Friday, June 8, 2007

Todd Gitlin on Democratic Dilemmas

Democratic Dilemmas... :From Dissent: By Todd Gitlin

The better part of wisdom, as we try to dig out of the Bush disaster, is to think of the Democratic Party as the ensemble of all those who, whether they belong to liberal movements or not, understand that the right-wing Republican Party is the enemy of everything they hope for. If they want a sustainable energy policy and a foreign policy that works better than raw military power; if they want health care and decent wages; if they want some right to abortion (and even to contraception); if they take their Christianity from the Sermon on the Mount and not from Pat Robertson or if they’re steadfastly secular; if they want a balanced budget or don’t care about that so much, then they must evict the Republicans from the seats of power. If the Democrats are to investigate the executive crimes, lies, malfeasances, abuses of power, and thunderous errors of recent years, they must isolate the Republicans as the party of the radical right and embrace the Democrats as the party of everyone else.

FOR THE HARD, plain, unblinkable evidence is that, for the foreseeable future, there are not enough liberals to elect a majority party; that is, a party capable of governing, or playing a sizable part in governing, or even effectively opposing the ruling party. As William A. Galston and Elaine C. Kamarck put it in their 2005 article “The Politics of Polarization” (, “When American politics turns into a shootout between liberals and conservatives, conservatives almost always win.” The exceptions consist of the very bluest states. But there aren’t enough of those to win back either the Senate or the House, let alone the presidency, in 2008. ...

In 1953, the barb-tongued Bertolt Brecht sarcastically urged the East German government to dissolve the people and elect another one. In 2003, Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld reminded us that you fight a war with the army you have, not the army you wish you had. If I may take a moment out for a chuckle, Democrats and progressives have to learn to cross Brecht with Rumsfeld and conclude that you fight for political power with the people you have, not the ones you wish you had. ...

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