The Democrats Have Principles, They Just Hide Them

by John Hawkins | October 2, 2006 3:08 pm

Over at the WAPO, Sebastian Mallaby[1] has blasted the Democratic Party from the left for having no principles:

“After years of single-party government, the prospect of a Democratic majority in the House ought to feel refreshing. But even with Republicans collapsing in a pile of sexual sleaze, I just can’t get excited. Most Democrats in Congress seem bereft of ideas or the courage to stand up for them. They clearly want power, but they have no principles to guide their use of it.

…If Democrats cared about poor women and minorities, they would be clamoring to reform Social Security. But instead they get a childish gratification out of stamping their feet and refusing to discuss the subject. They can’t muster the courage to block the suspension of habeas corpus. But when it comes to blocking entitlement reform, the Democrats ride out to battle.

I’m not saying that Republicans are at all better, and of course elections breed some policy timidity. But the infuriating thing about the Democrats is that, just a decade ago, they knew how to empathize with voters’ economic insecurities without collapsing into irresponsibility; they combined attractively progressive social policies with sensible pro-market fiscal responsibility. Now many in the party have lost interest in this necessary balance. If the Democrats win a measure of power next month, it’s hard to see what they will do with it.”

The column is worth checking out, but what’s really fascinating is the reaction that some of the people on the left side of the blogosphere had to what Mallaby wrote. Predictably, they bashed Mallaby for attacking them, they bashed Republicans (because that’s just what they do) — but then, believe it or not, they went on to grumpily agree that the Democratic Party doesn’t stand for anything. Here are three examples:

“We liberals tend to rate our candidates on campaign performance, which mostly boils down to how effectively our candidates smack down whatever lies the Right is spreading about them. It can be hard to explain to voters who you are when most of your time is taken up explaining who you aren’t. But that’s how it is, and we need to be better prepared for it. One way we could be better prepared is if the Democratic Party collectively used the time between elections to articulate a short list of basic principles. And, once articulated — repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat. Until every voter in America can recite that list by heart.

It’s been a long time since Democrats have done that. Even Bill Clinton won mostly on conservative talking points about ending welfare and reducing deficits, not on uniquely Democratic Party principles.” — The Mahablog[2]

“Republicans are typically given a pass for governing from an agenda unmoored from their small-government, strong-defense, fiscal responsibility platitudes — indeed, those platitudes are championed as evidence that the party “knows what it stands for.” It’s as if the espousal of principles matters more than adherence to them. Democrats, meanwhile, are expected to have a detailed philosophy and point-by-point plan that’s internally consistent. Power for power’s sake is only acceptable when Republicans rule.” — Sam Rosenfeld at Tapped[3]

Hopefully Democrats will take over the House in November, the Senate and Executive is 2008 and overcome the objections from corrupt Republicans and every-bit-as-corrupt DLC monstosities to pass John Tierney’s campaign finance bill. After that a reasonable discussion of principles can ensue. — DownWithTyranny![4]

Look at this: you’ve got partisan, liberal Dems here saying that the Democratic Party doesn’t even have a, “short list of basic principles,” that they’re seeking, “Power for power’s sake,” and that maybe the Democrats can come up with some principles after the election — and all this is supposed to be pushback against an article slamming them for not having any principles.

But — but — isn’t it true that they do have principles, and that what they’re really afraid of is openly articulating those principles to the American public?

Isn’t it true that if you took — let’s say, Ted Kennedy, John Kerry, Hillary Clinton, Michael Moore, Kos, Jane Hamsher, Nancy Pelosi, Maureen Dowd, Sean Penn, & Jesse Jackson — put them all in a room together, and asked them what they thought about abortion, gay marriage, the United Nations, Wal-Mart, the Bush tax cuts, among other issues — that most of them would give you about the same answer?

So, just like conservatives, they do have a common philosophy. Now, conservative Republicans? They tend to get in trouble for telling everyone what they believe in and then not living up to their principles.

But, Democrats? They have an entirely different problem: their principles are unpopular. That’s why they don’t want to come out and say, “We’re for big government, more regulation, higher taxes, gay marriage, unrestricted abortion, gun control, Affirmative Action, massively increasing legal and illegal immigration, more lawsuits, a weaker US military, Kyoto, the International Criminal Court, and socialized medicine.”

If the Democrats were as honest as Republicans about what they stand for, it would destroy them as a political party in the United States — and they know it — hence their knee jerk opposition to Republicans & their refusal to discuss their principles. The only way Democrats can get into power in most of the United States is by being dishonest about what they really believe and then hoping to get in power and make changes before the voters figure out what they’re doing and kick them out.

It’s not that they don’t have any principles, as Mallaby says, it’s that many of their principles are anathema to the American people.

  1. Sebastian Mallaby:
  2. The Mahablog:
  3. Tapped:
  4. DownWithTyranny!:

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