Wednesday, January 07, 2004

The New Republic Endorses Lieberman


"'The Democratic Party is racing back to the '80s, with interest groups enforcing litmus tests on everything from partial-birth abortion to steel tariffs, and party activists dangerously out of touch with a country that feels threatened by terrorism, not Donald Rumsfeld,' The New Republic said.

Dean has helped create this mood of self-righteous delusion, and his competitors have, to varying degrees, accommodated themselves to it. Only Lieberman -- the supposed candidate of appeasement -- is challenging his party, enduring boos at event after event, to articulate a different, better vision of what it means to be a Democrat."

I think the Democrats have to decide who they are before they start running for presidential elections. Clearly, The New Republic's vision of the party is wildly different from that of the Dean supporters. The Republicans don't have these identity crises to nearly the same degree (though there are significant disagreements, no question about it).

I think that's because Republicans are anchored by certain ideas, such as supporting business, lowering taxes, and limiting government (pay no attention to the Medicare reform in the corner). The Democrats are united by particular rights issues like abortion, but little else. There are other Democratic ideas, and Dean represents many of them, but I think the party is worried that they're too unpopular. I think the other side of the party wants "popularity" or "the middle" to be the party's animating idea. Although being in the middle sounds attractive, I think it takes a great politician to pull it off without seeming wishy-washy. Clinton was a great politician. Gore was not. I don't think Lieberman is either.

The New Republic might be right that "the middle" concept is a better vision of the Democrats than one dominated by the views of its interest groups (aka the "idea" groups), but this group of moderate candidates isn't up to it. Real ideas can be compelling (even bad ones), so I think Dean is the Democrats' best shot this time.

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