August 15, 2006

"Democrats claim to be more community-minded but act like radical individualists..."

E.J. Dionne diagnoses Democrats. They can't get organized, unlike "Republicans, who defend individualism in theory, [but] act like communitarians where their party is concerned." He calls this "odd" but does he even attempt to explain why this should be? He calls it a "self-image problem," without saying what the wrong image is, and he blames them for only caring about isolated issues and not the party itself, which to me just suggests that people who vote Democratic aren't really Democrats at all but just people who get the feeling they're voting in a referendum on some highlighted issue. He cites the Democrats' dependence on "a handful of wealthy donors," which keeps them from needing to develop the support of a broad group of party loyalists. Really, talk about organization! Is this column organized at all? He even drags in Karl Rove and says he's "spooked Democrats about themselves."

And let me just mock the title of the column: "A Gap In Their Armor." First, if an old cliché contains a word that you think you can't use anymore, why not just retire the cliché? It is a cliché anyway! Why are you bending over backwards to preserve a cliché? And why wave it in our faces that you think we're too dumb to understand language? Second, the Democrats have armor?

One more thing, do Democrats really want to disown individualism? Openly?

47 comments:

Noumenon said...

I bet someone checks the comments trying to figure out what paragraph three is about. The cliché is "a chink in their armor," "Chink" originally meaning a crack and later becoming slang for a Chinese person. Took me a while to figure that out, because people probably started saying "gap in their armor" years ago and so "chink" isn't a cliche to me any more.

altoids1306 said...

It's easier to organize into a comprehensive and permanent movement if you have a self-consistent, intellectually-rigorous ideology.

El Presidente said...

Putting chinks in democratic armour is just another sign of how uncaring the Norte Americanos are.

Is there nothing they won't outsource?

Bruce Hayden said...

Another big difference is that the Democrats tend to rely more on big donors - which now have to go through 527s, and thus are out of their control (by law). The Democrats tended to make up for this through unions, but except for government employees, unions have been in marked decline for the last couple of decades, plus many of the union members in the private sector are now either Republican, or at least sympathetic to that party, and are thus not very sympathetic with spending their leisure time organizing for the Democrats.

PatCA said...

There's no mystery about the Democrats and their perennial lack of organization. Dione doesn't mention the interesting fact that the Reps took in more from small donors than the Dems--so much for being a populist party. They don't need to win to secure their big donors, their safe seats, their earmarks--a good life, without the burden of actual governance.

Every once in a while, an individual comes along, like Bill Clinton, who does need to win. He ignited the DLC, far from the loony left of the party, and rode it to victory. As a whole, though, there is no 'there' there, leaving the Dems more like a collection of clubs than a party.

Bruce Hayden said...

I don't know though how important this will be in the upcoming election. The Democrats have pretty much caught up with the Republicans as to direct mail and automated phone banks. And I do expect some of their big donors to come out of the woodwork as the election gets closer, and they may make an impact through 527 funded advertising.

Steve Donohue said...

Changing idioms to reflect political correctness is heading down a dangerous slope...

Oops.

RogerA said...

Bad Steve Donohue--as I wipe off the coffee spatters from the monitor screen.

jult52 said...

Ethnic composition of the two party's supporters, anyone?

Bruce Hayden said...

I think that part of this difference is party funding is that traditionally, Republicans have represented the upper middle class, where the Democrats represented blue collar workers. The result of this is that the average Republican party member had more disposible income than his Democratic counterpart. This was traditionally offset by the Democrats through very large donors.

Thus, what you had was a two tiered Democratic party, the masses who provided the votes, and at one time, the foot troops, and the elite who provided the money, and, in turn, got most of the access to politicians.

From our discussions yesterday, this all may be changing. It appears (at least to me) that a portion of the upper middle class, who traditionally provided the Republican funding, are moving towards the Democratic party, and a lot of blue collar workers are moving towards the Republican party. We shall see.

Bruce Hayden said...

Here is my take on ethnic composition of the two parties:

Traditionally, the Democratic party was strongest among Blacks, Catholics, and Jews, and was fairly strong among Hispanics. The Republican party was strongest among Protestants, in particular, the more traditional Protestant denominations (Episcopal, Presbyterian, etc.)

Non-Hispanic Catholics have moved significantly towards the Republican Party, while I suspect there is a pretty significant movement by traditional Protestants in the other direction. Blacks and Jews seem to be standing pat, and the Hispanics are in flux - seeming to lean one way in one election, and the other in the next, but still seeming to lean more towards the Democrats.

RogerA said...

