Yes, the "where's the beef" line was Mondale's against Hart. But it wasn't really about policy positions.
Hart was the first "neoliberal" to make a big splash in presidential politics. Neoliberal was a term used to refer to certain American post-Watergate, pre-DLC Democratic politicians like Hart, Tim Wirth, Paul Tsongas and Bill Bradley, who were looking for alternatives to traditional New Deal/Great Society politics, and were especially keen to be seen as more friendly to business (particularly high-tech industry; for awhile they were known as "Atari Democrats") and less wedded to so-called "special interests" like organized labor and traditional manufacturing industries than the older generation of liberals (like Mondale).
Basically, "where's the beef" was akin to Matt Stollers "bar fight primary" applied to 1980s liberal politics. Mondale was asking whether Hart was a "real" Democrat, implying that Hart was going to abandon traditional Democratic constituencies such as the rustbelt auto, steel, and coal workers or the midwestern farmers who were in such dire straits in the mid-1980s.
It was an extremely effective ploy because Hart really didn't have an answer for it.
No one is getting out, Kerry is getting less than 50% of the delegates... even if Kerry continues his plurality wins, if no one gets out (and why should they, given the internet funding) we'll have a brokered convention. If one of the other candidate starts to catch hold (ala Reagan in 1976), we could have a contested brokered primary.
. . . The entire story here is that the president substituted his judgement for that of the generals on the ground. Remember, they didn't think the surge was a good idea. So what happened? He fired them. That's why Gen. Petraeus is there. The president looked around until he could find a general willing to agree with him. . . .
I'll have to admit I haven't read this book yet, but from this description the author's definitions of "populist" vs. "elitist" seem pretty contrived.
Why does the "elitist" period start in 1938, for example, thereby leaving out the (quite popular) centralized state interventions in labor and financial markets of FDRs New Deal? Probably because the author knew he'd look like an idiot if he tried to portray Roosevelt as an "elitist."
Not only that, but the paen to Jeffersonian decentralized democracy is deeply anachronistic. It is a relic of 19th century America when most businesses were small and most people were self-employed.
In our modern era of giant corporations a powerful state is a necessary counterweight to private concentrations of wealth power. The interests of the broad mass of the population lie with an active government, as the Populists of the 1890s themselves understood when they called for new types of government interventions like the income tax, postal savings banks, public ownership of the railroads and telegraph, and public works to create jobs during economic downturns.There really is no substitute for active government, although we should always be thinking about how the state might be made more responsive to the popular will and less so to self-aggrandizing elites. If Jefferson were around today, he too would be a strong supporter of New Deal/Great Society programs, as any true modern populist must be.
Having said all this, I think it is true that mid-20th century liberalism did become excessively elitist and technocratic, beginning after World War II with the drumming of the Wallacite Progressive wing out of the party, continuing with the Stevenson campaigns of the 1950s, and reaching a peak with JFK, who proclaimed the "end of ideology" in his 1962 Yale commencement address:
Today...the central domestic problems of our time are more subtle and less simple. They do not relate to basic clashes of philosophy and ideology, but to ways and means of recasting common goals--to research for sophisticated solutions to complex and obstinate issues.
What is at stake in our economic decisions today is not some grand warfare of rival ideologies which will sweep the country with passion but the practical management of a modern economy. What we need are not labels and cliche's but more basic discussion of the sophisticated and technical questions involved in keeping a great economic machinery moving ahead. ...[T]he problems of...the Sixties as opposed to the kinds of problems we faced in the Thirties demand subtle challenges for which technical answers--not political answers--must be provided
The Democratic Party of the 1950s and 1960s backed away from its working-class base, stressed elite technocratic management and "problem-solving" instead of confronting the real political differences between wealthy elites and ordinary people -- and set itself up perfectly to be run down by the new "silent majority" right-wing populism that began with Nixon in the late 1960s
No (76%) 2.5% 71.9%
Yes (24%) 1.0% 28.1%
VOTE BY CHURCH ATTENDANCE
Weekly (28%) 2.0% 56.2%
Never (15%) 1.1% 30.1%
More Than Weekly (17%) 0.5% 15.5%
Monthly (12%) 0.3% 9.7%
A Few Times a Year (25%) -0.4% -11.5%
Taking into account both changes in voter preferences and changes in relative turnout between '04 and '06, the story is mixed.
