Thursday, February 24, 2005

# Posted 8:07 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

OXBLOG Q&A: In the process of writing an article on divsions within the Democratic Party, a friend decided to send out a questionnaire on the subject. I've reproduced the questionnaire below, along with my answers:

Do you think the Democratic Party is more apt to question itself andits methods in public than the Republican Party?
Yes, but that is not because the Democratic Party is necessarily more self-aware or self-critical than the Republicans. Rather, it is because there is a profound division within the Democratic Party about how to deal with the most important issue facing America today: national security. That division inevitably plays out in public forums.

If so, do you think this is detrimental to the party?
A public debate is not a bad thing provided that it has some sort of resolution. However, the open division within the party on national security issues hurt John Kerry badly by forcing him to stake out a vague compromise position that made him seem weak on the most important issues of the day.

Is it because of an inherent intellectual difference between the parties (i.e. curiosity vs. status quo), or a practical difference (keeping party problems within the party vs. in public)?
Neither. As I said above, I think the Democratic Party is more divided on substantive grounds than the Republicans.

Is such questioning related to the Democratic Party's reliance on more complicated platforms (i.e. John Kerry)?
No, not at all. I completely reject the notion that the Democrats are the party of grey and that the Republicans are the party of black-and-white. The issue isn't nuance, but confusion. In an effort to present a united front to American voters, the Democratic Party sought to paper over serious internal differences about national secuirty. The result was a united party without a united message.

Is there another issue you believe is hurting the Democratic Party more than such self-criticism?
Again, what's huring the Democratic Party is a matter of substance, not presentation.

Is the Republican Party prey to the same weakness?
Absolutely. Just take a look at Republican resistance to Bush's Social Security reform package.

Is all this just a practical consequence of having lost significant power over the last decade?
No, not at all. The real issue is that the Democratic party is still struggling to reconcile the lessons of the Vietnam war with the responsibilities of being the world's only superpower. This divide was visible in the 1990s but was seriously aggravated by September 11th.
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