Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Stones, Political PTSD

Weird. Kevin Drum and Andrew Sullivan were both thinking along the lines I was this morning. How does that happen?

In the 90s, Democrats were still fighting the countercultural backlash of the 70s and needed ways to demonstrate their willingness to abandon old orthodoxies. Hanging with the DLC was a terrific way of signalling to both the press and the public that the party had reinvented itself....

But it's not because the average Kossack is to the left of the average DLCer. The real difference is that the average Kossack is obsessed with Democrats having the stones to stand up to the modern Republican machine.

No one's talking about rolling back welfare reform. No one's proposed a healthcare initiative even half as comprehensive as the 1994 Clinton plan. All three candidates continue to claim they're personally opposed to gay marriage. Their rhetoric on guns and abortion is much more muted than in the past. They mostly agree that some of the Bush tax cuts should be allowed to expire, but not much more. They want to get out of Iraq, but that's a thoroughly mainstream position, and none of them are willing to commit to a complete withdrawal in any case.
And Andrew:
Clinton is from the traumatized generation; Obama isn't. Clinton has internalized to her bones the 1990s sense that conservatism is ascendant, that what she really believes is unpopular, that the Republicans have structural, latent power of having a majority of Americans on their side. Hence the fact that she reeks of fear, of calculation, of focus groups, of triangulation. She might once have had ideals keenly felt; she might once have actually relished fighting for them and arguing in thier defense. But she has not been like that for a very long time. She has political post-traumatic stress disorder. She saw her view of feminism gutted in the 1992 campaign; she saw her healthcare plan destroyed by what she saw as a VRWC; she remains among the most risk-averse of Democrats on foreign policy and in the culture wars.
I wonder if this is more than just a coincidence. Maybe last week's Obama-Clinton scuffle will get the ball rolling on Democratic courage.

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