Turn the page, turn the page! No, not the one you are reading, not just yet. It is the country that needs to turn onto a new page. It is hard to think of an aspect of our political, social, and economic life that hasn’t been stained by all these years of “Conservative Revolution.” Something is very wrong—everywhere. This is the Democrats’ election to lose.
So here is an interesting question: should the Democrats have a party? No, I don’t mean a premature celebration of unity or electoral victory. I mean a political party. There needs to be a far-reaching discussion of what political organization should mean in this country—whatever the results in November. Nominating a candidate is not the same thing as electing one, as David Greenberg points out in his important lead article in this issue. Let’s hope it initiates a debate.
Why, for instance, should there be open primaries? Why should Republicans and independents vote to select the candidate of a party to which they have no commitment, with which they have no identification? Why should Democrats and independents be able to vote in Republican contests? Joining an American political party requires no more than a registration tick, and that itself has pretty limited meaning. Political commitments in a democracy need to be more than a tick.
It would be salutary if politics were more a matter of good ideas overcoming bad ones. After all, a lot of bad ideas has dominated public debate for some decades. They did not begin with Bush, although his administration deserves credit for implementing many of them. But he hasn’t been the worst president. Some weeks ago a friend and I tried to determine who was. We decided on James Buchanan. Bush’s botch only led to a civil war abroad.
Good arguments about ideas begin with the right questions. Laissez-faire for whom? asks Lew Daly in a challenge to the right wing’s expropriation of the idea of limited government. Health insurance economics for whose sake? asks Lillian B. Rubin. Deregulation on whose behalf? asks Timothy A. Canova.
Christopher Young asks about the effectiveness of Olympic boycotts. In our “Politics Abroad” section, Robert Taylor surveys European social democracy and Martin A. Schain demythologizes French unions. Shlomo Avineri looks at “Post-Communism.” Cynthia Fuchs Epstein and Howard Epstein describe a journey to India, and Carlos Fraenkel writes about teaching Aristotle in Indonesia. Yes, that ancient philosopher who said that if you aren’t part of a political community, you are either a god or a poor beast.
Now turn the page.