Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Democrats Scratch Their Heads

Today's the day when Kentucky Democrats should have been cheering Governor Beshear's inauguration, but instead some of them were left wondering what exactly the new administration was elected to do in office.

Former Secretary of State John Y. Brown III suggests this reaction of Kentucky Democrats in his guest blog at BluegrassReport.org. He writes:

The inescapable feeling in the air these past few heady days is that the Democratic Party in Kentucky is entering a new era--a realignment , if you will, that is adjusting itself to the political realities of the present and forging a vision that can best cope with our uncertain and fast-moving global economy. There! That’s a shining example of a Democratic handicap: defining what we stand for in language that’s too vague, too verbose, and too grandiose.

In the Weekly Standard, Professor James W. Ceaser of the University of Virginia diagnoses a similar linguistics problem for the national Democratic Party:

Today, the Democratic party mainstream has its values, its instincts, and, as usual, more than its share of 10-point programs. It even has its "isms," represented by its leading troika: the pragmatism of Hillary Clinton, the idealism of Barack Obama, and the populism of John Edwards. Yet its intellectual reservoir has shown itself to be lacking in depth and confidence. Today's Democratic mainstream is no more willing or able to stand up to the party's present leftist insurgency than the older mainstream was to stand up to the New Left. The tenor of the current left is best captured by something Lionel Trilling said in 1949 about conservatives: They do not "express themselves in ideas but only in action or in irritable mental gestures which seek to resemble ideas."

Trilling's criticism is no longer apt for conservative Republicans, as Brown's commentary implicitly acknowledges. He writes that over "the past three decades", the "Republicans have consistently bested Democrats" with "clarity of message":

Republicans, it’s said, can put their core beliefs on a bumper sticker. Smaller government. Lower taxes. Family values. We can spend all day listing the deviations from these values, but give them their due: Republicans have done a better job defining themselves than we have done defining ourselves. Some would even argue that we’ve allowed Republicans to define us.

In contrast, as Professor Ceaser explains, the national Democrats are "being bullied by a network of techno-thugs, spearheaded by MoveOn.org", and their message is increasingly driven by "the progressive coalition of billionaires and bloggers" whose tone of discourse is typified by "MoveOn's recent New York Times ad assailing General Petraeus as 'General Betray Us.'"

Professor Ceaser describes these bad punsters and their bankrollers:

The big money men and women--what the left used to call, back when it framed matters more astutely, the "obscenely wealthy"--are mostly people who have made their fortunes recently. (George Soros, the godfather of the movement, is an exception.) The last thing these newly rich would wish to be called, however, is nouveau riche; they are bobo billionaires who profess to regard their own fortunes with nonchalance. Steven Gluckstern, for example, who helped bankroll the Democracy Alliance--a new organization to fund the rebuilding of the progressive infrastructure (dues $200,000 a year for five years)--told Bai, "I don't really care about money. I mean, I like it. You can do fun things with it. You can give it away." All in this progressive money set, which includes some of Hollywood's more modest donors, follow the new progressive formula of buying political influence while decrying the influence of money in politics.

The allies of the wealthy, the bloggers, are the coalition's hit men. Almost all are males in their thirties. The two most prominent, "Markos and Jerome" (Markos Moulitsas ZĂșniga of the Daily Kos and Jerome Armstrong of MyDD), gained their fame and won their political clout by latching onto Howard Dean's candidacy in 2003 and using the Internet to help create the "Democratic wing of the Democratic party." Their websites not only constantly abuse thought, but show contempt for intellectuals, even while gaining influence among them. The language is often violent and vulgar. The moving spirit of the Daily Kos is one of anger and resentment, which, when not directed at Democrats who dare to stray from the wing line, is directed at the president, the vice president, and the Iraq war.

These are the role models for the Daily Kos wannabes at Kentucky's left-wing blogs. Their venom, however, cannot substitute for ideas to govern society. Hence, for mainstream Democrats such as Brown, the question remains: what exactly do the Democrats stand for? Good luck answering that one.

2 comments:

John Y Brown III said...

EB,

You misinterpret my point.

I give Governor Beshear kudos for crisply articulating what he envisions Kentucky Democrats standing for. From yesterday’s inaugural speech, Governor Beshear describes what he calls Kentucky’s Next Frontier:

A frontier of imaginative solutions;
A frontier for new technology and new industries;
A frontier that protects the environment, while creating opportunities;
A frontier that attracts entrepreneurs, tourists, retirees;
A frontier that keeps our own graduates right here at home.

That’s precisely the kind of concise summary of ideals I’m seeking in my guest post.

Thanks.

John Y Brown III said...

G. Morris,

You mistake the point I'm trying to make. The criticism is generic, covering Democratic leaders and commentators over the last three decades.

I give Governor Beshear kudos for crisply articulating what he envisions Kentucky becoming under his leadership. From yesterday’s inaugural speech, Governor Beshear describes what he calls Kentucky’s Next Frontier:

A frontier of imaginative solutions;
A frontier for new technology and new industries;
A frontier that protects the environment, while creating opportunities;
A frontier that attracts entrepreneurs, tourists, retirees;
A frontier that keeps our own graduates right here at home.

That’s precisely the kind of concise summary of Democratic ideals I’m seeking in my guest post.