Can Democrats Find a New Form of Liberalism?
Changing economic conditions could open a door for a Democratic resurgence, says E. J. Dionne Jr. in his column today:
Eric Wanner, president of the Russell Sage Foundation, suggests that if the U.S. economy remains broadly open and trade broadly free, the result will be "more inequality because there are more winners and more losers."
The challenge, he argues, is to indemnify those who may find themselves on the losing end of the transaction. This points to a number of big policy ideas: wage insurance, to ease the transition from one job to another; broader earned-income tax credits, to push up the wages of the lower paid; pension portability and incentives to help lower- and middle-income Americans put away money. Above all, it means guaranteed health insurance in some form, an idea increasingly appealing to companies in a competitive world market that want to take health care costs out of the prices of their goods.
And in this climate, higher minimum wages and broader unionization are looking more attractive than ever.
This is similar to an idea we here at TYL have been advocating for awhile—call it The Opportunity Society. But right now, Democrats seem trapped in a contrarian mindset. No longer able to sell Great Society liberalism and deeply opposed to Big Government conservatism, the Democrats are left playing the role of speed bump, slowing down but not stopping the majority party’s policies. This is the exact situation 1960s Republicans found themselves in and, as they learned, its not a strategy that will win you a majority in Congress.
Americans like their politics transformational. We like to believe we’re moving forward, changing the nation and the world. Right now, for better or worse, the Republicans are the party of transformation. But that doesn’t mean the Democrats must sit back and be the loyal (or disloyal) opposition. Instead, the Democrats could shed their old attachments to Great Society liberalism and embrace a new liberalism focused on ensuring all Americans continue to have opportunities as we move toward the global economy.
In 1994, Republicans offered up The Contract With America. In 2006 Democrats might want to prepare their own transformative plan.