Saturday, November 11, 2006

Read And Be Prepared to Discuss

I spent most of my "blog" time this week reading Green Mountain Daily, and commenting over there. However, there were a couple of items from the New Republic that caught my eye.

The first was a great quote from the editorial staff:

A lot of things have come crashing down with this election. One of them is
the absurd cultural prestige enjoyed by President Bush and his supporters. Since
2000, they have continuously bludgeoned their critics with the notion that the
only authentic Americans are those living in the red states. Democratic voters
have been endlessly told that they are nothing more than a tiny, alien coastal remnant, and many of them started to believe it.

Well, it's hokum. Bush and his vision for the country have been before the voters four times now. Twice (in 2002 and 2004) a narrow majority of voters supported him; once (in 2000) a narrow majority rejected him; and now a substantial majority has rejected him. Bush is not the incarnation of the popular will, and his critics are not anti-American freaks. [emphasis added]

-from Rejoice by the Editors of The New Republic.

The other is an article in TNR called Freakoutonomics. It is a more in-deapth look at how the Clinton economic team is revisiting it's basic assumptions in the face of the Bush Economy. During the Clinton years, leaders such as Robert Rubin, secratary of the Treasury, won a battle against more traditional liberals in the administration. Liberals, like Robert Reich, wanted to see the government engage in "massive public investment". Moderates like Rubin wanted to put the focus on "economic growth" and this meant using the money to reduce the deficit rather than engage in social policy.

In some ways, the legacy of this battle is related to the bitter struggle between the "netroots" and the likes of the DLC, which I've mentioned before, and which has been keeping me entertained over at Green Mountain Daily, all weekend.

Put simply, Rubin's can be summerized by this quote from TNR:

If workers grow more productive, logic suggests, they're making more money for
their employers, which means businesses will find it profitable to hire more of
them. The more workers get hired, the more businesses have to bid up their price
to hire them, which means that their wages will rise.

During the Clinton years, this worked like a charm. I can attest to the fact that, as a producer of radio advertising, I was actually being asked to produce "help wanted" ads. Before the Clinton boom, no employer in their right mind would have dreamed of spending more than the price of a newspaper classified to promote a job opening. At the end of the 1990s, local employers were spending thousands of dollars to create advertising campaigns to attract "unskilled" workers.

However, the hallmark of the Bush Economic "Boom" is that workers are not benefiting from the "rising tide that raises all boats". And they expressed that (I think) pretty emphatically last Tuesday.

The failure of the "rising tide" is, according to the New Republic, causing some of the Clinton faithful to revisit their basic assumptions:

What's happening is very simple: The economy is growing smartly, but,
essentially, all the gains are going to the rich. It is almost a dystopian
Marxist vision come to life. Corporate profits have soared, incomes at the very
top have shot through the stratosphere, and, yet, the vast majority of Americans
have not seen their living standards rise at all. This development does not
offer much of an intellectual challenge to either the right (which is not
particularly troubled) or the left (which is not particularly surprised). But
the center is both troubled and surprised. And, for the Rubinites, figuring out
just why this is happening, and what to do about it, has begun to unravel their
confidence in the moderate remedies that not long ago seemed

The article leads to the following final paragraph:

Since the outset of the Clinton administration...Democrats have fought against the most plutocratic and fiscally irresponsible Republican plans, but they have done so from a standpoint of resolute centrism. They had strong confidence in an economic model that was, at its core, conservative: unfettered free trade, fiscal restraint. They believed these ideas would benefit all Americans, and they did. But something has changed in the way the U.S. economy works. And, even if it's not yet entirely clear what has happened or how we can best address it, the intellectual balance of power in Democratic circles is already shifting. Today, all the confidence is on the populist side, and it is the centrists who aren't quite sure what to make of the world around them.

And that is probably the most bewildering thing for me, and the most frightening. Since I was born (during the Nixon Administration) I have watched a Democratic Party on the defensive. With the exceptions of 1974 (the Watergate Off-Year Election) and 1976 (when Jimmy Carter, again, as a result of Watergate, became President) the Clinton years were the only bright spot. At the time, I beleived it was because the Democratic Leadership Council had wrested control from the fringes of the party and returned to the common-sense mainstream politics that most Americans could and would support.

To me, "Slow Ahead" was much better better policy for America than following the New Left into defeat, while the heirs of Reagan wrapped up the whole ball of wax and took it home.

But now, it seems that I find myself back in the 1970s again, faced with a rotten choice.

On one hand there is Howard Zinn, presenting a dark vision of America as Facist Run Prison. But, following the "coming revolt of the guards" we will all move forward to enjoy .... what? Leftists are long on protest, but pretty damn short on vision. All I can see, unimaginative as it is, is a bright, post-guard future where we all get to wear the same Mao Suits. Sorry. Not for me.

But on the other hand, there is Ronald Reagan's "Morning In America"- now all but completely brought to life by the Bush Administration. Here, you wake up to find that all the wealth has been transfered to the Richest One Percent, and that wealth is being used to consolidate control over the media (yes, even the internet), the government, and the military, and that you ARE in the facist run prison that Zinn warned you about.

So, I've been wasting my time (and everybody else's ) over at Green Mountain Daily...hoping against hope that there might be a little life left yet in that Third Way that Clinton evoked.

I gotta admit though, that today, it ain't looking so good!


Anonymous said...

Here's a question. Who was the first to use the phrase, "democratic wing of the democratic party?" I believe I first heard it from the late, great, senator from MN, Wellstone. Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_Wellstone) supports this line of transmission, but I'm not sure if anyone used it before Wellstone.

Alex said...

I always thought it was Wellstone