George Will weighs in on the recent intra-liberal debate between the American Prospect’s Robert Kuttner and the New Republic’s Peter Beinart. He believes the core problem of the modern Democratic party is that it shares Kuttner’s disdain for the values of the majority of the electorate and that Beinart’s prescription of a return the anti-totalitarianism of Harry Truman and John Kennedy is the only way to save the party. Will believes this an uphill fight:
But how do you begin reforming a base polluted by the Michael Moore-MoveOn.org faction? Moore says “there is no terrorist threat” — that terrorism is a threat no greater than traffic accidents. MoveOn says that “large portions of the Bill of Rights” have been “nullified” — presumably, then, the federal judiciary also has been nullified.
When Moore sat in Jimmy Carter’s box at the 2004 Democratic convention, voters drew conclusions about the party’s sobriety. Liberalism’s problem with the Moore-MoveOn faction is similar to conservatism’s 1960s embarrassment from the claimed kinship of the John Birch Society, whose leader called President Dwight D. Eisenhower a Kremlin agent.
The reason that Moore is hostile to U.S. power is that he despises the American people from whom the power arises. Moore’s assertion that America “is known for bringing sadness and misery to places around the globe” is a corollary of Kuttnerism, the doctrine that “middle America” is viciously ignorant.
Beinart is bravely trying to do for liberalism what another magazine editor — the National Review’s William Buckley — did for conservatism by excommunicating the Birchers from the conservative movement. But Buckley’s task was easier than Beinart’s will be because the Birchers were never remotely as central to the Republican base as the Moore-MoveOn faction is to the Democratic base.
I’m not so sure of that. While the Moore-Dean-MoveOn faction is better organized, more energized, and better funded, I still believe it represents a minority of Americans who identify with the Democrats. Even with its incredible fundraising success and momentum, the Dean train was ultimately derailed by the comparatively moderate John Kerry.
Beinart’s correlary point, though, that Democrats need to articulate a competing foreign policy vision, is correct. A party that tries to win elections based only on appealing to domestic interests will have much difficulty regaining the presidency in any period when national security threats are apparent. Kerry, afraid of alienating the Moore-MoveOn faction, failed to come up a foreign policy argument better than “George Bush is f’ing it up.” A Harry Truman wouldn’t have had that problem.