« They Were Against It Before They Weren't Really for It | Main | When the Boss's Son Takes Over »

Friday, July 28, 2006

"New Deal Democracy is Dead"

Charles Schumer on New Deal politics and other issues. This is part of a much longer discussion at American Prospect:

What Would Joe and Eileen Do?, by The Editors, American Prospect: ... Charles Schumer: ...I want to talk about the future of the Democratic Party and where we’re going, and why we don’t [have] an issues template, a values template. I mean, to sum it up in a nutshell, we all knock George Bush but he won the election on eight words: war in Iraq, cut taxes, no gay marriage. Frankly, those things -- I don’t agree with them -- but they’re what politics is supposed to be. Specific issues that he took flak on and was willing to make some waves over that were related to a system of values. So that when a voter heard “war in Iraq,” he knew “tough foreign policy, “ “cut taxes” -- “cut government,” “no gay marriage” -- “traditional values.” Well, we Democrats don’t have eight words, we don’t even have 80 words. Ask any voter what were John Kerry’s eight or 80 words in the 2004 election and he wouldn’t know. And I don’t blame him for that. That’s just where we’re at. ...

But we Democrats are putting together our system, our little what-do-we-stand-for. Frankly, I think the 2006 election will be 80 percent, 75 percent a referendum on George Bush, and only 20 percent, 25 percent a referendum on what Democrats stand for. It will flip in 2008, where there will be no incumbent and everything will be up for grabs... But in 2006, it’s mainly George Bush... But we do have to stand for things, show people if we get in what we’re going to do. It’s very hard to do that in a major, groundbreaking way when you try to do it by consensus. ...

So let me tell you where we’re at politically, in a broad sense. I think New Deal democracy, which is still the basis for the Democratic Party, is gone. ... not in certain deep-values senses, but in this sense. New Deal democracy, as it evolved, became a conglomeration of groups, and Franklin Roosevelt patched together a coalition that was diverse in many ways, but he did things ... that each of the groups wanted. And as we went past Franklin Roosevelt, it became more ... that way. And so the Democratic Party said, “you’re an environmentalist? I’ll do this for you.” “You’re a civil libertarian? I’ll do this for you.” “You’re a labor-union member? I’ll do this for you.” Technology has changed everything. And one thing technology has done is homogenize all of us. The person who lives in rural Nebraska and the person who lives in south Brooklyn buy the same products, see the same things on TV… They’re far closer today than they were in 1932 or 1962. And so appealing to groups doesn’t quite work. And I think in certain ways it hurts us. On each issue we sort of let the group decide what we want to do, and the group tends to be far over to the left side and it pulls us away from talking to average Americans.

So New Deal democracy just doesn’t work anymore, all right? And that’s one of the reasons we can’t come up with eight words. We can come up with eight words for the environmentalists, and eight words for the ACLU, and eight words for … but it just doesn’t carry the day. OK, so New Deal democracy is over; it’s been over for a while. I think it’s fundamentally one of the reasons we’ve been the minority party since 1980, because we still cling to the notion. ... But here’s the more important point: Reagan Republicanism is also dead. Why? I would say that technology has so dramatically changed our world that it’s created a whole different world from the world that existed in 1980.

1980 -- Ronald Reagan came in saying government was fat, tired, and out of control. It was. ... Reagan came in; we deserved to lose. We stopped being democrats -- small “d” -- talking to average people about what affects their lives, and instead had these ideologies. OK, Reagan comes in and basically accomplishes a lot of things that he wanted to accomplish...

But technology has changed all that. The average person, who in 1980 said get government out of my way, feels anxiety. Now, we have to understand something -- the average person… I have fictional people in my head. They’re Joe and Eileen O’Reilly. They live in Massapequa. They’re registered independents. He’s an insurance salesman who makes 50,000 bucks a year; she works part-time in the schools, makes 20,000 bucks a year. .... And before I do anything, I talk to Joe and Eileen. ... I don’t agree with Joe and Eileen … Joe and Eileen don’t agree with my view on gay marriage, but when I talk about gay marriage, I talk to them. I don’t talk to the New York Times editorial board, with all due respect. I talk to Joe and Eileen. And Joe and Eileen O’Reilly are happy with their lives. That’s an important thing to understand. When Democrats condescend to them, they hate it. “Oh, you poor person, we will help you.” You know what Joe and Eileen’s reaction is when you say that to them? [gesture] “I built my life. I’m proud of that. Don’t you tell me that you can help me that way.” With Joe and Eileen, things have changed. Technology has changed, and Joe and Eileen understand in their belly that there are some big forces out there that they need some help dealing with, which they didn’t feel in 1980. Terror. They feel terror. And technology has allowed small groups of bad people to strike in our heartland and do things we have never experienced before. They understand that. World economy, broadband, has allowed there to be a one-world labor market where Joe -- not Joe, his job is pretty secure as an insurance salesman -- but their kids are going to have to compete with people in China and India and everywhere else, and they know that. Technology has made people live longer. ... Technology’s allowed their kids to have access to pornography. Joe would go the candy store and maybe take a quick glance at the dirty magazine section, now his kids can get everything.

