Tuesday, December 16, 2003

The Vision Thing

We got 'im. Bummer. Now Democrats' ace in the hole has been trumped.

Maybe it's time for liberals to start being honest instead of cranking the Peace message for political ends. Brooks commented last night on the news hour that Dean came off badly vis-a-vis Bush because while Bush had a "moral vision" he only had niggling pragmatic recommendations. The irony is that liberals have a moral vision, articulated in the theoretical literature but are afraid to lay it out for the groundlings whom they wheedle with the tried and true issues they assume will get the troops out: peace, environmentalism and pro-choice.

Maybe Democrats should trust ho demos, a little more because the message isn't that hard to understand: it's just the old time religion of a really, and not merely nominally level playing field. Rig things in such a way that the effects of dumb luck are minimized, so that everyone has the basic resources to survive guaranteed, opportunities to better themselves, and safety nets so that they can afford to assume risk. It isn't hard, it isn't expensive, it isn't socially disruptive and it isn't particularly high tech.

Rhetoric about "working families" doesn't fool anyone--it's an updated attempt to invoke unions' appeal to working men with promises of a family wage. Everyone wants peace and environmentalism--the question is where and how much. Pro-choice is a fait accompli and no matter how much feminists attempt to work up fears that it's being eroded, no one is getting excited.

It's incredible that conservatives have succeeded in exploiting the rhetoric of freedom and level playing fields because that is precisely what they do not offer. Constraints imposed by the state in the US are negligible compared to the constraints imposed by the economic system and by social custom. Freedom insofar as it's valuable isn't the entitlement to hold and express dissident political views or religious heresies. Few people care about ideas or ideologies--freedom of speech, of religion, of the press and the like are luxuries for the elite. The freedom that counts is the freedom to do what you want, be where you want, not be physically constrained. If you are trapped behind the checkout counter in Walmart 8 hours a day because the only other option is living on the street you are not free.