Thursday, November 10, 2005

Democrats Must Become the Party of Old Ideas

Neil Postman wrote in Building a Bridge to the Eighteenth Century that great innovators can at the same time be perilously short-sighted.

The Democratic party has been gulled into believing--because the American people seem to believe--that the "old ways" of the New Deal, New Frontier, and Great Society are somehow no longer germane in an era of globalisation. But if an idea is good, it is good no matter what era it occurs in. And this is where our short-sightedness has hurt us.

We need to remind ourselves--and Americans generally--that government has a role to play in protecting us. It has a role in preserving our rights. It has a role in preserving democracy. And we do all these things through law and regulation, through our common, individual consent to work toward the betterment of all.

Regulations help people--workers, citizens, consumers, readers and viewers of news. By their very nature, they are anti-elitist, helping people at the expense of the true elites of society, wealthy and powerful corporations. We must work to roll back much of the deregulation of business that has taken place in the last generation.

Laws that provide for the social welfare of the people are inherently good, and "conservative" in the truest sense of the word. In times of economic chaos, a solid, sturdy, and wide "social safety net" allows people to continue their lives without serious disruption. They conserve the social status quo which, in the long run, benefits everyone--including businesses.

Private enterprise is good. But public ownership and authority over some essential services is necessary. Which essential services this means can be debated at some point in the future, but for now let's say that news and entertainment must be permanently disconnected. Remove the profit motive from journalism--for all media. Mandate public service and news programming from broadcasters, cable services, internet providers, and demand it be non-commercial.

And--first and foremost--we must not forget that the Democratic Party, at least since the time of FDR, has worked to help people. To help PEOPLE. We must never shy away from that goal, never compromise it or even appear to compromise it, and have the courage of that conviction.

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