People with "no religion" actually provided more of the swing to the Dems than Catholics or Protestants did. Also, non-evangelicals were far more important to the Democrats victory than were evangelicals.
On the other hand, people who attend church weekly or more-than-weekly also swung to the Dems (but so did those who never attend).
On the whole, the "closing the God gap" story seems to be greatly over-emphasized this time around.
Terrific post, Paul. I love all of your work, but you've really outdone youself this time.
And your comment to liberal avenger is worthy of a diary in its' own right. I've been in favor a "fighting liberal" demonize-the-conservatives approach for awhile now. You know, don't just take it, hit them back.
(I know you're not arguing that we shouldn't fight back against conservative demonization of us)
But I see the light better now. The flamethrower approach by itself really won't get us the kind of economy, society and polity we want, will it? We can't just be a bunch of little Newt Gingriches.
Any chance of getting this diary front-paged?
Any chance of combining some of these diaries and getting them published in book form?
New Universal Voluntary Accounts (UVAs) would give all workers access to tax-deferred investment accounts that are similar to 401(k)s. . . . UVAs would comprise workers' contributions to one of several investment options, plus contributions and matching funds from either federal or state governments.
The Ball plan would allow workers to invest up to an additional 2 percent of their pay in voluntary supplementary retirement accounts administered through Social Security. By creating add-on accounts supplementary to Social Security, the Ball plan would institute a new mechanism for workers to accumulate savings for retirement. This provision would be especially beneficial to Americans who have no private pensions or other retirement savings options.
All participants in the Social Security system . . . should be offered the opportunity, but not compelled, to make supplementary contributions to the trust funds, and those contributions would be credited to their own individual accounts. Unlike current, required employee payroll contributions, but like most contributions to private pension plans, they would be tax deductible. . . .
Contributors to supplementary accounts would have a choice of the following investments: 1) a fully passive stock index fund; 2) a fully passive bond index fund; 3) Treasury securities; 4) any combination of the above. The returns on these investments would be credited to the OASDI Trust Funds but earmarked to the individual accounts of the investors. . . .
The consolidation of investments in a minimum number of funds or securities and of supplemental accounts in the already existing Social Security system would offer major savings as compared with the administrative costs, commissions, and profits that eat into net private returns. The public system would offer actuarially fair benefits from the accumulations available at retirement; it would offer automatic cost-of-living adjustments; and it would offer appealing new opportunities to millions of Americans unsophisticated in the ways of Wall Street and fearful, often justifiably so, of the siren songs of those who would take their money.
Ok, now you're putting words in my mouth. I only said that the approach taken by the Mondale '84 and Dukakis '88 campaign were not effective, and contributed significantly to their electoral losses (well, for Mondale the size of the loss. I still think '88 was a winnable election for Dukakis with the right approach).
And I don't have any problem criticizing our own people like Bayh or Obama when they do things that I think are counterproductive for liberal politics. You seem to be obsessed with my use of the word "asshole," but I think it's deserved with respect to some of their recent statements.
There's a post up at TPM Cafe today that I think suggests a better way to address the governance issue in a way that really helps us long-term, by explicitly linking bad governance to conservative ideology, not by being non- or anti-ideological.
Anti-ideology itself seems to be an ideology that has infected too many Democratic politicans and elite thinkers. I think most people appreciate politicians who they see as being grounded in a clear set of values or a consistent world-view, rather than just being opportunistic.
They are assholes when they try to score cheap political points by going on about how Democrats have to "get values" or "get tough on defense" or whatever, without actually spelling out how they intend to address the problem.
I'm all for two-way communication, participatory democracy and good governance too. I think it should be part of our message and I've said so in the past.
At the risk of becoming repetitive, I just think the approach outlined here is too accepting of right-wing stereotypes. If people really think we are as bad as all that, in large part it's because we haven't been pushing back hard enough against the conservative propoganda.
I've been listening to politicians give this "we hear you" stuff since Walter Mondale in '84, and it just makes us look weak.