Upon hearing that the people had lost confidence in the government, the East German Communist playwright Bertolt Brecht quipped that it would be better to dissolve the people and appoint another one.
My friend Peter Beinart has a similar solution in mind for what ails the Democratic Party. A truly tough-minded and intellectually honest liberal, Beinart reads his party the riot act in the latest issue of The New Republic, the magazine he edits, in what will surely be a much-discussed article.
Beinart wants the Democrats to become a "fighting party" along the lines of the anti-Communist liberals that defined the Democratic Party from Harry Truman to John F. Kennedy. Back then, American liberalism was split between "hards" and "softs." The hards were willing to draw bright lines between themselves and Communists, up to and including purging from their ranks "soft" liberals who couldn't bring themselves to denounce totalitarianism. The softs, meanwhile, may not have been Communists, but they believed their only enemies were on the right.
By 1949, Beinart notes, "three years after Winston Churchill warned that an 'iron curtain' had descended across Europe," American liberalism had been - in Arthur Schlesinger's words - "fundamentally reshaped" in order to deal with the totalitarian threat.
Beinart continues, "Today, three years after September 11 brought the United States face-to-face with a new totalitarian threat, liberalism has still not 'been fundamentally reshaped.' by the experience."
Beinart marshals a wide array of evidence that the Democratic rank-and-file doesn't take terrorism or even foreign policy seriously. Exhibit A: the vexatious popularity of goons like Michael Moore who believe Bush is a bigger threat than Bin Laden. "There is no terrorist threat," Moore writes in "Dude, Where's My Country." "Why has our government gone to such absurd lengths to convince us our lives are in danger?"
The Moore & MoveOn.org crowd is not merely skeptical of American military power, it is downright hostile to American motives. America, says Moore, brings "sadness and misery to places around the globe." He tells foreign audiences that Americans are "possibly the dumbest people on the planet." MoveOn.org is more thoughtful than Moore (a very low bar), but its opposition to the war and Bush has pushed it toward isolationism and common cause with real America-haters like the Stalinist front group ANSWER.