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The Therapy Sessions
Monday, May 10, 2004

Reich's vision

I never liked Robert Reich, Clinton's squirrely Secretary of Labor. Reich was known for squawking about how the government should promote business, raise taxes to invest in infrastructure and regulate businesses to fight income inequality.

But in the Clinton years, government was largely laissez-faire and income inequality increased (as is common during boom years). Clinton's huge stimulus bill - which Reich trumpeted as it went down to defeat- was nothing more than a pork-laden gift to Congressional Democrats.

After the bill sank, government lost interest in stoking the economy.

The economy - predictably - boomed.

Reich was proud of the boom (like most politicians he thought it had something to do with him).

But in reality, the boom took place because Washington ignored Reich and others like him.

The Labor Department doesn't really do anything, so Reich just trailed along for the ride, representing nothing more than the bone that Clinton threw to the left.

But sometimes he can smell truth, particularly when he is discussing the Democrats:
Democrats have built no analogous movement. Instead, every four years party loyalists throw themselves behind a presidential candidate who they believe will deliver them from the rising conservative tide. After the election, they go back to whatever they were doing before. Other Democrats involve themselves in single-issue politics but these battles have failed to build a movement. Issues rise and fall, depending on the interests at stake.

As a result, Democrats have been undisciplined, intimidated or just silent. They have few dedicated sources of money, and almost no troops. The religious left is disconnected from the political struggle. One hears few liberal Democratic phrases that are repeated with any regularity. In addition, there is no consistent Democratic ideology. Most congressional Democrats raise their own money, do their own polls and vote every which way. Democrats have little or no clear identity except by reference to what conservatives say about them.

This is very true.

The Democratic Party has become an odd coalition of trial lawyers, unions, teachers, peace activists, environmentalists and minorities who aren't really sure what they want.

Unlike the party of JFK, today's Democrats have no coherent vision. They just know they don't want Bush.

This may account for the weakness of their candidates. The last few weeks should have been diastrous for Bush. His opponent - any opponent - should be beating him by double digits.

But Bush and Kerry are still neck and neck.

Part of it is Kerry: he is a terrible candidate: somber, ponderous, pompous and all over the place on the issues.

But part of it is the message.

The message?

There is no message. Kerry has so many groups in his party that in order not offend any of them, he must avoid saying anything of substance.

Result? He is a boring hodge-podge of focus group-tested catchwords and soundbites.

In some ways, Bush deserves defeat. He betrayed my trust with his flip-flops on trade, subsidies and Medicare. The Medicare fiasco alone makes me want to kick the man in the nuts. Other people are upset about the war, but I think Bush's foreign policy is his strong suit.

Events will determine who gets elected.

But in the end, it won't really matter too much.

Kerry could win, but I think its unlikely that the Democrats would be taking us anywhere.

That's good. Because they don't know where they're going.

(thanks to the Moderate Voice for the link to Reich article)

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