I do think Dionne identifies a Democratic Party malady via his characterization of the party as a collection of causes; they appear to me to operate rather like the anarchists in John Sayle's wonderful short story, The Anarchist's Convention.

Bruce Haydon's two posts make sense to me: the loss of trade unions have meant the Democrats have lost their grass roots organizing capacity as well as a donor base; and second, the issues that motivated the Democratic Party for years seem to be declining--not necessarily in importance, eg; health care, but in the public's perceptions of these issues as neatly solvable.

A related malady of the Democratic Party, IMHO, is the constant demonization of Karl Rove and George Bush--its OK to be against something but far less OK to be against someone without a simple coherent message that resonates.

jult52 said...

Bruce: Let me be more specific. The Republicans are ethnically quite unified; the Democrats are not. (This is a comparison of relative levels of homogeneity, not of absolute levels.) Ergo, the Republicans find it easy to be unified; the Democrats have more difficulties.

Doug said...

I do agree with Dionne when he talks about the motivations of a lot of democrats as supporting a few causes or their favorite candidate. The whole Cult of Howard Dean pretty much refutes a lot of what John Dean wrote about in his recent book that slammed a segment of Republicans as mindless followers.
I remember being on a Howard Dean forum and asked them about Dean's support of the first gulf war. It was incredible hearing a bunch of lefties defending what was previously know as the war of blood for oil in hippie circles.

Palladian said...

"I am not a member of any organized party — I am a Democrat."

AJ Lynch said...

Dionne is proof positive that Nicholas Lehmann was correct when he opined that many, many ordinary people can "pundit" as well as the paid punditocracy.

Tibore said...

"The Republicans are ethnically quite unified; the Democrats are not. (This is a comparison of relative levels of homogeneity, not of absolute levels.) Ergo, the Republicans find it easy to be unified; the Democrats have more difficulties."

Say what?? Ethnic homogeneity translates into unity of thought?

37383938393839383938383 said...

Hey, look at that. E.J. Dionne and I finally agree. ;)

AJ Lynch said...

Tibore asked increduously...."Say what?? Ethnic homogeneity translates into unity of thought?"

I answer- you could not prove it by my family.

George said...

How ironic it is that the Democratic Party which fought for civil rights for people of color (and women) in America in the 1960s now opposes the expansion of such rights to people of color (and women) in the Middle East.

(I use the verb 'opposes' because I sure don't hear any Democrats demanding we fight harder to save Iraq, much less be more confrontational with the fascists in Iran and Syria.)

And Manifest Destiny? An ideal of the Democratic Party? Fuggedaboudit!

In April 1917 Woodrow Wilson, a Democrat, said, "America was born to exemplify that devotion to the elements of righteousness which are derived from the revelations of Holy Scripture." (Quoted in 'The Great Influenza,' p. 121.)

What Democrat would say such a thing today?

And wouldn't it be wild if Bush said that!

jult52 said...

Tibore asks: "Ethnic homogeneity translates into unity of thought?"

As a matter of fact, yes, it does. Does that surprise you in the least?

Palladian said...

" Tibore asks: "Ethnic homogeneity translates into unity of thought?"

As a matter of fact, yes, it does. Does that surprise you in the least?"

So why are white people the majority of two opposition parties? Shouldn't they all be one or the other?

JorgXMcKie said...

tibore and ajlynch: Ethnicity is destiny. Didn't you know that? Democrats do.

(Although why, under this rubric, Howard Dean isn't doing his raving as a Republican totally baffles me. I'm sure jult52 can explain that one to me. As Well as Jon Corzine and Terry McAuliffe, et al.)

Fritz said...

Democrats are an insurgency against a democracy that they think they should run by default.

jult52 said...

Let me put it differently:

You have two sets of people. One is more ethnically homogenous than the other. Would it be at all surprising if, in most cases, the more ethnically homogenous set of people was more unified than the heterogenuous set?

Balfegor said...

You have two sets of people. One is more ethnically homogenous than the other. Would it be at all surprising if, in most cases, the more ethnically homogenous set of people was more unified than the heterogenuous set?

This is a better way of putting it, highlighting that it's just a relative matter, not a matter of actual unity. Because saying:

Tibore asks: "Ethnic homogeneity translates into unity of thought?"

As a matter of fact, yes, it does. Does that surprise you in the least?

makes you sound ignorant or delusional. Those weasel words there are key.

The Drill SGT said...

The Dems have too much of two things, Hate and Ego, as well as too few ideas

1. Hate: George Bush, Dick Cheney and Karl Rove aren't ever going to run again. Focusing on personal attacks on non-candidates is a waste of resources

2. Ego: What the Dems need are a Mehlman and a Rove. An inclusive organizer and an idea guy, neither of whom has a huge public ego that needs to be stroked or insists on being in the photo.

