Monday, December 13, 2004


Over at New Donkey, Ed Kilgore, the Policy Director of the DLC, has been writing on the key for Democrats in the foreseeable future: reform. With all of the recent exposure of Republican corruption (the shakedowns of Indian tribes, the redistricting scandals, etc.), key figures such as Tom DeLay, Jack Abramoff, Ralph Reed, and Grover Norquist have been implicated in the mess and are eligible targets for a message of reform. The DLC is proposing "election reform, political reform, budget reform, and tax reform as a start."

All of these are good ideas, but this strikes me as omitting two key elements. First of all, the language of reform needs to be connected to the prophetic tradition the way that the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was able to do. Second, the notion of reform needs to have a foreign policy component. Whether or not one agrees with Peter Beinart about a response to Islamic terrorism that is analogous to the anticommunist impetus of the Americans for Democratic Action organization of the 1950s, it seems clear that any message of reform without some sort of foreign policy statement will further highlight the already weak position on defense with which Democrats are burdened. Mind you, this position need not be perceived as weak, but avoiding it will do nothing to overcome the mostly unwarranted assumption by many (especially those in the media) that it is.

What we need to be developing is a larger narrative within which the various components of reform would fit. Kilgore does a nice job of beginning the narrative. Step one: identify the problem.
And for the first time in my life, I had a hard time understanding how friends and family members--people with whom I thought I shared a lot--could bring themselves to vote for the other guy. To put it bluntly, I didn't see any honest case for giving Bush a second term, and was angered by the dishonest case--he's done a brilliant job of fighting terrorists, he's a tower of wisdom and resolve, he's going to control big government, he's going to protect traditional values, he's got a second-term agenda to create an "ownership society"--advanced by his campaign.

Moreover, I came to believe strongly that the real agenda of the people closest to Bush--including his political advisors and much of the Republican congressional leadership--was not only dishonest, but deeply cynical and irresponsible: a drive to simultaneously wreck the federal government and to perpetuate their control over the wreckage as long as possible through the exercise of the rawest sort of institutional power and corruption. And moreover, this belief made me angry at even those Republicans who did not share that agenda, because they were helping to promote it against their own best instincts.
I think today's Republican Party, and its leader, are built on a foundation of fundamental dishonesty about who they are, what they want, and where they are taking the country.
I think this is the a good beginning of the narrative. Reform starts with honesty, and the various constructive positions are built from there.


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