Friday, June 02, 2006

Politics vs. Policy

There's a fascinating conversation going on between Armando and Peter Beinart on the topic of the importance of developing a comprehensive Liberal Foreign Policy. Mr. Beinart argues that the failure to do so over the last 20 years is a primary cause of Democratic electoral misfortunes while Armando (and much of the dKos audience) argue that Mr. Beinart is ignoring the Politics of National Security at his own peril.

I'm with Armando on this.

I believe Beinart is following the same failed liberal pattern of believing that if you just come up with a really good policy, most people will recognize it as such and will dismiss the demagogary out of hand. Unfortunately, as many of us have become painfully aware, the world just doesn't work like that.

I feel safe in saying that, when it comes to nearly every issue of importance to the American people, the majority of those people think of it first in terms of politics before they begin to think of it in terms of policy. Until Democrats can develop a Politics of National Security that overcomes the multi-decade demonization of anything Democratic then no amount of reasoned debate on this will produce results.

Want an example? Let's look to Mr. Beinart himself. Just the other day I caught his appearance on the O'Reilly show. Beinart made a good faith effort to talk about policy and to explain how, in his mind, Democrats have failed to develop a comprehensive Democratic vision of foreign policy. He then tried to explain what his own vision was.

Did it make any impact on O'Reilly? Not really. O'Reilly just used Beinart's criticism of Democratic failures on policy to turn the segment into a political attack on Democrats.

Beinart could see what O'Reilly was doing and, again, he made a good faith effort to steer the conversation back to policy. But O'Reilly is the master when it comes to turning policy wonks into pathetic puddles (or poodles, as the case may be). Why? Because O'Reilly is a master of the political arena where emotion outweighs logic and received wisdom rules the day.

When it comes to policy, I find myself agreeing with almost everything Mr. Beinart is saying. But it is painfully obvious to me that he just doesn't comprehend how easily his "policy first" stance is being used as a tool to hurt Democrats, Liberals and Progressives.


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