Weak Analysis by Kristof

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Weak Analysis by Kristof

Soon after the November election, Melville Publishing produced a book entitled “What We Do Now” — a collection of essays by various progressive writers and columnists. I finally managed to get through it a week or so ago.

I don’t know whether the book was widely read, but I can’t say I was overwhelmed with the advice therein.

New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof was among the essayists, and he tried to make the case that Dems need a "centrist" makeover. (It's an argument he repeated a few weeks ago.) Here are excerpts of the essay Kristof wrote:
If Democrats want to know how to win again, they have a model. It’s the British Labor Party.

… Labor was caught in its own echo chamber of militant unions and anti-American activists, and it so repulsed voters that it seemed it might wither away entirely. Then Tony Blair and another M.P., Gordon Brown, dragged the party away from socialism, unions, nuclear disarmament and anti-Americanism.

… The Democrats need a similar rebranding.
This strikes me as a strange anaology. The Labor Party of old espoused an agenda that was virtually indistinguishable from Britain’s trade unions. But Democrats on this side of the Atlantic are hardly in the pocket of unions.

Consider the Democratic Party’s standard bearers over the last four presidential elections. After all, it was over the vehement objection of unions that the Clinton-Gore administration pushed for the passage of NAFTA and PNTR status for China. And John Kerry? He voted for NAFTA and PNTR, calling the latter “absolutely vital” for America’s economic future.

Socialism? The health care plan that Kerry proposed last year was quite minor compared to one advanced by the Clintons 10 years earlier. I would remind Kristof that it was a Democratic president, not a Republican, who declared nine years ago, “The era of big government is over.”

And anti-Americanism? Please. At times, the floor of the Democratic convention in Boston resembled a flag factory. And there was John Kerry, paying tribute to the armed services with his opening remark, declaring that he was “reporting for duty.” And in the final presidential debate, it was Kerry — not Bush — who declared that “with faith in God and with conviction in the mission of America, I believe that we can reach higher.”

At one point in his essay, Kristof writes:
Gov. Mike Johanns, a Nebraska Republican, told me that each time Michael Moore spoke up for John Kerry, Mr. Kerry’s support in Nebraska took a dive.
Given that Nebraska has only voted for a Democratic nominee once in the past 64 years, I don’t think Dems should lay awake at night wondering if their fortunes are slipping a bit in the Cornhusker State.

Indeed, Kristof must have been pleased to know that Moore was spending at least some of his time last fall in states that were sure to go Republican anyway.

In his essay, Kristof also offers a few suggestions to Democratic candidates, including these:
Don’t be afraid of religion. Offer government support for faith-based programs to aid the homeless, prisoners and AIDS victims.

… Accept that today, gun control is a nonstarter.
Again, Kristof can't be talking about the most recent presidential campaign. During the final presidential debate, for example, John Kerry used the terms “God,” “faith,” “the Almighty” and “Bible” a total of 24 times. Kerry may have been a lot of things, but he was not afraid of religion.

On gun control, Kerry’s position was a retreat from the stand that Gore took in 2000. Kerry didn’t bother to push the trigger-lock issue, which even Kristof said was an acceptably moderate position.

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