Saturday, January 19, 2008

Democrats Divided: NOW in PBS

I watched a fascinating segment in NOW on PBS that detailed the struggle within the Democratic Party between Progressives represented by bloggers such as Matt Stoller of OpenLeft who believe establishment Democrats have sold out traditional Democratic values and Centrists which are represented by politicians such as Bill Clinton who in the 90s sought to position the party to attract conservative voters. The struggle was framed along the lines of the contest in Maryland between incumbent Congressman Al Wynn and challenger Donna Edwards.

From the NOW web site:

In Maryland, six-term incumbent Al Wynn is facing a tough challenge from newcomer Donna Edwards. According to Edwards, Wynn has sold out to big business and the Bush agenda, including a vote for the war in Iraq and the 2005 energy bill. Wynn says his challenger is naive and doesn't understand that there are choices in politics between compromise and doing nothing. Fueling candidates like Edwards are the foot soldiers of the progressive battle—bloggers and other political outsiders like Matt Stoller of who are drumming up national support on the Internet. Maria Hinojosa speaks with the candidates and Matt Bai, author of The Argument: Billionaires, Bloggers, and the Battle To Remake Democratic Politics.

Although NOW is usually spot-on in its analysis, I couldn't help but be bothered by how the show framed the struggle as between Progressives who seek to move the party Leftwards and Centrists who seek to move it to the Center. The language being used--"left," "center," etc. are meaningless to me except as a shorthand way to describe the ideological character of the opposing sides. But this has an effect of pigeonholing both sides and reducing the struggle to one that is mainly about ideology.

Progressives who are frustrated with the Democratic Party usually do so not because of ideological disagreement but because the Democratic party has disappointed them on concrete issues such as: the Iraq war, NAFTA and other free-trade agreements, welfare reform, and that many Congressional Democrats routinely vote with the Republicans on key pieces of legislation. It's partly about ideology but it is moreso about does the Democratic Party truly represent their interests anymore?

Given such a situation, a Progressive Democrat has a choice to make: try to change the Democratic Party from within or go outside the party and become an Independent or a third-party advocate. The struggle presented in NOW illustrated the efforts of folks who chose to go the first route. Personally I have chosen to go the second route. However, I fully realize that the outcome of the internal struggle within the Democratic Party has implications for politics that will be wide-ranging.

The NOW web site has a few excellent links to several resources including a video of the segment, a guide to Progressive and Centrist Democrats, and a thoughtful response to Matt Bai's book.


The Angry Independent said...

Thanks for the link Lib Arts.

Good observations as well. There is definitely a struggle taking place. We are seeing (to some extent) that same struggle magnified in the Democratic primary.

You have Hillary Clinton who has essentially taken on the role of a Republican. And you have Obama, who is trying to find a place in the Center. On the Left, there is a void... or at least the media would have you believing as much. There is John Edwards, but the media decided long ago not to provide him with any meaningful media coverage..., which (I believe) was a big reason for his demise, which began right from the starting gate.

Basically the entire Country has moved to the Right, because Conservatism is so powerful. (Although some of the neo-Conservatives have been taking a beating over the last few years). Republicans have unrivaled voter distribution (the whole Country was basically Red for quite a while...with Democratic power centered in urban areas). So several years ago, the Democrats realized that they had to triangulate in order to appeal to more voters. This caused a shift to the right. The terms "Left" and "Liberal" are now bad words.

Neither of the two legacy Parties stands for anything anymore. The Republicans have become the War Party, and have been revealed as hypocrites too many times. And the Democrats (Also the War Party) have lost sight of their basic principles.

If Hillary is Nominated (which is a99.9% done deal at this point) and if she is elected, you will see the same Bush administration foreign policy wrapped in different packaging.

The first Clinton administration had one of the most militaristic & aggressive foreign policies in American history. Hillary's administration will be no different. Both are War Hawks, although Hillary has tried to portray herself as a Dove in recent weeks.

Anonymous said...

Hillary is spreading falsehoods in black church speeches claiming that she was for the civil rights movement when in fact she was against the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

GOOGLE: 'Hillary Against Civil Rights Act'.....Learn the Facts.....We're glad Hillary changed her views but please tell her to stop lying in black churches about her past !!!

Greg aka Farrod said...

Can someone please school me on President Clinton? People, including me at one time, sweared by this guy. He gets credit for the economy, the surplus, on and on. A co-worker that says he worked on the welfare reform legislation says that Clinton was ‘forced’to sign his own version because of a Republican Congress. But how is it their fault? Didn’t he campaign on changing welfare?

And I’m sick of people telling me that so many people were ‘making a living’ off of welfare. Was that really possible? What was the average max, $3K/yr.?

What is this guy’s true record?