Wednesday, July 21st, 2004

The Most Intellectually Honest Republican

is Kevin Phillips, hands down. His book American Dynasty is a must-read, kinda like a bloodier-and-oilier-and-scarier version of Fahrenheit 9/11, and without all the references to Michigan.

Phillips is the star of the new Harper’s cover story, a roundtable on the future of progressive politics with such luminaries as Frances Fox Piven, Eric Foner, Ron Daniels, and a strange golem-like Republican-backed creature named Ralph Nader.

Anyway, here’s an excerpt in which Phillips holds forth on what we like to call Republicans dumb, Democrats dumber:

Daniels: Instead, the word “liberal” is a word that the Democrats distance themselves from. They avoid it as if it were the plague.

Nader: And if you get on the defensive in politics, you remain on the defensive for a long time. (Jeff note: Word to Florida, Ralphie!)

Phillips: The reason, of course, is that Democrats have been anesthetized by campaign contributions. And I should add that they have been anesthetized cheaply. During the last 20 or 25 years, the Republicans have been able to take money for granted, but the Democrats know they need to get it, and so they’ve become willing to soften their language and back away from their convictions. Their neediness cripples them.

Nader: The Democrats could be hammering on the money that Bush raises at these $3 million dinners. They could say, ‘This one is for pharmaceutical money, this one’s for oil.’ They could make an issue about it every time. But the Democrats are caught in the same net.

Phillips: It would be devastating if they could attack the conservatives for having used public money to bail out Wall Street and the corporations. But they can’t. the Republicans have so many weaknesses that the Democrats can’t exploit, because they have taken a second, smaller helping form the same trough. What hands you a political opportunity in the United States is when something goes very wrong for the people who have power. Today the Republicans are in trouble, and the main thing they have to keep them from imploding is that the Democrats are not much better…

And later in the roundtable, he adds this in response to what issues could motivate the electorate:

Phillips: the obvious thing is the mess that the Bush Administration is making in Iraq. The imperial approach has lost us credibility all over the world. If this can’t be used as an indictment against Bush, I don’t know what can. The man is the least competent military leader since James Madison let the British burn Washington. Other issues moderates are concerned about are deficit spending and campaign finance. You’ve got to assemble a new progressive movement with disaffected elements of the existing Republican coalition…

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