Friday, August 05, 2005

Wrong Turn

Ruth Conniff knows How the Left Can Win, and it doesn't involve rubbing magic lanterns. No, the lesson that Conniff draws from her experience at June's Take Back America conference is that the Left must move away from the Center (too crowded there, I suppose), and turn further Left. Citing a speech by "progressive political dynamo" Eli Pariser of moveon.org, Conniff states:
The Democrats can and must break their cycle of dependence on big donors whose interests conflict with those of their base. Democratic candidates won't please anyone so long as they preach populism in elections and then vote for atrocious legislation like the bankruptcy bill. The hypocrisy of trying to appeal to a base of workers, minorities, and the nonrich while serving the interests of corporate donors is killing the party. Fortunately . . . the small-donor fundraising revolution spearheaded by MoveOn and the Howard Dean campaign in the last election can help solve this fundamental conflict.
What makes Conniff believe that this will work? Well, it's the darndedest thing, but, every person at the Take Back America conference was liberal. Hot dog!

Too often at progressive events a cacophony of different voices compete and drown out any coherent, overarching message. Not so at the Take Back America event in June. There was much scolding of Democratic centrists from the stage. Arianna Huffington did a hilarious riff on Hillary Clintons waffling over whether it is appropriate to have an exit strategy from Iraq. Bob Borosage, co-director of Campaign for America's Future, talked about how dumb it was for Dems to keep muddying the waters on issues like abortion, when the message of the elections was that people want moral clarity. Speakers from Donna Brazile to Celinda Lake promoted a left takeover of the party.

This approach, Conniff argues, will help the Left "keep in touch and reach out to a nation that is hungry for a stronger opposition to Bush." Conniff's reasoning recalls Pauline Kael's mythical reaction to Nixon's 1972 thrashing of McGovern: "I can't believe Nixon won. I don't know anyone who voted for him."

If the only people permitted to vote in the next presidential election are attendees of the Take Back America conference, then I think Conniff's plan sounds like a winner. But, a pitfall might arise if the rest of the country is allowed to vote, too. According to the Battleground Poll, the rest of the country isn't as warm and fuzzy as Conniff's peers are about undiluted Progressivism. Sure, the Conniff Doctrine might appeal to the 8% of the country that calls itself "very liberal." And, it might even please a portion of the 28% of the country that is "somewhat liberal." But, I wonder how the plan would help the Left "keep in touch and reach out" to the 58% of the country that calls itself conservative.

Excuse me for a second while I climb atop this soap box.

There.

Conniff's condition serves as a useful reminder of the importance of seeking out and understanding views different from one's own. One great thing about the internet is that it provides instant access to so many others who share your views. A sometimes under-appreciated perq of the internet is that it also provides access to those who don't share your views. If you're liberal, check out the Conservative links; if you're conservative, check out the Liberal ones. Often.

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