Monday, March 13, 2006

Clinton, Latham and popular culture

So-so piece in the NY Times on the Democrats' congressional prospects pushing a centrist line (much as the media does for Labor party here). Thus:

The party's more conservative members speak of the need for an "additive politics" that appeals explicitly to middle-class voters. Will Marshall, the head of the Progressive Policy Institute, a centrist research group, says that rather than constantly conjuring the image of families hanging on by their fingernails — the party's urban, industrial base — the Democrats need "a message that speaks to the aspirations of middle-class Americans." Nor can they simply "empathize" with the challenge of raising a moral child in an ambiguous world; they need to take on the record labels and entertainment companies whom the party depends on for financing. And they need to overcome voters' deep skepticism on the whole range of post-9/11 issues. Right now, says Marshall, "the country is mostly hearing that the party wants to get out of Iraq fast." It's a persuasive argument. But there's one question that Marshall and like-minded folk cannot convincingly answer: How do you harness the passion of your followers with a chastened politics that rebukes many of their convictions? How can you be "authentic" and "genuine" outside the confines of the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party? You can't, unless you're as brilliant as Bill Clinton.

Like or loath Clinton it is an accurate observation. Mark Latham tried to do the same, but failed completely. As however for the argument on the evils of popular culture I agree with John Powers (and note Australian right is now making the same argument as their American colleagues):
For the last 30 years, the right’s been having fun — Lee Atwater playing the blues, Rush Limbaugh giving that strangulated laugh, The Weekly Standard running those mocking covers — while the left has been good for you, like eating a big, dry bowl of muesli. This isn’t simply because leftists can be humorless (a quality shared with righteous evangelicals), but because, over the years, they’ve gone from being associated with free love and rock & roll to seeming like yuppified puritans; hence the Gore-Lieberman ticket talked about censoring video games and brainy leftist Thomas Frank tirelessly debunks the pleasure of those who buy anything Cool or find Madonna meaningful. (Clinton was an exception — he enjoyed a Big Mac and an intern as much as the hero of a beer commercial — and he was the one Democrat in recent years that most average Americans really liked.)
Of course the argument about young voters flocking to Howard is false but that is no reason to give it any life.


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