Wednesday, May 11, 2005

It's not about principles... it's about winning

A while back, I ran across an article which talked about how conservatives tend to be more focused on first principles, on developing the philosophical foundations for their policies, while liberals tend to be more focused on pragmatic, practical steps which will further the likelihood of victory in elections. (The article linked by someone at The Corner, and was written by someone who leaned to the left, but I can't find the link! Argh!)

Anyway, that generally corresponds with my experience... many of my liberal friends & acquaintances don't feel the need to intellectually justify their positions... they see them as self-evident. So, for instance, some liberals justify federal social programs by arguing that its our duty to help the poor and others in need, and this is obviously how we fulfill that duty.

Now, I need to stress that this is a generality and not a universal truth... there are obviously some liberals who do seek to argue the fundamental principles behind their policies, just as their are some conservatives who are more interested in just winning. The point is what's more often the case, and I think that the assertion holds.

An instance of this is provided for us by Markos Zuniga Moulitsas, the founder of the blog Daily Kos, one of the more vitriolic liberal blogs in existence. Like his blog, Zuniga is well known for his anti-Bush, anti-Republican invective. And he demonstrates the thesis of this post in the following quote about a new liberal think tank he is involved with, the New Policy Institute:
    Policy think tanks are pretty useless,” he told the Hill newspaper. “All the great policy white papers aren’t going to do any good.” The purpose of the New Policy Institute will be on “building a Democratic Party that is focused on winning.
John Podhoretz aptly comments:
    There we have it, a perfect encapsulation of the Babbittry that has overcome the Democratic Left. Ideas are bunk. "Policy white papers" are boring. What matters is salesmanship
I think he's right, and I think it's bad for American politics. We need both liberals and conservatives to have vigorous internal debates about what liberalism and conservatism entail, so that they can fairly and thoroughly make their case to the American people.

After all, it's not just about winning... it's about finding the best way to serve our nation.

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