IS a change gonna come?

Michael Tomasky's essay on the future of the Democratic party in the current issue of The New York Review of Books is very thoughtful, well worth reading whether one agrees with its conclusions or not.

Tomasky points out that with the '08 election, we will be coming off two, full two-term administrations, the first time the country has done this since 1824. Yet polls indicate that after such lengthy immersions with both parties, taking us in very different directions for the country, we are pretty much back exactly where we were in 1992 in terms of the split electorate. We're still battling the culture wars, still fighting between laissez-faire economics and more government intervention in areas such as health care or the environment. In short, we do not seem set for any sort of era-defining political swing, no New Deal, no Reagan Revolution. We continue to battle over incremental shifts here and there in the electorate.

Because the current three frontrunners for the Democratic nomination -- Hillary Clinton, Barrack Obama and John Edwards -- present such different definitions of the Democratic Party, the next year and a half until the election "will be the most consequential eighteen months the party has faced in some time." (One might say the same for the Republican party, given the current lack of any sufficiently popular yet hard-right religious candidate to satisfy Christian conservatives, according to David Kirkpatrick's Sunday article in The New York Times about a recent meeting of the secretive Council for National Policy.)

Tomasky's essay is essentially a review of several books -- including Mark Halperin and John Harris' The Way to Win and James Carville and Paul Begala's Take It Back: A Battle Plan for Democratic Victory, books that have gotten a fair amount of attention already. But he gives special care and some really cutting analysis to Senator Charles Schumer's Positively American: Taking the White House in 2008 because Schumer, unbeknownst to many people, is extremely powerful in centrist Democratic politics at the moment (he was and still is in charge of the Democratic senate campaign committee, picking candidates and raising and doling out money), and it's his catering-retail politics, shading things to be as palatable as possible to a wide, middle-class vote, that Tomasky sees as so short-sighted (and so close to Hillary Clinton's own thinking). Schumer's book completely ignores, for instance, that large rock in the middle of the Democratic road, the one named Iraq, and that other one that separates centrists and leftists: balancing the budget vs. public investment.

"It is one thing," Tomasky writes, "to speak to people as consumers and as parents. But is it possible to speak to people as citizens, asking them to participate in something that has a larger national purpose?

This makes many Washington Democrats uneasy -- it sounds to them like mushy idealism, and, far worse, like it might require them to get into a debate about raising taxes."

Obviously, it's way early in the campaign, but Tomasky has laid out some smart analysis of what lies ahead.

February 27, 2007 9:59 AM |



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