Pogo’s revenge - poll and pander Posted by: McQ
on Monday, October 29, 2007
I always enjoy reading Michael Barone because his articles are usually pretty insightful. Today's is no exception. Barone looks at the two major political parties and concludes they have no real themes going into the '08 election.
The Democratic Party is all about, well, listen to its rhetoric. It's all about opposing George W. Bush and all his works. But where to go from there?
Domestically, Democrats seem to be reviving the FDR narrative: Expand government to help the little guy. Some thoughtful Democratic strategists argue that although this view was discredited by the stagflation and gas lines of the 1970s, voters are once again ready for more government, and they can cite some poll results in support of that proposition. And it's true that the median-age voter in 2008 will have no vivid memories of the 1970s.
But it's interesting that in resuscitating the FDR narrative, these Democrats — even Hillary Clinton — are setting aside the lessons of their party's only successful president of the past 40 years. Bill Clinton was careful to agree that the FDR narrative was obsolete, by backing welfare reform and a balanced budget, and making only incremental progressive changes, like expanding the earned income tax credit. We don't hear such talk today.
On foreign policy, among today's Democrats only Joe Lieberman — not quite a full Democrat these days — stays true to the FDR narrative. Instead, the suggestion is that they will get us out of Iraq (although their leading presidential candidates concede that U.S. troops may still be there in 2013) and that with Bush banished to Texas the world will be friends with us again. That ignores the threats that Bill Clinton and Bush grappled with, not always successfully, but at least with an awareness that all was not benign out there.
Barone claims that domestically Democrats are reacting to polls that say "the voters are once again ready for more government". Heck of a way to run a railroad but pretty consistent with what politics today have become - a struggle for power in which parties try to determine what scheme will garner them the most votes whether or not, in the long run, it is a sustainable scheme or one that is even good for the country. What that means, essentially, is that there are no principles, such as those embodied in the Constitution or the founding of the country, driving the political process anymore. It is pandering for power and whatever it takes is what will be proposed, whether it eventually bankrupts us (both culturally and financially) or not. For a party so concerned about 'the children' TM, their desire to create more dependency on expensive government programs is ironic. Obviously, they have no problem shifting the cost of these proposed programs to the children of the future.
And the Republicans aren't much better:
Many say the party must go back to Ronald Reagan, and the Reagan narrative is at least of recent vintage. Reagan taught that government had grown overlarge and must be cut back and that America must be the assertive champion of freedom and democracy. The problem is that none of the Republican presidential candidates occupy Reagan's place on the political spectrum, and the problems we face are not those that confronted Reagan in 1980.
We no longer have 70 percent tax rates and oil price controls; we no longer face the symmetric threat of Soviet communism. The problem of overlarge government — the threat that entitlements will gobble up the government and the private economy — is real but remote. Our foreign adversaries are asymmetric, with a small but worrying potential of inflicting vast damage, and they are not entirely vulnerable to conventional military or diplomatic pressures.
The point? This is no longer the FDR or Reagan eras. You can't go back and attempt to apply solutions from those eras to the new and unique problems we face today.
What you can do, however, is reemphasize the principles upon which your party stands (if, in fact, it stands on any) and, fashion coherent foreign and domestic policy which is supported by those principles. But that would require an effort to recapture those principles, put them in sound-bite form, educate and inform a public which, for the most part, ignores such things, and then actually stand for those principles before and after the election.
Hmmm. Much easier to poll and pander. "We have met the enemy and it is us" - Pogo.
[T]here are no principles, such as those embodied in the Constitution or the founding of the country, driving the political process anymore. It is pandering for power and whatever it takes is what will be proposed, whether it eventually bankrupts us (both culturally and financially) or not.
This is, sadly, the inevitable outcome of the "living document" school of Constitutional interpretation: if our statement of principles means whatever we want ("It depends on what the meaning of ’is’ is."), then we have no principles. In some ways, the Republicans are worse about Constitutional interpretation, because they claim adherence to the Constitution as written, and go right on and use the "living document" approach anyway. I lost all respect for Scalia with the decision in the marijuana case in California (Reich?), for that very reason.
What you can do, however, is reemphasize the principles upon which your party stands (if, in fact, it stands on any) and, fashion coherent foreign and domestic policy which is supported by those principles.
Unfortunately, that is exactly what the Democrats are doing on domestic policy.