Friday, May 06, 2005

Democrats Should Embrace the Opportunity Society

The Democrats probably don’t want to be taking advice from a writer at National Review, but there is some truth in what Victor Davis Hanson writes today.

In a long analysis of what’s wrong with Democrats, the most interesting series of comments is:
[T]here is the widening gulf between word and deed — and Americans hate hypocrites most of all…if you listen to Dr. Dean and his class venom, it hardly seems comparable with how he lives or how he was brought up. John Kerry's super power boat, Teresa Kerry's numerous mansions, Arianna Huffington's gated estate, George Soros's jet, Ted Turner's ranches, Sean Penn's digs — all this and more, whether fairly or unfairly, suggest hypocrisy and insincerity…

When we see Democrats speaking and living like normal folks — expressing worry that the United States must return to basic education and values to ensure its shaky preeminence in a cutthroat world, talking of one multiracial society united by a rare exceptional culture of the West rather than a salad bowl of competing races and tribes, and apprising the world that we are principled abroad in our support of democratic nations and quite dangerous when attacked — they will be competitive again.

Basically, Hanson is saying that Democrats need to learn how to represent the common man in modern times. But is the Democratic party even the party of the common man anymore?

Franklin Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy were filthy rich politicians who still managed to connect with the working class. Why? Because the grassroots of the party were labor unions, farmers and urban poor. But more and more the Democrats grassroots are built on groups like, NARAL, the ACLU and similar organizations whose member bases are solidly middle and upper-middle class.

In some ways, the Democrats have become a party of the worried well-off—educated citizens who are deeply concerned with the plight of the so-called oppressed but who are, themselves, quite secure in their jobs, lives and finances. So their solutions are based more on conjecture and ideology rather than experience and need.

This is not to say the Republican Party has well represented the needs of the common man—only that they’ve connected better. What we need is a third way—a way that both connects with and helps out the average American.

The Democrats still talk, in the 60s lingo, about a society of equality and justice as achieved through government power and social engineering. President Bush talks about the Ownership Society, as achieved through the transfer of responsibility from our government to the people.

But what we need is the Opportunity Society, plans and policies based on the conviction that every American deserves a real chance to lift him or herself up. There will always be rich and poor and that’s acceptable in a free society. But right now, too much poverty is systematic, a condition that, once you’re born into, is far too difficult to escape. We simply cannot have a successful ownership society until we have a true opportunity society. And there can be no equality and justice unless it’s created through the action and responsibility of the people and not through the heavy hand of government and the courts.

If the Democrats can evolve, they can be the party that finds this new way, this new centrist conviction. The opportunity is there. And someone will seize it.


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