[the way forward]

Topic: Politics

DKNY emailed me today to point me to an article by Good ol’ Tomasky in the American Prospect, about which he had this to say:

It’s another long “wither the Democrats” piece, but as usual, Tomasky brings something extra to conventional wisdom — in this case, while a lot of people have said that Dems need to ressurrect the idea of active, competent government, Tomasky has some idea of why — that is, of what the larger principle at stake is, and how it can be recaptured.

As for the article itself, here’s the key:

Liberalism was built around the idea — the philosophical principle — that citizens should be called upon to look beyond their own self-interest and work for a greater common interest. This, historically, is the moral basis of liberal governance — not justice, not equality, not rights, not diversity, not government, and not even prosperity or opportunity. Liberal governance is about demanding of citizens that they balance self-interest with common interest. Any rank-and-file liberal is a liberal because she or he somehow or another, through reading or experience or both, came to believe in this principle. And every leading Democrat became a Democrat because on some level, she or he believes this, too.

Tomasky argues that this principle was superceded in the 1960s by an emphasis on diversity and rights — a necessary shift, considering where the old liberalism had left blacks, gays, women and other minorities. His solution?

The Democrats need to become the party of the common good. They need a simple organizing principle that is distinct from Republicans and that isn’t a reaction to the Republicans. They need to remember what made liberalism so successful from 1933 to 1966, that reciprocal arrangement of trust between state and nation. And they need to take the best parts of the rights tradition of liberalism and the best parts of the more recent responsibilities tradition and fuse them into a new philosophy that is both civic-republican and liberal … Democrats can stand for an idea: the idea that we’re all in this — post-industrial America, the globalized world, and especially the post–9-11 world in which free peoples have to unite to fight new threats — together, and that we have to pull together, make some sacrifices, and, just sometimes, look beyond our own interests to solve our problems and create the future.

The article is full of ideas like these — ideas toward which I’ve been groping for some time in my own efforts to rethink Democratic politics — and he backs them with historical analysis, recent polls and worthwhile practical advice.

Definitely worth a read.