Tuesday, May 09, 2006

The New Liberal Vision?

In the New York Times today, Robin Toner wrote an interesting little piece called “Optimistic, Democrats Debate the Party's Vision.” This article outlines the debates among democrats on how to reform their message. Toner states that
some of these analysts argue that the party needs something more than a pastiche of policy proposals. It needs a broader vision, a narrative, they say, to return to power and govern effectively — what some describe as an unapologetic appeal to the "common good," to big goals like expanding affordable health coverage and to occasional sacrifice for the sake of the nation as a whole.
The article also states that Americans are ready for a change as they are tired of war, gas prices and the rise in health care costs. But what is the “common good” that Toner points to and that John Podesta, from the Center for American Progress, highlights? And, are Americans really ready for a change? I ask these questions because this is part of the problem for the democrats in our country. Besides needed to define the term “common good,” we need to also ask: “common good for whom?” I ask this because politicians are notorious for put out this generic, universalistic, language—sound bites—in hopes that we will all say “yes, the common good, that’s it!” But we have all learned that these universal ideas of liberty, of common good, are normally reserved for a portion of the population and not all of the population. Take for example citizenship. At first it too was put out there as a “common good,” but we soon learned that it was to be a common good only for land owing white males and no one else. There are similar modern examples such as access to health care, tax breaks and the like. All are put forth or sold as the common good, but only a small segment of the population seems to have access. The next question is: Are Americans really ready for change? As much as I keep hearing that Americans are fed up, that Bush’s polls are at a historic low, I also do not hear any real protest or any real angry voices. Yes there are some. Where I live, there is the Boca Peace Corner—a group of protesters who assemble every Saturday from noon to one at the corner of Andres and Glades road. They made a special appearance to protest Bush while he was here to raise funds for a fellow republican last night. But other then a few well organized protestors, most American citizens seem docile and quiet. We grumble, to be certain. We are happy to jump onto a computer and take a poll, hitting this or that button and then submit. But outside the grumbles and the lazy-ass effort of participating with on-line polls, there is relatively little in the way of protest. In fact, immigrants, legal or not, seem to be better equipped to protest the status-quo than the rest of us who have been lulled to sleep by our TV sets and our HoHos. What, one might ask, will it take to mobilize people out of their sleepwalking existence and into action of some sort? Finally, the article suggested that democrats need a “narrative” to accompany their vision, but this narrative must be wider in scope then it has been historically. Certainly, one cannot deny that the world we live in is in crisis. The rise in war, clashes of ideology, the rise in fundamentalism, and human rights violations all suggest that the problems we are facing are much bigger than American issues—they are global. We are experiencing a global crisis that must be consulted and recognized because we can no longer see ourselves simply as a separate unit from the world. Americans must realize this and must engage in this fact. With this said I am going to run a series looking at all these issues and hopefully come to some conclusions on what direction liberals might want to take. First, I will look at the historical conflict between conservatives, liberals and radicals and the rise of neo-liberalism. Then I will look at possible tactics we, as progressives, might wish to take next. I welcome all and any feedback and contributions to this series and I also welcome guest bloggers to post their articles on this subject here as well as on their own blog. I suggest a communal, choral, effort be made by interested parties. If we want to change our future, we must start a dialogue and find some answers ourselves instead of looking to others to find the answers for us. If you are interested in participating, please feel free to email me at harpowoman@comcast.net.

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