Of Democrats, Discipline, and Democratization
Posted by Michael Signer
Amen, Heather, Amen. But the problem goes way deeper than Lakoffian framing. Democrats need to understand the enemy, and our own organizational problems, if we're ever to get a foreign policy message off the ground.
Former Senator Jack Danforth's piece in the New York Times yesterday was a welcome reminder from deep within the Republican Party that the screeching turn to theologically-grounded policy is by no means normal, and no means right.
Danforth focuses on the wrenching Schiavo posturing, and the stem-cell issue--but the issue goes to the heart of our foreign policy.
In January, Bill Moyers published an article proving how the Bush foreign policy has been dominated by an almost millenarian evangelical thinking. This explains the surprise affection for Israel, the almost joyful anticipation of the apocalypse, and the familiar arrogance of the initiated toward the heathenry.
How should liberals differ? In many ways, Democrats should naturally be more pro-democracy and better at envisioning a newly enlightened world than Republicans. The basic nature of liberalism (the word, after all, means to free the mind) lends itself better to vision and hope than traditionally hidebound conservativism.
Democrats, for instance, should be outrunning conservatives on the issue of democratization. Mort Halperin has co-authored a wonderful new book called The Democracy Advantage: How Democracies Promote Prosperity and Peace, which shows that even the poorest countries are "ready" for democracy, and that the world prospers when democracies grow.
So why are we so divided, so squeamish, about returning to the vision of global democracy Woodrow Wilson (one of our own) first endorsed? Aside from the Vietnam syndrome, and basic partisan resentment at being outfoxed (again) by Bush, it all returns to the name: unlike the theocons, Democrats can be too democratic. We can't unify around democratization--done right--because we're spread too thin around every danged viewpoint.
We need discipline--a stronger pole for the big tent. That's why Bill Bradley's piece on our "inverted pyramid" problem was so refreshing, and so right. The DNC and our party elders (Bill Clinton?) need to negotiate with the powerful Democratic interest groups to ignore their navels for a moment and get on board with a democratization vision, in broad-brush outline, because the stakes are just too high to do otherwise. It won't be easy--but then politics never is.