Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Who are Democrats?

I added MT Pundit on the right, and there is an interesting post with the comments that got me to thinking about something that I have been pondering for quite awhile. Who are the Democrats?
If you go back about 150 years, they were the heart and soul of the soon to be Confederacy. They were primarily interested in state's rights especially when it came to owning property (read slaves). After Secession, there were a few Democrats in the North, although they seemed to be concentrated in the slave states that stayed in the union (Maryland, Kentucky e.g.) After the Civil War, they were pretty well kept out of power by the victorious North, but remained a great part of the soul of the South, even if they were only demonstrating their solidarity in activities that were related to the Ku Klux Klan. (Please don't start beating me for saying that Democrats are for the KKK or lynching today, okay, except for Robert Byrd, this is just an historical review in gross generalities, but I'm not writing a book, just a post).
From the end of the Civil War until the rise in Irish and German immigration, Democrats were almost a purely regional party. With the increase of immigrants, especially those living in tenements, who were useful for the political bosses of New York, Boston and Chicago, the Democratic party expanded from being a purely regional party. From that time until the Great Depression, there was a certain social stratification that dictated if you were rich enough, you were supposed to be a Republican, and otherwise if you were a working man, especially one who was lucky enough to belong to a union, you were probably a Democrat.
The fiasco of the Great Depression, and especially the ineffective methods of Hoover dealing with the world wide economic collapse opened the door for FDR, and started a legacy that would last for more than 35 years.
These were the leaders who could inspire us with the words "This generation, has a rendezvous with destiny." This was when my father was born. He grew up in poverty in Malta, with an outhouse and no inside plumbing. This was a man who as a grown adult, had size 8 feet, because his parents bought him some really good shoes when he was in third grade, and they were the only shoes he had until high school. But my father, like his truck driving father before him, idolized FDR.
I had pointed out to him that none of FDR's economic programs ended the Depression, but it was WWII and the aftermath (none of our infrastructure was seriously damaged, but that of all of our competitors had been pretty well destroyed. He didn't care about facts, he just knew that FDR had ended the Depression, and that was all that he needed to know.
After FDR, Truman came along, and was the definition of having "greatness thrust upon him." But Harry saw to the end of the Second World War, and the aftermath which included the demobilization of 18 million men. He also saw that the Soviets did not demobilize, and instead cut off access to Berlin, which could easily have been considered an act of war. Instead HST ordered the Berlin Airlift, which succeeded more from the Russians getting bored than anything else. Harry also had to confront the problems of the Korean peninsula. Luckily for him, the senior political leadership at the time recognized that there was a threat to our interests, and both sides supported him, even though the end result was a stalemate.
After Truman, there came what I consider to have been the best Democratic president of this century, John F. Kennedy. Now when I say that he was the best, it doesn't mean that he was perfect. He ran on the "missile gap" issue, even though he knew that was a false issue. But his inaugural speech had a line that we seem to have totally lost: Bear any burden, pay any price in the defense of liberty. Today we seem to be saying that everything is too hard and costs too much.
I am not sure how we came from JFK to Harry Ried insisting that "The war is lost." Except, (and now I finally get around to the point I started) I think that the Democrats are in the midst of a titanic struggle for the soul of the party. During the Clinton years, the Democratic Leadership Council was in its ascendancy. They favored a business friendly environment, and compromised with the Republicans. Apparently, they were also sowing the seeds of their own destruction. Because now, we have the Daily Kos crowd, who in concert with MoveOn directs the Netroots in a slash and burn strategy.
The fact that all of the Democratic presidential candidates appeared at YearlyKos, and maybe one showed at the DLC convention shows who has the power in the Democratic Party at the moment. And Kos and Co. are not above flexing their muscles. They took on Joe Lieberman, who was as good a Democrat as any, except for one thing: Iraq. The fact that Kos failed doesn't seem to matter to today's Democrats, who are looking over their shoulder to see if the Kossacks are after them next. Doestn't seem to be a good time to be a Trotskyite Democrat at the moment.
But this is really the point of the post (I know finally). Who are the Democrats of today? They don't seem to be the FDRs or the Harry Trumans. JFK would have been run out of the party as a neo-con. There are no Scoop Jacksons, Sam Nunns, or my personal favorite Patrick Moynihan.
I sense that the Kossacks are riding a tiger, and either they are going to conquer the party, or they will destroy it. I also see the moderate Democrats cowering, as in their failure to address the MoveOn ad about Gen. "Betray Us."

It's possible we are watching the beginning of the end for a major political party, or the radicalization of whatever remains. I will be interested to see how it all comes out.

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