Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Dragging the Democrats Back From the Precipice On the Left

Some advice for Democrats from a sympathetic libertarian/conservative:

Time for a reality check. You have lost the presidential race, House and Senate. Perhaps it is time to consider that you are doing something wrong. It is easy to blame it on fraud by the other side, but - come on! - 3.5 million fraudulent votes? Plus a hefty margin in senate races? You lost big. Learn from it and move on.

I think there are two groups within the Democratic party. The moderate majority (union workers, suburban mothers, poor minorities), and the socialist fringe (limousine liberals, radical college students, trial lawyers, and a lot of the party leadership). While the socialists are a small minority positioned so far to the left that they are practically off the map, they set a lot of the tone of the whole party. Republicans have their extremists too (which are quite influential), but yours are utterly out of control. Fire them and come back to the center.

On the issues:

You make sense on social issues, and (within reason) the majority of Americans agree with you there. It is not black and white. The majority wants to ban most third trimester abortions, but allow first trimester abortions. The majority is opposed to gay marriages, but is in favor of equal rights for civil unions. The majority strongly supports the second ammendment for self-defense, but does not want machine guns or grenades to be legal, or guns to be available to felons. The majority is uneasy with some of the provisions of the Patriot Act, but wants to keep other parts of it. The majority wants paper trails in electronic voting, but does not believe in massive vote fraud conspiracy theories. The majority wants everyone to be able to vote, as long as they prove they are eligible. The majority wants equality of opportunity in education, but not racial quotas or handicaps. You can get a lot of your agenda here, as long as you're willing to compromise. This is your strong point.

You are mostly wrong on economic issues. People want a safety net that catches those who are in real trouble. People don't want corporate welfare. However, that is where the agreement ends: people certainly don't want government-run health care. They don't want higher taxes. They don't want unrestricted immigration. They don't want full welfare for illegal immigrants. They do want more choice in education, with vouchers and school performance standards. And they don't want protectionist tariffs and trade barriers that will make almost everything more expensive. You can get only a little of your agenda here.

You are completely wrong on foreign policy, although I can understand where you're coming from. Because we are concerned with justice and peace, our first thought is "did we do anything wrong?" rather than "let's destroy our enemies". However, we should also think of those millions around the world who dream of freedom and justice but do not have it. Our enemies are their enemies as well. Maybe Bin Laden can keep his promise and not attack America if we leave him alone - maybe - but will he not attack and terrorize the vast majority of Muslims who disagree with his interpretation of Islam? After all, he and his band of terrorists have killed far more Muslims in their long career of mayhem than they have killed Americans. Bin Laden and the other Islamists want above all to control fellow Muslims under a barbaric religious rule. We have seen that at work anywhere they hold sway, from the Taliban-ized Afghanistan to Falluja's religious courts. They are attacking moderate governments, moderate politicians and moderate clerics across three continents, from the Phillipines to Nigeria. Every time they are in elections, they lose, whereupon they start bombing and assassinating again. America may be an obstacle to them, an enemy to rally against, and a way to gain prestige by terrorist attacks, but we are largely on the periphery of the fight the soul of Muslim civilization. Most Muslims do not hate us. Most Muslims want to be us, to live in societies where they have our rights and freedoms. We can plan better, we can use economic or political tools instead of military force where possible, we can fight more precisely and be more sensitive to their concerns, but we cannot simply walk away from them and leave them to the wolves. Isolationism is not an option now.

What you should do:

I would like to see a strong opposition party that offers a credible alternative to the Republicans.

The present Democrat party is not a credible alternative.

To be that, you need to compromise a little in social and a lot in economic issues, which will get you majority support in those areas. Don't bow to interest groups within the party, such as trial lawyers, insurers, teachers unions, the gay lobby, and the abortion lobby, which tend to push your agenda to extremes. Most of all, do not EVER try to play the class or race card. It turns people off.

In foreign policy, you need to - RIGHT NOW - dump the 60s-reruns radicals that think American soldiers eat babies for breakfast, who advocate for them to "frag" their officers and desert, and who refer to the terrorists in Iraq as "the Minutemen". We need to see Democrats ostrachise the anti-democracy and pro-Islamist defeatists, not select them as flag-bearers (start with Michael Moore). We have sent our very best young men and women to far away and dangerous places in order to defuse a potential threat to our country and to help free fifty million oppressed people. We may be doing a piss-poor job of it - certainly our enemies have not made it very easy - but that is what we are doing, with some success. Contrary to what seems to be the popular wisdom on the left, we are not putting in puppet governments, we are not indiscriminately slaughtering civilians, we are not there for the oil, and there is no popular uprising against us. The locals know exactly what we are doing, and while they do not particularly love us, they strive for the same goals as we do. Because of that, thousands and thousands volunteer to fight at our side, even when it is extremely dangerous. We are on the same side with the vast majority of them, and they know it. Accept that, and you can begin to formulate a foreign policy that will not turn people away from you in disgust, even when they agree with you on many other issues.

Your criticism of the war on terrorism (really War on Islamofascism, and to hell with political correctness) has to be reality-based. That does not mean Al-Jazeera-reality, it means boots-on-the-ground-reality. The troops vote overwhelmingly for Bush because they have met our enemies and our friends in Iraq, because they belive in our cause, and because they know you don't. Many, many hawks at home feel the same way. Therefore you'd better find some faith, quick. Your only hope is to adopt the project of modernising the Middle East, and to do so without saying that it a) was a bad idea b) unworkable c) too expensive and d) the middle-easterners are unworthy or incapable of it. You will have to adopt the neocons' goals, although not necessarily their methods.

Yeah, I know, it is a very bitter pill.

You can either learn from your loss and come back as a credible opposition party, or you can watch your support erode and lose even more ground in the next election. Your choice.

UPDATE: Don't miss the roundup of post-election essays at Winds of Change. Peggy Noonan's Dem Problems is also worth a read, even though it was written before the election.

UPDATE: An excellent article from Marc Cooper - count at least one democrat who wants to learn from the results of this election. Great discussion in the comments section as well.

Whatever slim hope that Democrats might have of extracting something positive from this week’s resounding defeat depends entirely on how much authentic introspection they are willing to inflict on themselves. To the degree that they look outward –instead of inward—to identify the causes of the 2004 debacle, the more certain they are doomed.

P.S. Memo: The UN is not the font of all legitimacy and law. It is a thoroughly corrupt organization, comprised mostly of petty dictatorships. Stop funding it, clean up the corruption, and meanwhile start exploring alternative organizations (perhaps a League of Democracies?).

Memo: Our so-called allies, France and Germany, follow their own national interests, which they don't see as being very close to ours. Their military is nearly incapable of force projection, and even if it was, they are not willing to help. Our real allies are the UK, Australia, Japan, South Korea, and Israel. Nobody else is both willing and able to help. Fortunately, our allies have four of the ten strongest militaries in the world, and two of the ten largest economies. We could do worse.

Memo: When Iraqis approve of the war far more than Kerry voters do, who is out of touch?