Reform Democrats vs. ‘Munich’ Democrats

Here’s the summary: The primary schism within the Democratic party (which has earned the title of “reform”) has to do with two different views of dealing with the Republicans. The ‘Munich’ Democrats think that compromise with the Republicans is a viable strategy, both in terms of policy and politics. The Reform Democrats essentially view the current political system as a non-violent war, where compromise is not an option; only striking back is. Given the names I’ve given the groups, you can probably guess which side I’m on here…

I’ll give two examples of what I mean. After the election, Kerry proposed legislation that would provide healthcare to every child. This is commendable and, in an environment where compromise was the order of the day, laudible. Does anyone think the Republicans are going to even consider such a bill? Of course not. Even if they can’t get their “healthcare” legislation, they’ll kill any Democratic proposal for the same reason the scorpion stings–it’s in their nature. If this is the case, why not propose healthcare legislation for all Americans? It’s not like you’re going to actually have to figure out how to pay for it.

The second example has to do with the whole “Sister Souljah” thing. Pioneered by Clinton, this is where you attack your base, so as to score points with swing voters. Maybe this works for rock star politicians, but for most including our current president, you need to be loyal to your base. Do you ever see Republicans attacking their base, including the vile bigots at Bob Jones University? They may not always deliver to this group, but at least they don’t denigrate an important part of their coalition. Why would Democrats attack their liberal base when it has proposed and fought for the most enduring accomplishments of the Democratic Party? (Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, environmental protection, civil rights, labor rights, and women’s rights just to name a few icky liberal thingees)

So why do the Munich Democrats do this? The non-cynical explanation is that they actually think moderation will be effective. I think any rational consideration of the current political climate would lead to the conclusion that most compromises will lead to death by a thousand cuts. In part, we’re seeing a generational divide here, with the Reform Democrats having only experienced Republican militancy–it is inconceivable to a Reform Democrat that Republicans would ever meet them halfway in good faith (and I hate to say it, this applies to this Reform Democrat).

The cynical explanation is that compromise is a good way for individual Democrats to retain a very nice, cushy lifestyle. Think of all the political operatives and politicians (and their spouses) who receive faculty endowments and positions at think tanks. These jobs allow them to stay in Washington (and you didn’t really want to give up that nice house in Northwest and go back to Clay Center, Nebraska, did you?). Very few wealthy people grant endowments or pull strings for someone who fought really hard for the Earned Income Tax Credit or labor protections. But if you’re a good friend of the defense industry, well, it’s always good to have friends…


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