Wednesday, August 02, 2006


With apologies to Joe Hill, the Moose dreamed he saw George Meany last night.

Well, not really - but the Moose misses the old American labor movement. When the Moose was young, he was fond of George Meany's AFL-CIO (along with Brother Al Shanker). It was where the Moose was and is at.

What the Moose means by this Meany reference was that there once was a time when there was a major institution in America and in the Democratic Party that was progressive on economic issues and was tough on national security. George Meany stood up to the corporate tycoons, communist tyrants and quasi-pacifist liberals.

George Meany represented the sensibility of socially conservative, hawkish, blue collar working men and women. Over the last thirty years, many of those working folks left the Democratic Party as it moved to the left on social and foreign policy issues. They became Reagan Democrats.

With the decline of the labor movement, the Democratic Party is left without a major institution that provides a ballast keeping it in the vital center of American politics. Instead, the McGovernites with modems, left wing donors and the Moveon type activists are filling the void. In his day, Meany feared that the party would be dominated by those with social and foreign policy agendas that were anathema to his blue collar members.

No doubt, if George Meany was around today, he would be fighting both for an increase in the minimum wage and supporting the war against Jihadist totalitarianism. Alas, Brother Meany is not coming back.

Brother Meany would also recognize the Lamont candidacy for what it is - the heirs to the McGovernites who drove the party to the left on national security issues. Just as he fought the destructive McGovernites years ago, he would no doubt be fighting for Lieberman today. Meany would recognize the nutroots as an insurgency propelled by ultra-liberal, highly educated, secular doves who will drive away more traditionalist voters who used to be attracted to the Democrats' economic agenda.

So, what are the grass roots institutions that will provide the counter-balance against the nutroots and the left in the Democratic Party? On the ideas front, the DLC and the Third Way play a critical role in generating innovative centrist proposals. Because of the collapse of the GOP, the short term prospects of the Democrats are promising. However, without a counter-balance to the left activists and the nutroots, the outlook for '08 is far more ambiguous.

Democrats have replaced special interest domination with single issue dominance. And that issue is national security. While the Iraq war is unpopular, so was the Vietnam conflict and the Democrat's opposition to that war fed the perception for decades that the party was weak on national security.

In the forties, the great challenge to liberalism was Henry Wallace. In the seventies, progressivism was weakened by the McGovernites. And in this decade, the nutroots, MoveOn and the rest of the activist left threaten to undermine progressivism for the long haul. The great conceit of the nutroots and the activists is that they represent something new - rather, for the last half century, the Democratic Party has been engaged in an internal debate between the left and the vital center.

Those who forget history...
-- Posted at 6:30 AM | Link to this post | Email this post