Pragmatic Liberalism

Real Problems

Center-Right Versus Center-Left In the Democratic Party

Schoen and his ideological allies have infuriated many in the progressive wing of the party. Schoen’s adversaries argue, with their own polling data to back up their case, that there may be many more self-described American conservatives than liberals, but, when it comes to actual policies, the country is pretty liberal.

The Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) has created a blog, “Center-Right Nation Watch,” to counter those arguing that the country tilts to the right. The organization has also conducted its own analysis of poll data in a paper titled “The Progressive Majority: Why a Conservative America Is a Myth.”

As Edsall notes it is a little more complex then that, but maybe only in the margins. The Conservative base to some degree – the Sarah Palin rallies – still gets worked up over a few hot button social issues, but we’re a very culturally moderate country in practice – note that during the six years of the Bush administration when Congressional Republicans acted like Bush’s sheep herd they made zero progress on their cultural agenda. Medicare for example, is a  decidedly entrenched liberal program – some on the hard Right might to loathe to admit it, but they know they’d be in tough straights if they had to support their grand parents or parents without Medicare or Social Security. For well over forty years ultra Conservative radio, pundits and other surrogates utterly dominated the public political/cultural discourse – they did manage to turn liberal into a seven letter word for many Americans. Even today, Republicans have their own television network – that still churns out propaganda that would make Stalin smile. So proudly self identifying as liberal – the political philosophy of the founding fathers – is not going to happen over night. It doesn’t appear that a President Obama will make the same missteps make in the first few years of the Clinton presidency as some fear – its a different country now and over hauling health-care doesn’t sound, to most Americans as radical as much as about time. Paul Krugman is probably right about any economic initiatives, the failure not to be bold enough. Digby makes the observation that Democrats might have to camouflage liberal legislation as moderate in the public relations war to get it passed. If Democrats have to pull their own Clear Skies Initiative doublespeak many of us will cringe, but in the long term, a rose is a rose as they say.

If the stock market is any indicator, the reaction has been consistently favorable since Obama announced the selection of Geithner and Summers on November 24. Obama’s expected pick of Gates even won a note of praise from the dyed-in-the-wool conservative Wall Street Journal editorial page: “So far on security, not bad.”

Recognize Gates for what he is –  both a bone thrown to Republican moderates and a smart move in the larger theme of a ‘hit the ground running” transition. I’d love to see retired General Wesley Clarke in that job – he has experience working with our long time NATO allies and because of Kosovo has tons of credibility to bring to talks with moderate Muslims.

Joint Chiefs Chairman ‘Very Positive’ After Meeting With Obama

“Open and serious debate versus ideological certitude will be a great relief to the military leaders,” said retired Maj. Gen. William L. Nash of the Council on Foreign Relations. Senior officers are aware that few in their ranks voiced misgivings over the Iraq war, but they counter that they were not encouraged to do so by the Bush White House or the Pentagon under Donald H. Rumsfeld.

“The joke was that when you leave a meeting, everybody is supposed to drink the Kool-Aid,” Nash said. “In the Bush administration, you had to drink the Kool-Aid before you got to go to the meeting.”

The quipe from Nash is also a good reason to be weary of idelogical purity. Democrats seem to have too many ideas at this point rather then too few and Obama has embraced an extraordinary level of pragmatism, so its unlikely we’ll have this problem for a while.

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