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Hullabaloo


Tuesday, June 28, 2005

 
Principle Failure

Josh Marshall writes that Democrats may be folding up their tent on Social Security in the false belief that it is won. Dear Gawd, I cannot believe that my party could actually be this dumb. Protecting social security is going to be a full time seige for as long as the Republicans are in power. In one way or another they are going to try to dismantle it. Unlike us, the Republicans commit for the long haul on these big ticket items. Even if Bush is seen as a big loser, they won't give up.

Which leads me to Josh's second point:

According to CNN, President Bush's worst numbers came on the issue of Social Security. He clocked in at 31% approval and 64% disapproval.

(I'd actually be curious to hear from pollsters out there what the lowest ratings for a president has ever been on any significant issue. I mean, how much lower than thirty percent does it go? With the possible exception of Nixon at the very end of Watergate, how often has a president been under, say, 25% on any issue of significance?)

With numbers like that, is there really any reason imaginable why any Democrat should feel even the slightest need to move even an inch toward accomodation with President Bush's agenda of phasing out Social Security? How unpopular would a president need to be before his unpopularity made it safe to follow the dictates of your own principles?


Do we know that the Democrats as a whole actually are operating out of principle on social security? After the debacle of the bankruptcy legislation, in which many Democrats truly seemed to think that Americans in financial crisis due to divorce, unemployement and health catastrophe needed to be taught a lesson in responsibility, I don't think we should take anything for granted. The Joe Klein wing of the party may very well believe that social security as we know it is obsolete and that we have to introduce "market forces" and "competition" into it or some such nonsense. And there may be more than a few who really believe that benefits have to be cut and that now is the time to do it.

In other words, I don't actually think that holding the line against social security privatization was a matter of principle for all the Democrats. I don't doubt that it was for most. But, I suspect that there are a few of the MNBA-Big Pharma Dems who really do think that social security should be "reformed" and that Bush has the best chance to do it. And there are more than a few who would like to be accepted as one of the boys on a really big ticket item like social security.

That's why we should stay engaged with everything we've got. There is every chance that a "gang of 14" will develop at some point to begin the dismantling. After all, you have CW experts like Joe Klein, who is perceived (and perceives himself) as a New Democrat, saying things like "in the Information Age, you don't deliver public services the same way you did in the Industrial Age. You don't rule out huge bureaucracies, what you do is give targeted cash payments," which makes no sense, of course, but distances you so nicely from all those icky liberals.

This is one of the ways in which GOP liberal baiting affects the discourse. It's aimed at "moderates" of both parties as a way of making them move away from liberal policies. We now have a large number of Democrats in the caucus who have spent their entire careers denying they are liberals and working feverishly to show that they are "different" than the rabble that forms the base of the Democratic party ---- unions, feminazis, uppity African Americans. Like their timorous forbears who capitulated to Joe Mccarthy, these Dems are the ones who cringe when Karl makes sweeping denunciations of "liberals" and who will sub-consciously try to find ways of re-establishing their "reasonable" bona fides.

We unreasonable liberals need to make sure that we push back just as hard. No compromises on social security. Not even one. If we don't I'll bet you money that there will be a rose garden ceremony with Bush smirking and Dems beaming and we will have been screwed one more time.



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