Technology has changed the world. And Reagan Republicanism is dead because this idea that government’s your enemy -- and you have to cut its hand off every time it moves -- is over. And the good news for us Democrats is we sort of know New Deal democracy is dead. They have no idea that Reagan Republicanism is over, but it’s over. It’s gone. ... And the fundamental thing about Reagan Republicanism, I would say … I mean we got to deal with the security issue, which is a little different … but the fundamental domestic issue -- government should shrink, let everybody do just what they want, get government out of my way -- is over. And that’s the opening for the Democratic Party because basically the thing that unites us, from the more liberal to the more conservative, is we believe government should be an active force for good. And so we have to define that. ...

[O]ne of the most astounding times I went through was in the late ’60s at Harvard, and it influenced me dramatically. I was against the war; I cut my teeth in the McCarthy campaign, but when the radicals came in, I was appalled. I kept saying to them, “You know, if the war is wrong, why can’t we convince other people?” You know, they had all these theories and Marcuse and al that, the public’s been brainwashed by the media. I had more faith in the average citizen. You know, they’d go over to police officers, right up to their nose and go PIG, so they would hit him … provoke the police officer. And I would go to them, I would say, “What are you doing? That guy’s trying to earn a living.” Those were the people I grew up with, and I lived through a mobocracy. I lived in a mini-French Revolution and it was of the left and it was of well-to-do people, but it influenced me profoundly. The point I’m making, I thought that underneath it all, what was trying to happen then was shifting from a society of self-interest to a society of the greater good, and it didn’t work. And the people I met at Harvard in the late ’60s were the most unhappy people I ever met, and some of them are still my friends and they haven’t been able to put their lives back together. Harvard screwed them up, particularly the guys and gals who came from small towns in the Midwest and South. They couldn’t go home but they didn’t feel comfortable there. So I’m not sure if this eleemosynary Let’s All Work Together for the Common Good can carry a political philosophy and appeal to enough voters to create a majority. ...

[T]he hard left has a moral elitism that is obnoxious. ...[I]t’s a small number of very vocal people … I think if you analyze who emails us from MoveOn, it’s basically the same group. I’m glad they’re active. I like them. We get pushed around too much. We don’t think of Joe and Eileen. The reason I think of Joe and Eileen is I need a pushback. When you’re in the Washington world you need a pushback. ...

But I would say this. ... Technology has allowed wealth to agglomerate to the top. The No. 1 reason that wealth is agglomerating to the top is not the Bush tax cuts -- they’ve exacerbated it -- but it’s the change, the fundamental change in society. Why? We’re an idea society. When an idea can create so much added value, it doesn’t spread around. Here’s what I mean: When Henry Ford had his great idea, it took a million people to carry that idea forward. You needed people to build the car. You needed people to transport the car. You needed people to sell the car. And Henry Ford, if the value of this thing was $1 billion, probably he had to give away $950 million of that to other people to effectuate his idea. When Bill Gates came up with his great idea, which was more of an idea per se than a thing, much more of an abstract thing than a concrete thing, he only needed about 5,000 or 10,000 people to carry out his idea. So instead of creating a whole bunch of middle class … So instead of creating a million middle-class people, which Henry Ford did, he created 5,000 low-level millionaires. And this is a real problem. ...

I'm not much of a fan of Schumer's - I think his imaginary friends have led him astray on some key issues - but I thought his views were worth presenting since he will be trying to push the Democratic Party in this direction.

    Posted by on Friday, July 28, 2006 at 08:01 PM in Economics, Politics | Permalink  TrackBack (0)  Comments (82)

    TrackBack

    TrackBack URL for this entry:
    https://www.typepad.com/services/trackback/6a00d83451b33869e200d834dc007d69e2

    Listed below are links to weblogs that reference "New Deal Democracy is Dead":


    Comments

    Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.