Two kinds of Democrats

We’ve talked about different kinds of conservatives.  Let’s talk about different kinds of Democrats.   Michael Gerson says the current gridlock in Congress–especially when it comes to budgets and fiscal policy–is due not to Republicans (who are remarkably unified, he notes, despite fears about the Tea Party).  Rather, it is due to a split among Democrats:

On fiscal issues, the Democratic Party is really two parties. One consists of European-style social democrats, represented by leaders such as Nancy Pelosi. They have not embraced the socialist ideology of, say, the old British Labor Party. But their instincts, in nearly every specific decision, tend toward increasing the size and role of government in the American economy. Deep down, they would have preferred a single-payer health-care system. In the current fiscal debate, they hope to address the debt crisis by dramatically increasing the percentage of American economic activity taken in taxes.

The other Democratic Party is socially liberal and pro-business. These Democrats attempted to weed out the excesses of Obama’s health reform in the Senate. They are attracted to the deficit reduction approach of the Simpson-Bowles commission — including tax increases, but weighted toward spending reductions. They are a minority of the broader Democratic Party but they hold the balance of power in the Senate. Their numbers in the House have been diminished as Republicans have secured conservative Democratic districts. But such “Blue Dog” Democrats were influential enough in the last Congress to prevent an overwhelmingly Democratic House from passing a budget.

There are perhaps 10 pro-business Democrats in the Senate, often led by Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad. Their numbers and influence, however, are currently inflated by the cohort of incumbent Democrats facing reelection and spooked by the prospect of running on a pro-tax platform.

The conflict between social Democrats and pro-business Democrats is already undermining the possibility of a unified 2012 Democratic budget. In the Senate Budget Committee, Conrad’s attempt to craft a proposal based on Simpson-Bowles failed, largely because Sen. Bernie Sanders — a socialist independent who caucuses with the Democrats — objected. Conrad was forced to come back with a more liberal proposal, which has vulnerable and moderate Democrats angry.

via The two faces of the Democratic Party – The Washington Post.

Democrats and the working class

I posted about this phenomenon recently, though hardly anyone of you commentators understood my point.  Maybe Joan C. Williams, a  liberal Democrat, can state it more clearly than I did:

For two generations, the Democrats have failed to relate to white working-class voters. Black working-class voters never abandoned the party, but the percentage of working-class whites who identified as Democrats fell from 60 percent in the mid-1970s to 40 percent in the mid-1990s. George W. Bush won his two presidential elections with landslides among white working-class men, while Obama lost among white working-class voters by 18 percentage points in 2008, roughly the same margin by which Al Gore lost them in 2000.

Democrats need to understand why Republicans have been so successful at courting working-class whites — and why Democrats have been consistently unable to do so. . . .

While Republicans have made working-class resentments a powerful weapon for achieving the policy goals of the business elite, Democrats have inadvertently fueled those resentments. For more than a generation, a substantial class and cultural gap has tripped up progressive politicians.

Salad greens have been a big problem for Democrats. Michael Dukakis got into trouble over Belgian endive; Obama over arugula. Both Howard Dean and Obama have tried, and failed, to speak about working-class voters’ values without sounding condescending. During his campaign, for instance, Obama once noted that working-class families were distressed by their economic free fall — and then he stumbled straight into the culture gap as he talked about voters’ attitudes toward guns and religion.

Democratic leaders can’t seem to speak to working-class concerns in a way that doesn’t alienate the very people they’re trying to reach. Having ceded this cultural ground, they need to win it back.

via Obama and the Democrats must reconnect with working-class voters.

Prof. William’s recommended solution is for the Democrats to make more entitlement programs that apply to everyone–such as Social Security and Medicare–rather than targeting specific groups, such as poor people (the “have-nots”), that leave out working people who are just getting by (the “have-a-littles”).  I believe, though, that she is still missing what blue collar workers really want:  not government dependence, but government independence.

What is the Democrats’ pledge to America?

OK, we parsed and considered and criticized the Republican “Pledge to America” yesterday. The Democrats don’t seem to have something similar, but perhaps we can reconstruct their working ideology. Is it, the government can make things better? Or, moral liberation plus big government? Anti-big business but pro-big government? Or, Or what? I’m not trying to be critical; I’m just trying to figure it out. I hope some Democratic readers can explain what their party is trying to do and what it stands for these days.

Ordinary people

The media, the intellectual establishment of both the left and the right, and other members of our ruling class are just pouring contempt on figures like Sarah Palin and Christine O’Donnell.  They are portrayed as dangerous, extreme, and just plain weird.  The criticisms, though, don’t get much traction with the public  because these women are so much like the rest of the public.

A review of a new book about Sarah Palin concludes at just how normal she is:

Her beliefs make her what we once called normal, at least in flyover country. There are moms like her, and moms who strive to be like her without ever thinking of it that way and who might even scoff at the idea, on every street and in every neighborhood in America. They run our offices and schools, they run the local diners and band booster drives, and they get the family from Point A to Point B with military precision. Or they try their best to do all that, while trying to work out what they really believe about everything at the same time. Palin managed to do it, even to the point of running a state while going on oceanic fishing excursions with her husband while her political opponents buried her in expensive, frivolous accusations designed to drive her from office. She sent a son off to war. She’s dealt with a pregnant daughter, a worthless almost son-in-law, and a child with special needs. She’s us, pretty much, except that she also happens to have been nominated for the vice presidency and now commands a national following while also attracting a ferocious national opposition that includes most of the mainstream press.  Her faith and her values have carried her through all the very high highs and the very low lows that life has thrown at her. The rest of us could only hope that we would handle the extremes of being Sarah Palin with half her grace.

