Friday, May 12, 2006


My Own Radical Politics.

A few days ago, I talked about the generational differences between older lefties and the younger blogger generation. Under the old school, lefties saw the Democratic Party as a standard spectrum from conservative to liberal. Issues like abortion became markers along the spectrum, plotting voters and politicians along the line. Under the newer formulation, the Party is seen as a big tent, and the issues are seen in the aggregate. The new spectrum plots voters and politicians in their willingness to put their own issues in front of the greater good.

Thus while bloggers are often called radical activists, they generally like Harry Reid, a conservative, far more than his predecessor, a moderate. Kos and Atrios are often regarded as among the most "dogmatic" of the major bloggers, but they're both more moderate than Billmon and Digby (both are younger, too). So often, when the bloggers form a united front, some members of the MSM take this to mean they all have radically leftist positions. Some even have written how bloggers look like the old Maoist fringe from the 70s, equating the spectrum as one of ideology rather than collectivism. (It's ironically backward: the Maoists were absolutists who tried to reform the "mushy" collectivist party, while bloggers are trying to encourge--some might say "enforce"--that very collectivism. Maoists were radically leftists; bloggers are collectivist.)

But the broad agreement doesn't mean there aren't radicals in the group. While I prize collaboration and agreement and a collectivist big tent far more than I value any of my single issue positions, I do have single issue positions. And they are, by and large, quite a bit to the left of even bloggers. Periodically, I see someone on the right decry the radical leftism of, say, Ted Kennedy, and I'm reminded how long it has been since real leftism flourished in America. By way of offering full disclosure, I am an old-school leftist. Have a look:

I would go back to a far more progressive tax code, with a top bracket of 70%. I'd tax the hell out of corporations, including income on any company doing business in the US. I'd end most of the tax breaks on capital gains and consider only temporary, stimulus-based tax cuts.

Social Safety Net
All that new income--and there would be quite a lot under my big government plan--would go into a social safety net, including social security and national health care. The experiment with welfare was a policy failure, but I'd spend a lot more money pulling poor people out of poverty through education and work-training programs. I'd dump a lot of money into higher ed loans and grants.

This is the great challenge of the 21st Century. Global warming has the potential to destabilize the globe and batter the country, not to mention devastate the economy. I'd immediately begin a robust program to end burning fossil fuels by 2020 and take other dramatic steps to stop the damage of global warming. I'd spend some large percentage of GDP on this.

Foreign Policy
I'd push for an international union of democracies, akin to the EU, to take the place of the UN's political arm. The righties are exactly right when they point out the problems of having Libya head your human rights committee. But they're wrong when they say the US needs to avoid cooperation. We need a lot more cooperation, and a way to encourage others to join the modern world.

We could spend half of what we currently do on R&D and arms and still have the largest army on the planet. We need to dramatically draw down our military and move to a model of global cooperation ala my Democratic Union model. We still have responsibilities to our troops, which we must honor. I would also end the practice of farming out military functions to private enterprises.

We spend nothing on the arts, and perhaps this, not our godlessness, is why we love violence and video games and American Idol. Leave Jesus and Buddha to the private sector, as the founders imagined it, but invest in a new renaissance in American arts. We could spend ten times the amount we currently do, and it would probably still be less than the Belgians spend. We pay a large psychic debt for ignoring this.

None of this drills down to the issue-level debate, but my views there seem typically way afield of the debate. I wonder how many other mild-mannered Americans harbor views that differ so dramatically from what they sell on Fox?


Chuck Butcher said...

I'm still a little wary of your Generational analysis of "progressivism" since I'm a previous "generation" to you and your politics sound a lot like mine.
but thanks for the warning...

jer and jo said...

good one Jeff

Jeff Alworth said...

Of course, I got my politics from a bunch of FDR Democrats, so this old/new business is relative. New is the new old. Or something.

zemeckis said...

"radical"?! still sounding pretty democratic to me.

emma might think your one of the least objectionable of those slimebag power-hungry imperialists

i'd vote for ya!

iggi said...

i still think of you as an "old leftie"...most of your views do not seem particularly radical to me, but, then again, i'm a crazy leftie.