3. Ideas: You can't win long term by being against the other guys ideas. Voters aren't brilliant, but they can sense that shortcoming

jult52 said...

Balfegor: Good for you for being insulting without adding anything to the discussion.

sparky said...

i pretty much agree with the drill sgt (shocking!).

my belief is that we are seeing the "birth pangs" of a new D party. but it will take some time. and for those of you inclined to mock, remember how the conservatives were initially thought of....

Troy said...

Dionne needs to call a shovel a shovel and quit beating around the short hedgelike plant.

Aspasia M. said...

I agree with Dionne -- Dems need to build the party. This is what the net roots are about. Strengthening the party.

(And, actually, that's why many people support Lamaont -- because they're frustrated with the Dems not promoting the "name brand" of the party. While the Republicans are much better at promoting their party and enforcing party discipline, Lieberman chronically denigrated his own party. Deans and the net roots want to strengthen the party in all of the states, not just the blue states.)

Simon said...

jult52 said...
"Ethnic composition of the two party's supporters, anyone?

That's a hard question to answer, but the best measure is perhaps who shows up to vote for whom. According to the exit poll data from 2004, the split in the Presidential race was as follows:

Blacks:
Bush 10.99%
Kerry 86.86%

Whites
Bush 54.37
Kerry 42.42%

Hispanic/Latino
Bush 36.79%
Kerry 60.37%

Asian
Bush 37.17%
Kerry 61.08%

This data has its own problems, as I'm sure we all remember, but for our purposes, it should suffice.

Simon said...

jult52 said...
"You have two sets of people. One is more ethnically homogenous than the other. Would it be at all surprising if, in most cases, the more ethnically homogenous set of people was more unified than the heterogenuous set?"

All else being equal, I would not say that was sufficient information to make a judgement one way or another. Ethnicity does not define those things which make for achieving unity of purpose and action: people's views or personalities (although the culture entailed by being born into a certain community might).

The closest Justice to my ethnotype is Justice Souter, with whom I have very little in common in terms of legal or political philosophy; the two Justices to whom I am closest in terms of legal and political philosophy - and would expect to get along with better if stranded on a desert island are the furthest from my ethnotype: an African-American and an Italian-American. Race don't mean squat. Culture is what counts.

Bissage said...

Jult52: I ought not speak for Balfegor, who's three times as smart and informed as me. (Better looking, too, judging from his little picture thing.) But I'll do it anyway.

He may or may not have intended to insult you. Personally, I don't think he did. I think he was being precise and factual. He said your comment makes you sound ignorant or delusional. He didn't say you are ignorant or delusional.

But one thing for sure, he was holding out hope and teaching you a valuable lesson. (There's a lot to learn here at Ann's.)

The lesson is to master the dark ways of the weasel. And to use them wisely.

Or, he may simply have been busting your balls.

Anyway, here's what I was trying to build up to, the wisdom of the esteemed Homer Simpson: "Now, Marge, don't discourage the boy. Weaseling out of things is what separates us from the animals. Except the weasel."

The Drill SGT said...

sparky said...
i pretty much agree with the drill sgt (shocking!).

my belief is that we are seeing the "birth pangs" of a new D party. but it will take some time.


Only if you think the Party is a Phoenix. You know, dies in a blaze of fire and is reborn from the ashes.

Anthony said...

I actually thought the DLC was going to be the New Democratic Party. They seemed to kind of get in line behind it during the Clinton years, but I think that was largely because Clinton was hated so much by conservatives. Once he was gone they reverted back to their stuck-in-1973 mentality.

Come to think of it, it's Rove again! He brilliantly maneuvered us into Iraq with the clear intent of creating a New Vietnam which just brought all the old anti-war horses out of hiding. Wow.

Bissage said...

Anthony: The little black duck that is Bissage is prone to some fairly offbeat thoughts every now and then. He has not yet been institutionalized because he usually recognizes these offbeat thoughts as same and keeps his mouth shut.

Every once and a while, however, he slips up and says something out loud, for example, that it will be McCain/Lieberman in 2008.

Well, here's another slip up. Perhaps a smidgin of the "real" reason why the coalition forces invaded Iraq (conspiracy theorists take note) was to create another Israel.

How did I come to think such a crazy thing? On 9/12/01 a Jewish colleague became sullen and said to me, "Now we know what it feels like." I think he was feeling guilty that he had previously thought of terrorism as somebody else’s problem.

