutional amendment to ban flag burning -- of which there was a grand total of one incident in the entire United States last year.

Such antics give Democrats an opportunity to expose what lies beneath the fulsome facade of GOP patriotism -- an atavistic nationalism in which the ruling passion is the will to power, not love of country. The right answer to GOP jingoism, however, cannot be left-wing anti-Americanism. Of course, progressives can criticize their country and still be patriotic. Indeed, one of the highest forms of patriotism is being honest about your country's flaws and taking responsibility for fixing them. (Emphasis mine.) But it is what's in your heart that counts. Are your objections rooted in a warm and generous affection for your country, or in a curdled contempt for it? Too many Americans aren't sure if the left is emotionally on America's side. And that's a big problem for Democrats
It's also a big problem for America as a whole when even Democratic moderates express such contempt for American nationalism and see nothing but sinister motives behind our war effort. And it's utterly ridiculous to assert that its the Republicans who politicized patriotism when, as the author unwittingly reminds us, its really the other way around:
The problem with the liberal concept of 'patriotism' is that they are patriotic only to their personal conception of what the country should be. This renders the idea of patriotism meaningless - it is trivial to say that one has a loyalty to one's own world views. Their unbridled criticism results, then, from the failure of the country to satisfy their individual tenets about what it should be.

The conservative idea of patriotism is more externalized - love of country as it is, even when it doesn't match up to our notions of what it should be. This tempers the criticism from the right, and provides a natural unity and cohesion (called 'marching in lockstep' by our friends on the left).

The left is like the naive bride who marries a guy presuming that she can change him into someone she can love. The right is the bride who decides that she loves him, warts and all.
Unsurprisingly, Kos takes an extreme position, preparing a secret, scorched earth plan to make the 'moderate' DLC "radioactive"
My draft version of this post included a whole refutation of Marshall's aargument, but really, it's all irrelevant. Ultimately, this is the modern DLC -- an aider and abettor of Right-wing smear attacks against Democrats. They make the same arguments, use the same language, and revel in their attacks on those elements of the Democratic Party that seem to cause them no small embarrassment.

Two more weeks, folks, before we take them on, head on.

No calls for a truce will be brooked. The DLC has used those pauses in the past to bide their time between offensives. Appeals to party unity will fall on deaf ears (it's summer of a non-election year, the perfect time to sort out internal disagreements).

We need to make the DLC radioactive. And we will. With everyone's help, we really can. Stay tuned.

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