David Brooks calls kettles black in a column explaining how the Dems under Dean are doomed.
To frame this argument, he spends a good chunk of the column waxing nostalgic on 1950s fraternal orders which crossed class lines to unite Americans in common purposes (of, presumably, eating rubber chicken dinners, having drinks at the lodge, and checking on checkstand collection containers). The 70s and 80s, however, brought us NOW, Naral, and - wait for it - the Heritage Foundation, the centralized structure of which forced us all to bowl alone and ceded control over social movements to the dreaded elite academia faction.
The Dem side anyway. Republicans, it seems, got to keep the NRA and churches - allowing them to build winning electoral coalitions.
Hard to argue with the outcome side of his analysis - the Reeps certainly did win the White House. However, the methodologies of each side are more similar than they are different: it's disingenuous to suggest that NOW, but not the NRA, solicits via mass mailing. Pretty much every special interest is structured the same way.
It's possible that what's broken down isn't fraternal associations "that allowed Americans to work together across class and other divisions," but rather the classes and divisions just aren't the same. The uppers are way up, the downers down, the middle class - depending on to whom you speak - are either dwindling, ignored, or too self-centered to care.
Brooks's point, of course, is to trumpet the right-line that Dean is an out of touch, overeducated, lefty peacnik who'll lead the Democratic Party to - as he puts it - "carry Berekely for decades to come," and little else. He cites Mickey's Kaus's Slate observation that Dems are simply following the elite money pouring into Dean's coffers. He's calling us sell-outs for rewarding Dean's ability to pick off more traditional, and I'd have thought politically stronger, candidates for DNC Chair. He also says the "energy and dough are in the MoveOn.Org wing, which is not even a wing of the party, but the head and the wallet."
First off, we need someone like Dean because not only is he unfailiing opposed to the war (so unfailingly that we can pinpoint his position on the war in one word - "against" - unlike most other candidates and electeds) but specifically because he can keep the MoveOn.org winged-headed-wallet in the party. Lose them and then where are we?
My guess is that were you to step into the way-back machine and travel to a point where the newly invigorated religious fervor folks were laying the groundwork for their usurpation of "Republican" and "conservative" nomenclature, you'd see much the same argument from a Democratic specator. Oh what are they doing? How can they follow the money, how can these non-Reeps move on in. Those in power today, of course, applaud such success - even as true conservatives' heads spin over the rampant spending and liberal change-the-world-ivity of the Republican Party. For my money - while I don't agree 100% with MoveOn.org or the far left wing of the party - I think an infusion of peace-seeking blood will save lives - including our political ones.
(And, of course, aside from his direct opposition to Bush's foreign policies, Dean really ain't all that "liberal" at all. Hello people, the guy got nuthin' but love from - you guessed it - the NRA when he was the governor of Vermont - a happy hunting ground if ever there was one).
When it comes to coalition building, the Democrats really do need a coaltion of as many willing factions as possible. It's not about the demise of the Elks or the Lions. It's about vast economic inequalities, dangerous nation-building, and artistic renderings of truth. Each side has its intelligentsia - and for that matter, why is it more "American" to shun book learnin'? (It's not, of course).
Brooks is right that Dems haven't put together the best electoral strategy lately - but we'll learn - just as the right did in the years leading up the perfect storm of 1994. Our growing coalition members, however, aren't a liability - they're a necessity.
If we - DLC-type, those MovingOn, liberals, etc - don't hang tight together, we will surely hang out separately - on the losing side of the vote tally.