August 6, 2003

The View from the Center-Left

Joe Katzman writes about what he calls Mogadishu Democrats, Democrats who are trying to look serious about foreign policy but end up posturing instead.

Memo to Democrats: kindly get a grip. America was attacked. The public remembers that…As Bill Clinton might have put it: "it's the war, stupid!"

Blaster is quoted in Joe's comments section.
Note to Democrats

You are going to lose. Why? Because you think you need to have an effective message on national defense.

No. No "message." You need to defend our nation. You need to want to defend our nation. You have to feel like our nation deserves to be defended. That isn't a message. Its a belief. And if you don't believe those things, your message can't be credible, no matter how good you are at faking sincerity.


This election and its aftermath very well may end my relationship with the Democratic Party.

I've been unhappy with the Democrats for various reasons for almost ten years now. As time passes I have fewer and fewer reasons to stick with them.

I still have some reasons. I'm an environmentalist and a big fan of New Urbanism. I want some sort of universal health insurance, the less statist the better. I think taxes should favor the poor and the middle class before the wealthy. I hate abortion, but I don't want it banned. I'm a social liberal/libertarian, which clearly puts me with the Democrats and not the Republicans.

At the same time, the peaceniks and the politically correct are pushing me out. The radical/anarchist "Bush=Hitler" crowd has little to do with the Democratic Party, but their attitude is having a corrosive effect on mainstream left-wing opinion.

Every day I find myself thinking less like a left-liberal and more like a centrist. It's not because I suddenly have conservative opinions. I've been a foreign policy hawk for ten years, throughout the Clinton era when Republicans wallowed in right-wing isolationism on the Balkan question and the liberals pushed vigorously for intervention. My role models here are Roosevelt and Truman, not Kissinger and Reagan. And I was repulsed by political correctness the first time I encountered it, along with most people of my generation. (PC is primarily a Baby Boomer thing.) My views on nearly everything are the same as they were throughout the 90s.

It's the left that changed. Or, perhaps, the issues changed and caused the left to shift its priorities. Maybe it's been a little bit of both.

From where I sit it looks like the entire country shifted to the left while I sat still. Noam Chomsky has more influence than ever, while the two sinister Pats (Robertson and Buchanan) have been marginalized. The neoconservatives use the language of Amnesty International, and the Republican Party has discovered the virtues of nation-building. Andrew Sullivan calls Bush a closet liberal, and any non-partisan person can see that he has a point.

The Democrats seem to think it's 1968 (or 1972) all over again. And it isn't. They are decades out of date, and they're almost certain to lose the election.

It is the war, stupid, and the problem isn't "the message."

The primary election, the general election, and the recriminating aftermath will surely shake up the party. I won't know until it's over if I'll stick with the party or walk.

I'm not a conservative and I’m not about to become one. I won’t exchange left-wing baggage for a suitcase-full from the right.

But the Democrats might lose me, as they've already lost so many others.

I have no fear of declaring myself an independent centrist. Most of the people I read and admire are independent themselves. The center is chock-full of utterly reasonable people, while the left and right wing-nuts shriek like moonbats.

So the Democrats better watch out. There is more than one way to declare oneself “Not a Republican.” There are more than two binary views of the world and this country.


UPDATE: Matt Yglesias accuses me of having a schtick. He reminds me that my views are pretty consistently liberal, and that several of the Democratic candidates are mostly in agreement with me.

All true.

And so I understand why Matt is confused at my discontent and is groping for some off-the-wall explanation. He even makes me reconsider to some extent.

The bottom line, though, is that I care more about national security and human rights than any of the other stuff. And, as Joe Katzman put it in his Mogadishu Democrats post, which inspired my post in the first place, much of the Democratic hawk stuff is more message than substance. That is what really bothers me.

Lieberman is the only one I trust with this on a gut level, but I also think he's a boring and uninspiring conservative. I worry about the others, even when they make the right noises and even though I agree with them more often.

My reaction to the party is as visceral as it is intellectual right now.

I worry, too, that I don't share the same values as Democratic activists. Partisan politics is venal and corrupting, and it turns otherwise smart people into idiots. This isn't a left-wing thing or a right-wing thing, it's just a political thing. I'm tired of it, and so are a lot of other people.


UPDATE: Meanwhile, Kombiz has some criticism here. I don't think I agree with him, but at least he makes me say hmmm.


UPDATE: Wow, please read the comments section. Find the 47th comment by a guy named Joe Schmoe. (Maybe you could use a real name, Joe...) It is brilliant and perfect. He gets right to the heart of this matter, and says it better than I did.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at August 6, 2003 10:47 PM
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