Similarly, on foreign policy, the bipartisan assumption that the United States should police the world comes, obviously, from the corporate establishment, not the peace movement. The current rage in center-right Democratic circles is to resuscitate Harry Truman, substitute bin Laden for Stalin and jihadism for communism, and summon America to a new global struggle--claiming for Democrats a muscular tradition of collective security, in contrast to Bush's "conservative unilateralism." Neocons like Peter Beinart, fresh from cheering the country into the Iraq debacle, join New Dems like Al From in urging Democrats to prove their resolve by purging the left--the "MoveOn, Michael Moore wing"--from the Democratic Party. Members of the DLC call on the United States to increase its military spending, expand its expeditionary forces and "put the economy on a wartime footing." They pledge to "rally the American people" to sustain an "extended and robust" occupation in Iraq. And they urge the United States to intervene aggressively in the Middle East with a "sweeping program of economic, political and social reform." Since the DLC also pledges to reduce the budget deficits at the same time, Americans will have to tighten their belts to support such a mission.
This posture is deeply flawed. It distorts the threat and gets the response wrong. The problems of the Muslim world are not caused by the United States and the West having intervened too little. We need a policy on Islamist terrorists that isolates them rather than inflates them: alliances, intelligence cooperation, joint efforts to delegitimize their fanaticism, aggressive policing to bring them to justice. We need a strategy for America in a world very different from that of the end of World War II, when the dollar was literally as good as gold. This, once more, will require challenging the grip of multinational corporations and banks and their ideological fixation on building a global market protected from national regulation. Only then will we be able to define a "common good" politics that can help make the global economy work for the many and not the few.
If we are to reclaim a bold progressive politics, then the fantasy candidate will be one willing to tell a gathering of investment bankers that he or she doesn't need their money but would like their support to champion the public interest. This won't soon be the consensus position of the Democratic Party. It will require the building of an independent progressive movement willing to challenge entrenched interests and ideology, and able to support candidates and causes while building efforts to curb the influence of big money in politics.
This effort has only just begun, but surprising progress is possible in 2006. Forceful populists like Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Sherrod Brown of Ohio could help transform the debate if elected to the Senate. Audacious challenges--like that of Ned Lamont in taking on Joe Lieberman for the US Senate nomination in Connecticut--will help sober sitting Democrats about the need to represent their voters. New capacity--from the insurgent activism of MoveOn.org and the brassy blogosphere to the AFL-CIO's new community affiliate Working America's reach into middle America--will provide a greater ability to define the future, not simply to decry it.
The MoveOn wing of the party isn't about to be purged by the folks who helped propel us into Iraq. The democratic wing of the Democratic Party, in Paul Wellstone's--and later Howard Dean's--phrase, is expanding in influence and number. In response to Bush's forceful but failed project, progressives across the country are developing a feisty, populist politics that just may drive Democrats toward a real politics of the common good.