14.11.02

LIBERTARIAN DEMOCRATS? Not quite, but a lengthy Kenneth S. Baer review of John B. Judis and Ruy Teixeira's The Emerging Democratic Majority. Some of my observations do turn up in the review. Consider this: "Professionals have come in contact with and been frustrated by authorities in both the private and public sector, forcing them to cede their own standards of quality to market imperatives. (Think of how much doctors hate HMOs, and one can grasp why professionals may no longer feel fidelity to the party of laissez-faire capitalism.)" By the same token, such professionals aren't going to be too enthusiastic about the public sector authorities not identified in the quote as objects of hate.

And this: "Beginning in the mid-1980s with the rise of the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC) and the New Democrats, the Democratic Party began to shed its baggage as a party that could not be trusted to spend taxpayer dollars responsibly (which is important to fiscally conservative professionals) or to stand up for mainstream cultural values (which is important to the white working class). During the Clinton years, the Democratic Party--in Judis and Teixeira's approving words--offered a "moderate accommodation" to the "radical movements" of both the left and right." And apart from that business with Monica and Eleanor Mondale, the strategy was pretty successful. Why Vice President Gore chose to run as George McGovern with personality eludes me to this day.

As Baer's subtext here might be: "The Clinton record on reducing crime, reforming welfare, eliminating the deficit, expanding educational opportunity, and growing the economy speaks for itself--but it also spoke to voters, helping re-elect the first Democrat to a second full term in the White House since 1936. Another reason is that, just as a surging surplus began to stir the Old Democratic passion for big government programs--and the GOP's for massive tax cuts--Bill Clinton dedicated it to "save Social Security first." By placing fiscal discipline in defense of a valued entitlement, he solidified liberal support for his fiscal conservatism."

Here's Baer's conclusion (I don't know whether I've just read a book review, or the minutes of a Democratic caucus, but anyway): "Despite the continued dominance of the institutional party by Old Democrats far to the left of the general electorate and a noticeable resurgence of old perceptions of the party (weak on defense, soft on crime, untrustworthy on taxes), the party is at parity with the GOP." The review was penned before the election. Why the House Democrats, given the choice of a New Democrat with African ancestors, or a San Francisco Democrat with Silent Generation baggage, are choosing the latter also escapes me.

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