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November 6, 2004

nasty devils

"W.'s presidency rushes backward, stifling possibilities, stirring intolerance, confusing church with state, blowing off the world, replacing science with religion, and facts with faith. We're entering another dark age, more creationist than cutting edge, more premodern than postmodern. Instead of leading America to an exciting new reality, the Bushies cocoon in a scary, paranoid, regressive reality. Their new health care plan will probably be a return to leeches. America has always had strains of isolationism, nativism, chauvinism, puritanism and religious fanaticism. But most of our leaders, even our devout presidents, have tried to keep these impulses under control. Not this crew. They don't call to our better angels; they summon our nasty devils."

This, from Maureen Dowd's editorial in today's New York Times is just a great piece of writing that raises anew the questions concerning the role of government within the social fabric. Should government reflect the morals of the people or should government attempt to change (better) those morals? I think we are beyond the point where we can pretend that government is able to be an ammoral actor. This perhaps is one of the weaknesses of the current Democratic party. We pretend that politics is not fundamentally based around certain values and morals, and end up losing the major issues because they are not seen as being as important as the "moral issues" of (as Molly Ivins terms it) "God, gays, and guns." However, Democratic issues are fundamentally moral issues. This is not to say that they are necessarily the most "moral" (though I believe they are), but rather that they are very much questions of certain values. I understand why Democrats have attempted to move away from the discourse of economic criticism and class warfare, but a move into more opposition does not entail repainting ourselves as all Seattle activists. Why don't we say "It is immoral that there are children in this nation that can not get the medical care they need because they have no health insurance"? Why not discuss economic inequalities? Why not retake the language of the Civil Rights movement and legislation (a time when the government worked to actively change the morals of the American populace) in order to advocate issues of equality? Why don't we (as my friend Dave recommended) retake the language of liberation theology in order to provide a lifeline to "values voters?"

The problem with this is that I am not terribly sure which way I think Democrats should go. It seems that there are a few strategies. First, we could continue to be the party of opposition -- simply the "not Republicans." Secondly, we could continue our move towards the right, attempting to capture the more moderatevoters. Thirdly, we could work on regaining our roots and become, again, the party of liberals, re-embracing our classic ties to FDR, for instance. Or, we can say fuck you to "the heartland," secure in our knowledge that we are right and they are wrong. Thelast approach seems really tempting right now. The question, ultimately, is do we want to be right or strategic.

Posted by woodw032 at November 6, 2004 9:19 PM


Great post! You state the real dilemma at the end: is politics about self-expression (values) or about getting as much of the loaf is possible given the opposition (interests)?

As the SubGeniuses used to say "I'd rather be lucky than good."

Posted by: Eric at November 14, 2004 7:15 PM