Please, No Phony Debates
I guess I should have expected this, but there have already been two major published articles preemptively criticizing the DLC for arguing that Democrats need to "move to the right" in response to this year's losses. First came the normally reasonable Tim Noah of Slate, who simply assumed that's what the DLC would say and then devoted several graphs to why is was a dumb idea. And today, New York Times columnist Paul Krugman interpreted Al From's rather obvious suggestion that Democrats need to close the "cultural gap" with Republicans as a call for "Democrats to blur the differences between themselves and Republicans" and then, like Noah, Krugman was off to the races with a long diatribte about how dishonorable and politcally useless this would be.
People, people, we've got enough to argue about without making up positions and then knocking them down. I work at the DLC every single day, and I've never heard a soul say anything about "moving to the right," and pace Krugman, we've gone way out of our way on many occasions to say that dealing with our culture problem is not a matter of "moving to the right" on abortion or guns or gay marriage or anything else. And if by "blurring the differences" between Democrats and Republicans on cultural issues means challenging the perception that they care about cultural stresses on the American family and we don't, then hell, yes, we need to blur that difference, but it has nothing to do with aping conservative positions on hot-button issues. What it means is taking seriously the belief of millions of people, not just religious fundamentalists, that they are competing with a toxic and increasingly amoral culture for the character of their children. What it means is addressing those concerns in a progressive way, instead of conveying the sense that we believe they should put aside all their silly superstitions about the moral order of the universe and chow down on a prescription drug benefit.
To those of you who don't see anyway to express solidarity with culturally stressed voters other than "moving right," think about this: we always tell middle-class families we want to "fight for them" against powerful interests, especially corporations who place profits ahead of people. We rightly say HMOs and tobacco companies should be accountable for the pain they inflict on consumers. What about the giant, profit-seeking corporations of the entertainment industry? Does our willingness to stand up to corporate America stop at the borders of Hollywood? And if so, is it because we want their campaign contributions? Now that's a "blurring of the differences" between D's and R's sho nuff!
So long as Democrats continue to think the world of public policy is divided into "our issues" and "their issues," and can't come up with a progressive way, consistent with our values, to deal with every issue, then we're going to lose when voters decide we really don't just give a damn about the issues they care about.