Thursday, December 22, 2005

Democrats Must Become the Party of Old Ideas, Part II

In a previous post, I made the following observation:
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.
Howie (my right-wing friend in NY) objected:

You know that (the assertion that if an idea is good, it is always good) is not always true. The idea of communicating using a telegraph was great 100 (give or take) years ago. Now, its not even a thought.

No, Howie, that is always true. Being a right-winger, you can't recognize the obvious difference between an idea and a thing. We need new technologies or methods all the time. Good ideas are always good, no matter how old they are.

You really believe that over 75 years, society can't come up with better ideas than the old social programs, old retirement programs, etc.

After 200 years, you can't come up with a better economic system than capitalism? I don't see you looking to trade THAT in, Howie. And unlike social security, capitalism is actually BROKEN!!!

Or is it the need of the democrats to keep these old ideas, because they were great ideas of great democrats.

No. The Democrats need to become the party of old ideas, and we shouldn't be concerned where the ideas came from, as long as they are good ideas.
Civil rights was (WAS) a Republican idea. Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation and the slow movement to full enfranchisement of African Americans, achieved by Republican legislation and the passing of the fourteenth and fifteenth amendments, were all Republican ideas. The Democrats have used that idea effectively for the last 75 years.

Now we have a Justice Department that is no longer interested in civil rights. In the first Bush administration, John Ashcroft's Justice Department was more interested in fighting pornography, fighting physician-assisted suicide, fighting the legalization of medical marijuana, and defending the use of torture than in prosecuting US civil rights violations. And Justice under Alberto Gonzales has seen racial and gender discrimination cases decrease by 40%.

It's time to give the idea of civil rights another chance, and the Democratic Party must be the party to stand for this old idea.

Trust-busting was a Republican idea, and a good one. President Theodore Roosevelt considered himself a "steward of the people."
While in office, Roosevelt became a "trust buster" by forcing the great railroad combination in the Northwest to break apart. As President, Roosevelt saw himself a representative of all the people, including farmers, laborers, white collar workers, and businessmen. Roosevelt therefore was focused on bringing big business under stronger regulation so that he could effectively serve all the people he represented. He sought to regulate, rather than dissolve, most trusts. Efforts continued over the next several years, to reduce the control of "big business" over the U.S. economy and workers.

What would TR make of today's Republican Party? Government responsibility for fundamental fairness in business, for protecting the people from predatory business practices, and for protecting the overall integrity of the American economy is a good idea. The Democratic Party must be the one to stand for this old idea.

Mistrust of power concentrated in a military-industrial complex was a Republican idea. That's an incredibly important idea that your party of "new ideas" has destroyed. The incestuous relationship between government, the military, and the defense industries (illustrated by the rise to political prominence of a group few Americans have still ever heard of--the Project for a New American Century) is responsible for our exploding federal deficits, as well as for our involvement in a war based entirely on lies.

The best ideas are rarely new, Howie. Like government of the people, by the people, for the people. That's an old idea I pray we come back to.

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