Anyway, maybe our government’s long-range global planners (read: dreaded neocons) thought that terrorist sympathizers (read: Arab moderates) might benefit from knowing what it feels like. And agree with us that this shit has got to stop.

Kooky?

We report. You decide.

JorgXMcKie said...

Well, this business of ethnic cohesiveness is a demonstration of the fact that the Ds have evidently discarded the idea of the individual. Only collective identity allowed, I guess.

This is just one more example of the social construction of reality. Except that it's just as wrong.

This is why, I guess, that they get so angry at black Republicans and maybe even Joe Lieberman. They aren't accepting their genetic, ethnic identity.

I can hardly wait until they're in power and we all have to wear our ethnic identifying labels and act in the proper manner for our ethnicity. Wonder what they'll use in addition to the six-pointed yellow star.

The Drill SGT said...

Jorge,

I think the Nazi's already built the code book. as I recall

Gay = pink triangle
Catholic priests =
Gypsy's =
Trade Unionists
Socialists =

I imagine the Holocaust Museum has the list.

The Drill SGT said...

I came across tis in a Lieberman story.

Howard Dean, the chairman of the Democratic National Committee, has called on Mr. Lieberman to drop out, but other Democratic leaders have questioned whether it makes sense to take on the senator — and perhaps anger him — when he appears determined to run and relatively formidable right now.

“No one is going to say anything that is directly related to trying to hurt Joe Lieberman,” Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the Democratic leader, said to reporters on Friday. “However, I just have to say that Joe has to play on the field of Connecticut.”



Don't piss Joe off says Harry, he might caucus with Satan if he wins.

Elizabeth said...

How ironic it is that the Democratic Party which fought for civil rights for people of color (and women) in America in the 1960s now opposes the expansion of such rights to people of color (and women) in the Middle East.

How absurd a statement that is. Were the people of Iran denying African-Americans their rights by not invading the U.S. and overthrowing Jim Crow? We're not denying the rights of people of color (that includes women, so "and" is superfluous) in the Middle East; their governments are.

How ironic that Republicans now make this specious argument after supporting Bush in 2000. You've conveniently forgotten--as as he--his stance then on "nation building."

Elizabeth said...

Jorge and Drill Sgt: am I hallucinating, or are you two speculating on Democrats as Fascists, complete with yellow stars and pink triangles?

jult52 said...

Simon: "All else being equal, I would not say that was sufficient information to make a judgement one way or another."

I agree with you there. In-depth study would be needed to verify or disprove the assertion. But my suggestion was much more plausible than the "Democrats don't have an ideology," (stated many times here in different forms -- first by altoids1306) which I think is blatantly inadequate, since the Dems do have an ideology.

Bissage: I wasn't weaseling out of anything. Take your condescension and walk off a pier.

Tibore said...

jult52,

My "surprise" stems from your implication that race is a causal factor in values, ideologies, and other mindsets. The force of culture and society has a far bigger input on shaping a person's political outlook than anything inherited by race. In my extended family - I'm Filipino - there are big differences between members who were raised in the Philippines vs. here in the States or elsewhere (China, Australia, etc.), between the ones who've lived/are living in big cities vs. small villages, between the older folks than the newer ones. There's someone of any political stripe, including some not found here in the States (very, very left leaning socialist, for example). And we're all the same race.

Look, no offense, but you were using too broad a brush in those earlier statements. That's why I was incredulous. An assertation of racial factors playing into ideology, political bent, or simply social philosophy is suspect if it doesn't take societal and cultural factors into account. I bet in Simon's figures for ethnic breakdown for the last election that you'd find equally or even stronger voting correlations to big cities vs. rural voters, and location as opposed to race. I just don't see race as being the "causal" factor in that breakdown. And because they're just numbers, and there's no attempt to normalize for any other factors, it's a mistake to think that. There's a link, sure, but a causal one?

Bissage said...

Jult52:

Well, my goodness.

You talk like that to everyone offering a helping hand?

Please accept my apology for making light of so grave a situation.

Revenant said...

So why are white people the majority of two opposition parties? Shouldn't they all be one or the other

"White" is not an ethnicity. It is a race.

jult52 said...

Tibore: At no point did I use the word "race" in my comments. I used the word "ethnic" (or variants of it) which includes cultural and geographical components, just as you said. And I didn't say that a person's ethnicity determined their political ideology either (that's obviously false). What I said was that it seemed plausible that more ethnically homogenous groups tended to be more unified than ethnically hetergenous groups and, because the GOP was more ethnically homogenuous than the Democrats it would be tend to be more unified and, usually, more organized. I think your misreading what I wrote.

Bissage: gain some self-awareness.