Using Technology to Deepen Democracy, Using Democracy to Ensure Technology Benefits Us All

Saturday, December 11, 2004

Social Security, the DNC, and the Movement Democrats

Everybody knows that the Republicans have now set their gun sights on Social Security, one of the most conspicuously successful government programs left in the United States. From the perspective of partisan politics this amounts, absurdly enough, to a do or die moment.

The President claims that the program faces impending disaster. This is a lie. A L – I – E.

Even on the most pessimistic economic assumptions the system remains perfectly intact until 2045, at which point it could continue to pay out 75% of its benefits -- and all of this assumes that more responsible and modest efforts at reform preserving the spirit of the program would not be undertaken between now and then, when certainly they would be. Republican designs on the Social Security program are themsevles by far the most conspicuous threat Social Security faces today.

Democrats have literally no choice but to call the President on this appalling lie, and to defend the program for its success and indispensability. And so this must be the turn of the tide (or at any rate the latest opportunity for a turning of the tide).

Democrats simply cannot pretend that their Republican neighbors across the aisle are well-meaning partners in the project of functional democracy. The Republicans want to dismantle what remains of legitmate democracy and to consolidate the power of the special minorities of which their alliance consists.

The "partial privatization" of social security would drive unprecedented money into the hands of the financial service sector that represents much of the conservative moneyed constituency, while driving people for social support into the Mega Churches that represent much of their cultural constituency. It is as simple as that.

Movement conservatives cannot be reasoned with on this issue, they can only be fought. There can be no compromise here. The DNC, stinking with the rot of its DLC handlers, risked complete historical irrelevance in failing to oppose the obscene evil and predictable disaster of the Iraq War, and now confronts an exactly comparable test.

The devastating series of electoral losses of the last decade for the DNC look distressingly like nails in a coffin. (And frankly I think Ross Perot is more responsible for the first bright spot in this long ongoing electoral devastation than the DLC is, while Bill Clinton’s own impeccable skill as a politician coupled with the usual power of incumbency in an upswing of the business cycle virtually assured the second.)

An alternate archipelago of "movement democrats," of digital grassroots progressives like MoveOn and Democracy for America, and of new progressive media like Air America, the documentary film movement, and the liberal blogosphere are all emerging to confront the movement conservatives head on, to embrace the tide of technological change that defines our epoch, and demand justice from this historical moment.

If the DNC wants to be relevant in our day, it must be re-invigorated by the force of the movement democrats, and must conspicuously re-affirm its commitment to real equality, to general welfare, to diversity, to world peace, to science, and to progress.

Picking Howard Dean as party chair would be a step in the right direction (and I speak as somebody who never supported Dean as a candidate for President, preferring the more liberal and statesmanlike Kerry to Dean from the beginning -– and I still think Kerry was incomparably better as a candidate, would have made a great President in this particular historical moment, and hell I still think he may have actually won the goddamn election).

Anyway, movement democrats must recognize that those who strive to retain their power against the grain of history are actually opponents who must be fought unambiguously and defeated utterly. The good news is that even the conservatives themsevles will better thrive in the peaceful, prosperous, democratic world we are fighting them for than they could ever manage in the crabbed patriarchal superstitious hellholes they are fighting to maintain.

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