Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

A grand liberal-moderate coalition?

We’ve alluded to this report a couple of times. I finally got the chance to read it; you’ll find my analysis here. Bottom line: I think Bill Galston is extremely smart, but that he has little or no following in the Democratic Party. His effort to persuade Democrats to move toward the center amounts, in my view, to urging upon them gestures that he regards as substantive and that I regard as symbolic.

Others have responded, either to the report or to my analysis, among them Power Line, Michael DeBow, Jon Schaff (who spanks me for going wobbly on the USA Patriot Act; I didn’t say Republicans couldn’t win the debate over which sort of ig government we need, just that they’d have to explain why one sort of big government was good and another wasn’t; there are some erstwhile Republicans, like Bob Barr, who don’t get it), and Noam Scheiber, whose thoughts are very much worth reading. Here’s a taste of Scheiber:

The same ideological "sorting-out" process that has made it more urgent for Democrats to appeal to the center has simultaneously made it harder for them to do so--because it has made their liberal base larger, more vocal, and more powerful than ever before. Galston and Kamarck argue that "[t]he Democratic Party must be able to articulate a coherent foreign policy that is based on a belief in America’s role in the world." Then, somewhat amazingly, they conclude, "While this will cause internal conflict in the Democratic coalition, it will not be any more severe than the fight Bill Clinton sparked when he confronted his coalition with proposals for reforming welfare." In fact, according to their own analysis, it should cause much greater internal conflict, since there are more liberals around to oppose this policy and fewer conservatives around to support it. While liberal opposition perversely made Bill Clinton a more credible general election candidate in 1992, greater internal conflict could prevent a Clintonesque candidate--or, say, a Clinton--from winning the Democratic nomination in 2008.

Given that Galston and Kamarck say nothing about the GWOT--they’d apparently prefer to use the U.S. military in places like Darfur, which, to be sure, need serious assistance, much of it only facilitated by American airlift and logistical capabilities--it’s striking that both Scheiber and Power Line are willing to assume that defense credibility for them means dealing with terrorism. Perhaps it goes without saying; perhaps it can’t be said to a Democratic audience, which would indicate how far from credibility the mainstream of that party is.

Another measure of Galston’s clear-sightedness, and his distance from his party, shows up in connection with his and Kamarck’s advocacy of a Darfur intervention. In my analysis, I suggested that they couldn’t be serious, given our current commitments in Iraq and the ways in which our deployable troops have been stretched. Well, to be fair, Galston is on the record
here as favoring a draft, which, of course, has little or no support in his party or anywhere else in the political spectrum.

Update: Tod Lindberg suggests that Galston and Kamarck are in search of the Democratic John McCain, a formulation that can also be seen in Scheiber’s reference to "national greatness liberalism." Perhaps McCain can seek both parties’ nominations. His ego is certainly up to it.

Discussions - 2 Comments

"Perhaps McCain can seek both parties’ nominations. His ego is certainly up to it."

Truer words were never spoken. Being a U.S. Senator forever dooms one to an ego so large it arrives ten minutes before they do.

I would have to say the current exception to the rule seems to be Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, but then, he’s a doctor, so he probably suffers from ’Christ in a Mercedes’ syndrome.


A reasonable observer of the dispute over the war on terrorism would note that there is simply a difference of judgment between those who believe that the war in Iraq has helped, and those who believe that the war in Iraq has harmed, that effort. It’s not clear who is right.

You argue that some on the left are unserious. In my view, equally unserious are those who want to turn objections to the war into a proxy for lack of seriousness in the war in terrorism.

Which group has more sway over their respective parties - given both political rhetoric and voting behavior in the parties over the past few years? Put it another way (and putting aside contestible referents here): is Rush Limbaugh more influential over Republicans than Michael Moore is over Democrats? It’s not even really an easy call.

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