|Who Lost Delphi?||President Bush and the Mandate of Heaven|
by Christopher Chantrill
October 24, 2005 at 4:42 am
TO DEMOCRATS the decline of the Democratic Party over the past generation seems inconceivable. How could the amiable dunce Ronald Reagan have won the presidency? How could the bombastic Newt Gingrich have brought forty years of Democratic Congresses to an end? How could the dim-witted frat-boy George W. Bush have been elected to the White House?
For over a decade the Democratic Leadership Council has been trying to tell them. The latest effort, from William A. Galston and Elaine C. Kamarck, is The Politics of Polarization. Angered by failure, they relate, Democrats have tried to win recent elections by mobilizing their base. The result has been to enlarge the base of both political parties. The trouble is that the Republicans conservative base is bigger.
Rather than mobilizing the base, liberals should reach out to the moderate center, they argue. But there is a problem here too. The Democratic base of liberal activists is an American outlier. It is more educated, more prosperous, more single, more secular than Americans in general. In social issues and defense... Liberals espouse views diverging not only from those of other Democrats, but from Americans as a whole.
But the Democrats problem is even bigger than that. In the first two-thirds of the twentieth century, the DLC says on its Third Way web site, progressive reform
brought fair labor standards, adequate wages, and decent benefits for workers. It also created the structures that brought wealth to the middle class – it increased college access, built highways, and electrified remote areas... [But now we live in] a global economy that is moving and changing at breakneck speed... [and] middle class Americans seem to have lost faith in progressive economic prescriptions.
What went wrong and what can progressives do to recapture the trust of middle class Americans?
Over in US corporate suites, people have been asking a similar question. What is going on in the global economy and what should corporate leaders do to respond? When the clients of management consultant McKinsey & Co. were asking that back in 1990, McKinsey realized it did not have an answer. So it embarked on an in-depth research project on major business sectors around the world to find out what was going on. The result, written by William W. Lewis, is The Power of Productivity, now out in paperback. There is an excellent interview with Lewis by TechCentralStation.com editor Nick Schulz here.
Lewiss findings are startling. His team found that the United States is the most productive nation in the world in almost all sectors, and likely to remain so. For sure, in steel, autos, and consumer electronics the Japanese are marginally more productive. But the big global industries in Japan contribute about 10 percent of GDP. The rest of the Japanese economyretail, construction, food processingoperates at half the productivity of the US. It is inefficient, subscale, fragmented.
What is the difference? Wal-Mart, for a start. Over the last generation Wal-Mart has driven a huge increase in retail productivity that has forced the rest of the retail sector to reinvent itself or die. In the late 1990s during the great tech boom, half of US improvement in productivity was in humble retail. In Japan, mom-and-pop stores are protected from competition by law. The result is higher prices and a large subsidized labor force working at low productivity, dragging the rest of the economy down.
It is the productivity of every worker that matters... [Its] the productivity of the massive number of workers in retailing, wholesaling, and construction that give the United States the highest GDP per capita in the world.
You can see the problem for the Democrats. Their progressive political faith is based on protecting American jobs, on favoring workers over businesses, on manipulating the economy with targeted subsidies, tax cuts, and credits. They think that Wal-Mart is a problem, not an inspiration. William L. Lewis says that the way to prosperity for the ordinary American is through global competition. The more intense and evenly balanced competition is, the faster the process works.
Galston and Kamarck tell us why the Democratic political offering has ceased to work. Most ordinary Americans, even conservative Democrats, believe in the politics of personal empowerment and that most people can get ahead with hard work. They have lost the fear their Depression-era parents experienced when the progressive suits wrecked the economy with Smoot-Hawley tariffs, high government spending, high income-tax rates, and fixed wages and prices; they believe that they can thrive in the creative destruction of the market economy. So they stop voting for Democrats.
For Democrats to do well the American people need to lose their faith in personal empowerment. Short of that, Democrats need to lose their faith in progressive economic prescriptions.
Buy his Road to the Middle Class.
[W]hen I asked a liberal longtime editor I know with a mainstream [publishing] house for a candid, shorthand version of the assumptions she and her colleagues make about conservatives, she didn't hesitate. Racist, sexist, homophobic, anti-choice fascists, she offered, smiling but meaning it.
Harry Stein, I Can't Believe I'm Sitting Next to a Republican
[T]he way to achieve a system of determining admission to the public schools on a nonracial basis,
Brown II, 349 U. S., at 300–301, is to stop assigning students on a racial basis. The way to stop
discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.
Roberts, C.J., Parents Involved in Community Schools vs. Seattle School District
[T]he Liberal, and still more the subspecies Radical... more than any other in these latter days seems under the impression that so long as he has a good end in view he is warranted in exercising over men all the coercion he is able[.]
Herbert Spencer, The Man Versus the State
[To make] of each individual member of the army a soldier who, in character, capability, and knowledge, is self-reliant, self-confident, dedicated, and joyful in taking responsibility [verantwortungsfreudig] as a man and a soldier. — Gen. Hans von Seeckt
MacGregor Knox, Williamson Murray, ed., The dynamics of military revolution, 1300-2050
[The Axial Age] highlights the conception of a responsible self... [that] promise[s] man for the first time that he can understand the fundamental structure of reality and through salvation participate actively in it.
Robert N Bellah, "Religious Evolution", American Sociological Review, Vol. 29, No. 3.
[In the] higher Christian churches... they saunter through the liturgy like Mohawks along a string of scaffolding who have long since forgotten their danger. If God were to blast such a service to bits, the congregation would be, I believe, genuinely shocked. But in the low churches you expect it every minute.
Annie Dillard, Holy the Firm
[Every] sacrifice is an act of impurity that pays for a prior act of greater impurity... without its participants having to suffer the full consequences incurred by its predecessor. The punishment is commuted in a process that strangely combines and finesses the deep contradiction between justice and mercy.
Frederick Turner, Beauty: The Value of Values
Within Pentecostalism the injurious hierarchies of the wider world are abrogated and replaced by a single hierarchy of faith, grace, and the empowerments of the spirit... where groups gather on rafts to take them through the turbulence of the great journey from extensive rural networks to the mega-city and the nuclear family...
David Martin, On Secularization
What distinguishes true Conservatism from the rest, and from the Blair project, is the belief in more personal freedom and more market freedom, along with less state intervention... The true Third Way is the Holy Grail of Tory politics today - compassion and community without compulsion.
Minette Marrin, The Daily Telegraph
These emerge out of long-standing moral notions of freedom, benevolence, and the affirmation of ordinary life... I have been sketching a schematic map... [of] the moral sources [of these notions]... the original theistic grounding for these standards... a naturalism of disengaged reason, which in our day takes scientistic forms, and a third family of views which finds its sources in Romantic expressivism, or in one of the modernist successor visions.
Charles Taylor, Sources of the Self
There was nothing new about the Frankish drive to the east... [let] us recall that the continuance of their rule depended upon regular, successful, predatory warfare.
Richard Fletcher, The Barbarian Conversion
The Union publishes an exact return of the amount of its taxes; I can get copies of the budgets of the four and twenty component states; but who can tell me what the citizens spend in the administration of county and township?
Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America