I don’t know whether Democrats will ever come up wtih those ‘new ideas’ for public policy that so many of the wise people are always clawing for. But I think we can say definitively that the more literary run of magazine journalists will never come up with any new ideas for articles about Democrats to pitch to their editors. I’ve been falling in love again with the New Yorker recently. So Lord knows I don’t want to be critical. But this evening I picked up the copy of the magazine that came out while I was out of the country. And I started reading Jeffrey Goldberg’s piece on the Democrats. And I was just astounded — transfixed, I might almost say — by the sheer dense packing of cliches and the just plain unoriginality of the whole thing.
I think I’ve read this article one hundred times — both in its pre-2006 versions and the new-and-improved 2006 editions.
It goes something like this.
President Bush is very unpopular these days and Democrats think they may win back the Congress because of it. But is hating President Bush enough? Or do Democrats need a positive agenda as an alternative to the Republicans? It is thought by some that it might not be enough. Those somes are right to be worried because there aren’t as many liberals in the US as conservatives. So trying to frame the election around torture and warrantless wiretaps may not be a good idea. Another reason to be worried is that the white working class, farmers, suburbanites and deeply religious are no longer all reliable Democratic constituencies. But there are some candidates trying to reach out to these ignored constituencies. But will those centrists be forced to cater to the party base and its philosophy of pessimism? It is feared by some that they may be forced to cater.
I won’t bore you with any more of my weak parody. But that’s actually not that far from the substance of the article.
What struck me most about this article was how little grasp Goldberg seemed to have of the divisions and cross-cutting alliances that exist in the Democratic party today. Politicians that are darlings of the Democratic blogosphere appear in the piece as its critics and sworn enemies — in most cases, seemingly, based on their willingness to provide a quote taking down one of the author’s straw men.
The online activism world is just one part of the Democratic party equation. But having a little familiarity with it, I think that what stands out about its impulses is its relatively non-ideological nature. If you look at the candidates blogs have gotten behind aggressively, they’re very frequently candidates who don’t meet key liberal litmus tests. This seems lost on Goldberg.
I know I’ve been somewhat harsh in this post and asserted more than I’ve explained or demonstrated. I’ll try to expand on these points and overcome this shortcoming in some follow-up posts. But there are actually some significant and timely issues churning up out of the Democratic party’s struggles today. It would be interesting to talk about them.