August 8, 2005

FELLOW CENTRIST MICHAEL LIND has some advice for the Democratic Party over at TPM Café. He thinks that if they want to be the majority party again they will need to become economically liberal and socially conservative:

Social liberals can be the minority in a majority party. Or social liberals can be the majority in a minority party. But social liberals can’t be the majority in a majority party–not in the United States, not in the foreseeable future. There just aren’t enough social liberals in the American electorate.

His argument is worth reading as an intellectual exercise, but his advice isn’t practical. Social liberals are temperamentally incapable of tactically morphing into social conservatives. As Rick Heller notes over at Centerfield, social liberalism is the core value of the Democratic Party right now.

Social liberals should be temperamentally capable of morphing into defense hawks, however. That’s exactly what they did in the mid-to-late 1990s. Then it was the Democrats, not the Republicans, who agitated for war against Slobo’s regime in Belgrade for the crushing of Bosnia and Kosovo. Trent Lott and Tom DeLay were the ones who sounded like 1960s leftovers. Reflexive anti-war sentiment among Democrats isn’t as deeply ingrained as it appears.

As far as I’m concerned, social liberalism is the best thing the Democratic Party has going for it. They should keep that and drop the pacifism and isolationism instead. They’ll get a lot more votes next time around if they do. Plenty of socially liberal people voted for George W. Bush on national security grounds. Some of us would go home again if we could.

UPDATE: Jesse Walker at Hit and Run responds.

Just last year the warbloggers were warning that Kerry would submit America’s foreign policy to a nefarious “global test.” The man and his party were damned for their excessive faith in the United Nations, multilateralism, and the power of the well-crafted treaty. And now they’re supposed to be isolationists?

Jesse is quite right that Kerry wasn’t an isolationist. Although I should add that Kerry did get an enthusiastic response when he complained that we are closing down firehouses in the United States while opening them up in Baghdad. That sounded to me like something Pat Buchanan would say and something Rush Limbaugh would have said had a Democrat been president. Still, I wasn’t thinking of Kerry when I wrote this, and I should have taken him into account. He did win the Democratic primary, after all.

I wrote “isolationism” instead of “excessive multilateralism” because I’ve been hearing more complaints of that variety lately — especially since the London attacks on 7/7. Bush and Blair are supposedly making the problem of terrorism against Westerners worse because we have boots on the ground in Iraq in the first place, not because the U.N. didn’t come with us. The multilateralist argument seems to have receded into the background.

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