Democrats on Defense: What Hope for Liberalism?

Democrats on Defense: What Hope for Liberalism?

If the 1995 off-year election provides any portents for 1996, they are that the best the Democrats can hope for is a defensive victory. In the November elections in Virginia, Kentucky, New Jersey, and elsewhere, the Democrats did not run on a program of their own. They ran against Newt Gingrich and the fine print in his Contract, and more particularly against the proposed Republican cuts in Medicare, education and environmental programs.

The good news is that the Democrats prevailed—and that in poll after poll, respondents reject the Republican revolution in most of its particulars, though they continue to support an assault on government waged on the level of generalities. The bad news is that American liberalism has been reduced to rebuttals, that the liberal base is both shrunken and scattered, and that the Democratic project has become little more than arresting a rightward gallop by acquiescing in a rightward drift.

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