Moderation For Real

NYPress’ Matt Taibbi gets it just about right re: the “National Security Democrats”:

Democratic party leadership’s persistent and bizarre campaign of
self-condemnation and Republican bootlicking is one of those things
that, on its face, makes very little logical sense. It makes cultural
sense; we have come to expect that the cultural figures we call the
Democrats will respond to electoral failure first by sniveling and
finger-pointing, and then by puffing up their chests and telling their
dates they know how to handle themselves in a bar fight. From the
Republicans we expect just the opposite; beaten at the polls, they
immediately start cozying up to snake-handlers and gun freaks and
denouncing school lunches as socialism. It is impossible to imagine a
Newt Gingrich responding, say, to LBJ’s
Great Society by concocting its own expensive plan to feed the poor
black man—but we fully expect that a Democrat who loses an election
will suddenly start to reconsider his opposition to preemtpive invasion
and Reaganomics.

Franklin Roosevelt never argued anything like that, and he fought a
global world war against two mighty industrial powers. But now 4000
retards in caves are going to close down the entire American school
system. If that is the Democratic idea of looking “strong,” one hates
to imagine what weakness would look like.

He raises a
fine point: Even if Democrats can reposition themselves to look better
on security issues, isn’t the effect negated by the fact that we’re repositioning
ourselves? The public can smell a phony a mile away. John Kerry, who
was, granted, not the slickest politician in history, tried to
reposition the party on a host of issues - and failed pretty utterly.
What Democrats need to realize is that we don’t need to move closer to
Republicans. We need to find a hawkish Democrat, and move closer to them.

This is one of my favorite things about (braces for thrown tomatoes)
Hillary Clinton. She’s probably not much less hawkish than Lieberman,
Biden, or Bayh. But where Lieberbayhden spend their time going on
Russert and lecturing Democrats about getting tough on this and that,
Hillary just quietly votes for hawkish policies and spends her weekends
giving speeches to NARAL and MoveOn. She has differences with most Democrats, but she never doesn’t seem proud to be one anyway.

She’s doing exactly what Bush did for the GOP in
2000. He moderated the party, not by lecturing it on moderation, but by
leading by example. What Hillary understands, that no one else
apparently does, is that a party’s repositioning only works if it
appears to be a sincere move, motivated by succumbing to internal
principles. It was the liberal wing of the Democratic Party, not
Republican pressure, that credibly transformed the whole party into a
bastion of civil rights. It was the hawkish wing of the Democratic
Party, not Republican pressure, that credibly transformed it into a
strong anti-Communist party. Lecturing your party about being as
moderate as you are only pulls up the curtain on the whole trick. What
our party desparately needs is a moderate candidate who will persuade
us to moderate our actual stances, not just the ones we take in public.

Atrios says it better:

don’t actually disagree with the general proposition that the Democrats
need a bit of piss and vinegar in their foreign policy, but they have
to figure out where to aim that piss. Peter Beinart and Joe Biden and
the rest of the gang didn’t aim their piss, they let George Bush grab
their dicks and point them towards Baghdad. And, now, two years later,
they want to lecture the rest of us on how to be perceived as “strong.”

The way to be perceived as strong isn’t to let George W. Bush tell you where to point your dick.


- Daniel A. Munz