Carpe diem, Democrats

News & Politics

In the aftermath of Katrina, Democrats have done well in terms of indicting the Bush administration for its woeful performance and -- as a first in recent history -- offering concrete counter-proposals to the GOP efforts to highjack the relief effort. Nice, but not quite enough. Michael Tomasky in The American Prospect argues that Democrats now need to make a clear big-picture case against the entire philosophy of conservatism, mapping out the ways in which its core principles led directly to this catastrophic tragedy:

Of the several central precepts of modern movement conservatism, three played crucial roles here: first, its sanctification of the individual and concomitant rejection of the community as the foundational unit of social organization (except for religious communities, which are to substitute for political action and social investment); second, its glorification of the corporation -- indeed its attempt to model the government on the corporation (although on a very inefficient, corrupted idea of the corporation); and third, its utter anti-empiricism -- its ability to deny any fact that is not either presented in a “study� paid for by the oil industry or insisted upon by those greatest of all deniers of fact, the Christian right. ...
There may never again be a chance quite like this to draw a crystal-clear line from the A of conservative ideology to the B of the administration’s Katrina failures to the C of the broader lessons about American society. The right, we can be sure, will fight to ensure that its syllogism -- the A of bloated bureaucracy to the B of government failure to the C of replacing government action with private relief -- is the one that takes hold of the public consciousness. Now is the time to make the kinds of arguments Democrats haven’t made for a generation.
Against the three conservative assumptions that worsened the disaster, we liberals must counterpose our beliefs. We cherish individual liberty, but we also believe in a community in which each of us has equal worth. We believe in robust government to do what the corporations refuse to do, or are not constituted to do well. Finally, we believe in reason and evidence, and we believe that it is a core responsibility of government to respond to them. [LINK]
Tomasky rightly observes that Democratic leaders are terrified of talking ideology -- or what some others might call "values" -- out of fear of being tarred and feathered by the rightwing noise machine (which quite frankly has been giving Lenin a good name by labeling any call for justice or compassion as downright communist). But dare they must or else this moment of opportunity too will pass, lost in the din of yet another round of partisan name-calling.

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