EJ Dionne, one of my favorite melancholy liberals, has a piece where he blows his trumpet, calling forth the progressives to a new utopia of liberal ideas that have been mandated by the collapse of the Republican Majority.
EJ’s ideas are, well, flawed, and they are flawed primarily in the premise that there’s a great, unmotivated mass of US voters who are just itching to vote progressive. The 2006 elections proved it– Reagan conservatism was dead! It’s now time to sweep people into office and fulfill the unrealized liberal dream because that’s what the people want!
Dionne wants the left to present the progressive ideas as something which will transform America. The ideas of universal health care, social security, exemplary education– everything that would make America a shining beacon of intellectual prowess to the world. Dionne wants the Left to help everyone realize it. (The fact he’s publishing in the Chronicle of Higher Education and quoting numerous books by academic sociologists and political scientists should be an indicator that he’s appealing to the intellectuals and not the common man. Dionne wants educators to carry the banner of fostering the New Liberal revolution, not the poor, the oppressed, or the minority. It’s an important distinction, especially when you consider the audience– rich, elitists intellectual white men and women– oh, the same label that’s been applied to the conservatives who have been running the country.)
Dionne doesn’t think that the opportunity here is a giant shift towards liberalism in the country, but more of a Republican collapse. That Dionne wants to impress the Liberal Ideal as a platform, however, is something ludicrous and at odds with the fundamental premise. If the electorate is upset with incompetent politicians on the right, then they’re not upset with conservative ideals.
I think it is safe to say that America would not be disgruntled about the Iraq war had there been a clear strategy for post-war Iraq that was coherent and working. I’m sure that a swifter departure of Rummy and a faster implementation of Prateus’ strategies would have swung the tide of the 2006 election. I would also wager that had there not been a myriad of scandals involving Republicans, and had there been a reduction of the national debt, and a solid solution implemented for social security, that we’d have a majority of Republicans in Congress.
Instead, between 2002 and 2006 we were treated to the same-old same-old in D.C. As John Stossel notes, Republican Congresses have been notoriously bad about balancing a budget and keeping government growth in check. What was experienced in 2006 was a frustration with the status-quo and a desire to clean Congress of corrupt and incompetent politicians. What’s clear from the poll numbers is a national disgust with the Democrat Congress, primarily because they didn’t understand why the voters were so angry.
Dionne’s premise that a Liberal Revolution will create a golden era for progressives is simply silly. The country wants numerous issues addressed, and doing what the country doesn’t want you to do is causing more problems than it’s solving.
I think we’ll see Democratic gains in the Senate in 2008, but losses in the House, granted the Republicans can (and should) challenge successfully based on the backwards policies of the Pelosi leadership. But unless Republicans (or Democrats) can actually get passed those powers that have controlled their leadership for the past 40 years, we’re not going to see a pleased electorate anytime soon.
If the Reform party was still coherent, I’d think that they would stand a very good chance of actually taking seats in 2008, much to the chagrin of EJ Dionne.