Friday, March 03, 2006

dubya as LBJ

historical analogies are never perfect, but i continue to feel that we are at a turning point in american politics similar to the one we experienced in 1968. old leftist michael harrington published a book that year called toward a democratic left, essentially arguing that what was needed to address the failures of LBJ's great society was a leftward shift in politics and public policy. whatever the merits of his argument, harrington couldn't have gotten things more wrong: nixon won in 1968 and ushered in the general right-ward realignment of our nation's politics from which we continue to suffer forty years later.

like his democrat fellow texan, dubya is facing the music of an increasingly unpopular war (tho like money see monkey do, he has his fingers in his ears and hands over his eyes -- too bad he won't cover his mouth too). LBJ of course was facing real civil unrest at home, which nixon exploited with his appeals to law and order; dubya by contrast flouts the law at every turn.

question: are americans as fed up of the sewer conservatives have us swimming in now as they were of the civil unrest of 1968?

bigger question: who will stand up from the left with real answers?

i'm not alone in predicting (wishful thinking!) this leftward swing, but i don't entirely buy the arguments being made along these lines by, say, teixeira and judis, or shellenberger and nordhaus. the former relies too much on conventional red-state/blue-state demographics, while the latter's focus on values seems to me nothing more than a shallow bid for votes. michael lerner's approach seems much more genuine on this front. (and you can watch teixeira quibble with shellenberger and nordhaus over essentially the same turf.)

moreover, i don't see the ingredients necessary for such a swing: the discontent (or at the very least the grounds for discontent) are certainly there, but what's lacking from the left are people and ideas. what the right achieved between goldwater's slaughter in 1964 and nixon's victory in 1968 (with the crucial mid-term election being the one that put reagan in the california governor's office) was -- though in terms of ideas it have been in preparation for almost two decades -- impressive to say the least. the left has nothing comparable to show it seems. who is our goldwater: dean? nader? who is our reagan: obama?

more importantly, where are the ideas?

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