Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Why the Left Sucks (Not that the Right is any Better)

Mark Satin has a great essay/book review about the failure of the Left in America. Satin is a former leftie who visited the "Take Back America" conference held in Washington, DC earlier this year. He had a less than glowing opinion of the conference and the current makeup of the American Left.

He then reviews two books and shares what are the common themes needed for any political movement. Points 8 and 9 are telling:

8.) A willingness to develop and express a coherent, shared vision of a better future. Muravchik praises the role played by big-think pamphlets like The Communist Manifesto (1848) and Socialism: Utopian and Scientific (1878) and by visionary books like Clement Attlee’s The Labor Party in Perspective (1937). Weinstein observes that early U.S. socialists often promoted visions of what a “humane, egalitarian, post-capitalist” America might be like. By the late 1960s, though, he argues, our movement had begun to break up into militant single-issue groups -- anti-war, anti-death penalty, pro-environment, pro-busing, pro-abortion, etc. -- and by now that balkanization is complete. The Take Back America conference could be seen as Exhibit A. (If you want coherent political vision today, look at the five radical middle books I’ve reviewed HERE.)

9.) An insistence on expressing the shared vision in the form of a few clearly stated policy goals. All serious-minded socialists have done this (until the present period). Muravchik gives inspiring examples from the Second International’s various “Programs” and Attlee’s Labor Party in Perspective. Weinstein gives equally inspiring examples from early U.S. Socialist Party documents: “compulsory health, life, and unemployment insurance; . . . legal protection of labor’s right to organize . . . ; nationalization of industries organized on a national scale. . . .” The reason you rarely see this today is that the far left’s goals tend to read like laundry-lists -- desultory and autistic -- there’s no overriding vision (case in point: the cacophony of “demands” made by the speakers at Take Back America). For a contemporary version of the real thing, see the the policy goals rooted in vision in Halstead and Lind’s The Radical Center (2001) and in my own Radical Middle (2004).

The reason that the Left in America and its main political party, the Democrats, are not doing so well is that they don't make any sense. They have no coherent vision for the future. It's one of the reasons that John Kerry lost last year. I mean, Kerry really had no other message than, "Bush is bad, and I'm not Bush." What is interesting is that it is the center that is coming up with ideas, but they don't seem to be heard.If you know a lefty, make sure they read this. Stop the Bush-bashing and Sixites reverence. America needs a vision from the left.

I also think some of this could relate to moderate Republicans. What is our vision? How does it differ from the far right or the Dems? I hear things such as moderates being fiscally conservative or pro-environment, but we lack a coherent message. What is our vision for America? What is the centrist Republican message on foreign policy? The poor? Gay rights? We need to find something that captures the attention of voters because right now, we don't have anything that does.

I think it would help if centrist Republicans looked at other moderate/conservative parties around the world for inspiration. One such example is the Christian Democratic/People's party movement. While it was based on Christian principles, it could be tailored to fit a more secular environment.

Here is a list of Christian Democratic principles from the Christian Democrats of Finland. Another one to look at is The Moderate Party of Sweden.


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