Continuing its valiant attempt to portray the Democratic party as viable and relevant, The New Republic offers us a glimpse inside the Democratic National Convention in the August 2 and August 9, 2004, print issues.
In the August 2 issue (TRB, p. 6), Peter Beinart offers his thoughts in advance of the Democratic and Republican conventions. "The two parties' conclaves are shaping up as mirror images of one another", he writes. Citing the lineup of moderate and even liberal Republicans slated to speak in New York (John McCain, Rudy Giuliani, Michael Bloomberg, Rod Paige, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Zell Miller - oh, wait, he isn't even a Republican), Beinart explains that this is evidence of the GOP's "ideological insecurity".
This is quite interesting, because it was Beinart who told us just two weeks earlier that John Kerry displayed "true self-confidence" by choosing the sharply contrasting Edwards for a runningmate. (Edwards, to whom the party's left wing, "represented by groups like MoveOn.org", "gave their hearts" once bereft of Howard Dean.)
But if Beinart can manage a wry sneer at the Republican convention, he can't conceal his outright worry over the prospect of this year's Democratic event. "If Bush Republicans lack ideological self-confidence, the Kerry Democrats may have too much of it," he says uneasily of a "shockingly realistic picture of what the Democratic Party really is. And that means liberalism is on tap virtually every night."
"I doubt the Kerry campaign tried to stock the podium with liberals. They simply chose the people in the party with mass appeal, great promise, or both. ... And, unsurprisingly, it produced a convention roster that looks - and sounds - like the Democratic Party." That, Beinart says, is the problem: he contrasts this year's convention with earlier events in which "each [speaker] represented the party not as it was, but as it might have been had liberal interest groups not exercised such control over the nominating process."
If Peter Beinart wrote in blogspeak, he'd say: "What's up with all these f***ing moonbats?" Or something like that.
The DNC will present an "admirably honest" picture of today's Democrats. "But just because it's honest doesn't make it wise." So Beinart says of the Democratic Party; but looking at the GOP, Beinart discerns a left-of-Republican-center lineup that can only mean "a party unwilling to reveal its true face to the nation." So which is it, Peter?
What really worries the Democrats is that the upcoming Republican convention just might be the "true face" of the Republican Party: one that values principled individuals and inclusive organizations; one that sees tolerance and responsibility not as opposing, but as complementary; one in which unity is born of diversity. This is why so many former Democrats are now Republicans.
Are the two conventions - and by extension, the two parties - really "mirror images" of one another? In some ways, yes: the Republicans have become the party of responsible change, progress, and human rights; while the Democrats have become the reactionary, anti-democratic party, now reduced to defending third-rate dictators.
But the symmetry is not complete. Many of the positive changes that liberals of the last generation fought for have become part of the mainstream. Other battles, like gay rights, have yet to be won, but now enjoy support within the Republican party, where conversation on such issues is most meaningful. What do the Democrats have left to offer? Very little - only the rhetoric of dissatisfaction.