The Faith and Values of Sarah Palin: What She Believes and What It Means for America shows that Mrs. Palin is very much what-you-see-is-what-you-get: an authentically and uniquely American woman whose very ordinary beliefs have propelled her to do remarkable things.

via Pajamas Media » The Faith and Values of Sarah Palin: What She Believes and What It Means for America (Book Review).

As for Christine O’Donnell, she is being mocked for agreeing with the teachings about sex of her Roman Catholic Church, along with a big percentage of Americans and the world.  She is also unemployed, like 10% of Americans, and her house has been foreclosed.  It’s odd to hear Liberals mock her for those two things.

The Democratic party was strong when it was “the party of the people.”  The Left was strong when it  was a populist movement.  Think of the collectivism of the union movement, “Solidarity Forever,” “Power to the People.”  Today, leftists have become elitists and the Democrats are the party of the “professional class,” people who think they are experts.  They are so out of touch with ordinary Americans that they think they are scoring points when they make fun of much of the American populace whose votes they would like to have.

Now, astonishingly, the populists have become Republicans, much to the disdain of that party’s old guard, with its wealth and country club status.  This is why the Democrats are doomed.  The left will only revive if it can become a populist force like it used to be.

UPDATE: So far, just about everybody who has commented has missed the point of my post: That populists used to be Democrats, and that now they are Republicans. In the olden days, when I was young and a Democrat, the politicians of the party were full of rhetoric about democracy, equality, “the people,” the common man, etc. Republicans were more suspicious of the mob, wanting exceptional individuals rather than the common denominator. Now the rhetoric seems reversed.

I did not mean this to be an endorsement of Sarah Palin or Christine O’Donnell, or even Republicans. Rather, I am trying to give Democrats some advice that, if they want to win elections, they need to rediscover their populist roots, rather than following the strategy of making fun of ordinary Americans.

As for me, I tend to be like the old Republicans, looking for merit, and, again, vocation. I’m uneasy about some of the people I am seeing coming to the fore in the Republican party.

Democrats seek new language

An exceedingly odd tidbit from The Washington Post’s political columnist Perry Bacon:

Democrats should not talk about “the environment,” “the unemployed” or “the uninsured.” Instead, they should replace those phrases with ones that have more appeal to voters, such as “the air we breathe and the water we drink,” “people who’ve lost their jobs” and “people who used to have insurance.”

That’s the advice of one of the party’s newest and more unusual gurus, Drew Westen. Westen is a psychologist and neuroscientist at Emory University in Atlanta who, unlike most political advisers, has never worked full time on Capitol Hill or for a political campaign.

But party leaders in the House and the Senate brought in Westen recently to discuss his expertise: “The Political Brain,” as he called it in his 2007 book. Westen argues that Democrats constantly try to sell policies to voters through reason and facts, ignoring research showing that people respond more to emotional appeals.

via Language lessons for Democrats, from the political brain of Drew Westen.

Democrats using reason and facts?  When was the last time that happen?  All I recall in their appeals is moralistic exhortation and guilt-tripping.  That was all we heard in the health care debate, but hardly any reasonable explanation of how the new system could possibly work and nary a fact about how we can pay for it.  The same goes for all of the bailouts, the environmental policies, and immigration policies they keep recommending.  Now I happen to think that moral exhortation is a legitimate appeal, one not necessarily counter to reason and facts.  But if Democrats think that they are the ones who trade in rationality and facts, they are delusional!  And if they think they can make their policies more palatable by manipulating the language, they are either cynical or naive.

And now, a tea party of the left

What conservative populists are doing to the Republican party, liberal populists are starting to do to Democrats:

A political rebellion is brewing inside an old funeral home near the state Capitol here. Frustrated liberals and labor organizers are taking aim at the Democratic Party, rushing to gather enough signatures to start a third party that they believe could help oust three Democratic congressmen.

Now, some of Obama’s supporters are mounting a defiant strike against the president’s party. The nascent third party, North Carolina First, could endanger the Democratic congressional majority by siphoning votes from incumbent Democrats in November’s midterm election, potentially enabling Republican challengers to pick up the seats.

Organizers say they are so fed up with Democrats who did not support health-care reform that they simply do not care.

“Our whole agenda is to turn that apple cart around and say, ‘No more are we going to blindly support you because you're a Democrat,’” said Dana S. Cope, executive director of the 55,000-member State Employees Association of North Carolina (SEANC), which is leading the effort. “We’re going to support you because you’re right on the issues and if you’re not right on the issues, we’re going to remove you from office.”

via North Carolina Democrats’ votes against health care push labor to form party.

It appears that NO ONE approves of the political parties and incumbent politicians. Maybe this could be the basis for a national unity movement.


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