Thursday, June 22, 2006

Ideas and Attitudes

The Moose states that ideas have consequences, but attitudes matter most.

The Moose welcomes the arrival of the two new journals - Democracy: A Journal of Ideas that is edited by Andrei Cherny and Ken Baer and the Democratic Strategist that is edited by Bill Galston, Ruy Teixeira and Stan Greenberg. They will soon become must reads for all those who are serious about politics.

These publications may also give birth to ideas that help the donkey assume power. Certainly, journals such as the Public Interest and Commentary made a difference for the right. Neoconservatives modernized a movement that was previously characterized by non-starter ideas such as veneration of the agrarian life and total opposition to the welfare state.

The big challenge for the left is that this remains a rather conservative country - conservatives outnumber liberals by at least 3-2. There hasn't been a truly liberal President since Lyndon Johnson (well, maybe Richard Nixon). And there is no evidence for a revival of old time redistribution, secularism and a dovish foreign policy.

The most successful Democratic President since FDR has been Bill Clinton. Yes, he was a man of ideas - welfare reform and national service were two notable ones that became law. But, perhaps most importantly, Bill Clinton had the right attitudes.

Clinton understood that for a progressive to be successful in a conservative country he had to convey the attitude that he respected the deeply held values of voters. He supported the death penalty, welfare reform and took a tough national security stance. He could discern the difference between a Pentecostal and a pretzel. Clinton realized that conservative success was dependent on the excesses of liberalism. Attitudinally, he trumped the right. And when he deviated from those attitudes, his Presidency suffered.

Don't get the Moose wrong - he is not denigrating ideas. But, ideas must reflect attitudes that connect with the American people.
-- Posted at 6:33 AM | Link to this post | Email this post