Monday, July 31, 2006

Checklist Liberalism

So the must-read blog post for the day is Mark Schmitt's piece about Joe Lieberman:
It’s a great expression of the Democratic Party of 1996: You got your enviros, you got your minorities, you got your women. Each group has one issue.... There are a couple others, but those are the basic buttons you press to be credentialed as a good liberal Democrat. After you press them, you can do whatever you want.

But has Lieberman failed to press those buttons? No! In fact, he’s been pounding on them like that guy at the elevator who thinks that if he presses “Down” hard enough and often enough, eventually the elevator will recognize how important and how late he is.

But it’s not working. Why? Two reasons: One of course is that Iraq, and the constellation of foreign policy and security failures it represents really is huge. And while Democrats can accept a fairly wide range of viewpoints, roughly from Biden’s make-it-work to Murtha’s get-out-now, only Lieberman’s stay-the-course is ridiculous....

The second reason is that Lamont supporters actually aren’t ideologues. They aren’t looking for the party to be more liberal on traditional dimensions. They’re looking for it to be more of a party. [emphasis mine - J] They want to put issues on the table that don’t have an interest group behind them - like Lieberman’s support for the bankruptcy bill -- because they are part of a broader vision. And I think that’s what blows the mind of the traditional Dems. They can handle a challenge from the left, on predictable, narrow-constituency terms. But where do these other issues come from? These are “elitist insurgents,” as Broder puts it - since when do they care about bankruptcy? What if all of a sudden you couldn’t count on Democratic women just because you said that right things about choice - what if they started to vote on the whole range of issues that affect women’s economic and personal opportunities?
For a citizen who inherited the other, better form of democracy - England's - the idea of this kind of "bipartisanship" is really, really weird. Indeed, it's very noteworthy when an MP in a Parliamentary system "crosses the floor" - it's usually a permanent thing. Parties may vote for or against a particular bill, but the idea of one MP playing Lieberman's kind of freelance games - while insulting his own party, no less - must be nearly unheard-of in Westminster-style legislatures.

Atrios has an excellent follow-up:
The bankruptcy bill is the perfect example of legislation no one claiming to be a Democrat should support, and more than that one that every good Democrat should have opposed by any means at their disposable (including filibuster, Joe). It's the kind of legislation which is often marked as "centrist" by the media, as it's supported by a coalition of evil Republicans and self-described "moderate" Democrats, but there's nothing centrist or moderate about it. Unlike some other awful Republican legislation which conservatives have been trained to support (any tax cut, tort reform...) there was no popular support for this bill. It was a complete givewaway. It was just stealing from people and giving to campaign donors.

Failing to oppose the bankruptcy bill is one of the reasons brand Democrat has such problems. It's the type of thing which shouldn't require outside pressure. The bill was wrong. Everybody knows that. It was an evil sadistic piece of legislation which will destroy lives. Good Democrats shouldn't have needed to be pushed to oppose it.
The sadism and psychopathy of the American Republican Party has pushed away all pretenses to bipartisanship (which was almost always bad politics anyway.) All we need now is a few constitutional amendments, a President and Cabinet elected from the House of Representatives, and maybe - please Jeebus! - the misbegotten experiment of American "Presidential" democracy can be tossed to the ash-heap.

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