Thursday, June 29, 2006

Inchoherency encapsulated

From Peggy Noonan:

One can argue about why the Democratic Party no longer seems to have a reason for being. I believe the reason is this: They have achieved what they set out to achieve in 1932, when the modern Democratic Party began. They got what they asked for, achieved what they fought for. They got a big government that offers a wide array of benefits and assistance; they got a powerful federal establishment that collects and dispenses treasure, that assumes societal guidance. They got Social Security and Medicare. They got civil rights (much murky history there, the Southern Democratic lions of the U.S. Senate having retarded the modern civil rights movement from 1940 through 1964; still, by the late ‘60s Democrats came to seem to own the issue, and that hasn’t changed). They got what they stood for. They went on, in the 1970s and ‘80s, to stand for things about which Americans showed they had doubts and ambivalence: abortion, the modernist social agenda. By the time the Democrats ran out that string, they got tagged for the cost of their dreams. Big government is expensive, and the American people didn’t enjoy being forced to pay, through high taxes, for the pleasure of being pushed around.

Also the Democrats, since 1968, hate war. But that’s not really a philosophy. No one likes war, or no one who’s normal. The real difference is between those who think war is bad and must never be fought and those who think it’s bad but sometimes must be fought. The vast majority of voters are in the latter camp.

A second reason the Democratic Party has trouble knowing what it stands for, and thus articulating its purpose, is that it is so spooked by polls, focus groups and past defeats that it’s afraid to take any vivid and differentiating stands, and seeks refuge in the muck of small issues. But small issues are small. And in this case don’t even offer a philosophical pattern. ‘We stand for lower college loan costs and better prescription drug benefits.’ That’s something you’d die on the battlefield for, isn’t it?

In a nutshell really...