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Monday

Some possible "Grand New Visions" for the Democratic Party

(As a continuation of the previous post below)

We cannot know what the great geopolitical struggles of the 21st century will consist of; I think it is naive to think that Islamic fundamentalism will pose a monolithic and symmetric threat to western capitalist manufacturing exploitation, the way the dictator-led command economies of Germany, Russia etc. did in the 20th. That said, current fears of terrorist action are justified, considering the sorry state of nuclear weapons control in Russia and Pakistan, the growing threat of nuclear competence from North Korea and Iran, and future wild cards (Indonesia, Nigeria, and South Africa may find it far more economical to buy nukes for local dominance, than to buy state of the art aircraft and armored vehicles; and such erstwhile allies and local power brokers as Japan and Turkey might drift from the U.S. sphere of influence and reformulate their own spheres.)

What if the democratic party decided to address the longterm challenge of possible nuclear terrorism from any nonsymmetric source (e.g. small rogue state, semi-independant radical organization, economically backward giant power)? The current republican plan, apparently, is deal with Islamic terror first and deal with it ruthlessly where possible and cut deals elsewhere (Pakistan, Saudi Arabia); and worry about loose nukes later. The proper, sensible response for democrats is to try to take the upper hand in terms of grand geopolitical strategy. Develop, in tandem with a couple of NATO states, a key Mideast partner (ideally Egypt, failing that Saudi Arabia, but definitely not Israel or Iraq of course), Japan, and either China or India (preferably the former, but a tough pitch), a new international intelligence agency. Outside the U.N., outside NATO, plugged into as much U.S. satellite networks as the Pentagon can be forced to stomach, and dedicated to controlling nuclear weapons at all costs, as well as working on other big ticket items (biotech weapons, piracy on the high seas, the slave trade, multinational collusion, etc.) as time and resources allow.

I don't think many Americans have a lot of faith in the competence of the CIA, FBI, and "Homeland Security" (I will never refer to that dept. without scare quotes) to protect us. Democrats should get on this. There is only one solution to the problem of loose nukes: cooperation between the capitalist empires, to develop a network of information gathering, weapons tracking and hostile cell infiltration all across the world. I think we've learned what the U.N.'s weaknesses are, and any new international peacekeeping organization should follow the model of NATO to whatever extent it does not strike out entirely into uncharted bureaucratic and logistical territory. This is something the U.S. should be throwing a lot of money at, have long-term dedication to, and serve as an organizing principle in terms of our reaction to 21st century-style conflicts (the era of asymmetric aggression).

***

A second Grand New Vision for the party of the left would be the promotion of increasing state autonomy and experimentation. In contrast to republican top-down management, characteristic of their business background, democrats should make their basic message one of diversity via state and community innovation. Democrats should begin to emphasize strongly their support for conservative states' desires to curtail gay rights, for example; the rhetoric should be, "what may be right for Massachusetts may not be right for Kansas." On every social issue, from religion to self-reliance to patriotism, democrats should try to weasel around to the right of republicans, in order to demonstrate the absurdities of those positions, and expose the triviality. Agree with the wingnuts on the (relatively) unimportant stuff, and fight harder on things that matter like Kyoto and Iraq, campaign finance and education.

Democrats are the diversity people, and this should be a keystone of the message and the talking points. Innovate in every city; instead of No Child Left Behind, which tries to impose federal standards everywhere, democrats should push for greater innovation and difference in styles of schooling across the very different cultures of American cities. Perhaps high schools should be more like colleges, easier to transfer out of, with greater independance in course structure, and with more emphasis on independant thinking. Or perhaps they should be more like discipline-oriented military academies, or return to vocational training as was much more prevalent in the 1950s, or go completely high-tech, or use student tutoring for as much as 50% of classroom education, or who knows?

If the mantra of the party became, "let each community take control," or "state's rights", or something catchier but encapsulating either of those concepts, that would be a powerful and resonant message. Don't let congress try to fix welfare, or health care, or even taxation. Yeah, let the states work out a better way to tax people. That way, if I don't like how taxes are gathered in Texas, maybe I'll move to Louisiana. Income tax gathering could be devolved to the states entirely, with the proviso that the states must forward X percent of all government revenues (income, property, sales, fees, and so forth) to D.C. for such federal programs as federal courts, the military, and the other essential departments of the executive such as the state department.

***

I think it would be pretty interesting for the democratic party to tackle the modern problems of media bias, spin, smear politics and subtle lies by political entities head-on. So my third idea for a grand re-thinking of the party would be to take the high moral ground, and over a period of a few years remake the party into a so-called party of truth. The party would seek to strengthen its ties to the most prestigious scientists, legal analysts, professors and writers, and at the same time send the word out about zero tolerance in the party of any kind of smear tactics or less than upstanding rhetoric. The basic idea is to gain a bit more credibility with the public, and emphasize that "they are about supporting business and promoting growth, we are about the truth - and the truth is, when the support business it hurts the little guy."

I admit this last idea is a bit half-baked. But it's just always seemed so bizarre to me that the greatest heroes (perhaps) of America are politicians, and our political world necessitates dissembling, distortion, smearing the opponents, and hoodwinking the public. Would it be possible to base a party on the truth? To repeat that over and over, and try to live by it, and profit by it? To make it the motto and trademark, the bankable quality? It would be worth the initial ridicule, the initial losses to the sneakier party, and the initial self-doubt.
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