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July 29, 2009

tactics, wonkery, values

Back in 2004, I wrote a long post on this blog, arguing that the problem for the left was not bad tactics, nor a lack of resources, but a lack of positive vision. This was part of the argument:

My post triggered thoughtful rebuttals by Mark Schmitt, Matthew Yglesias, and others.

I remembered this exchange recently when it occurred to me that Yglesias and other skillful left-of-center bloggers have become policy wonks. I spent 15 years in a school of public policy, yet occasionally even my eyes glaze over when I read Yglesias on transportation or Ezra Klein on health care. No one could rightly say that these people lack ideas about what should be done. They are as substantive as can be--as well as talented writers.

So perhaps when the Democrats were "out," bloggers on their side of the aisle were focused on getting them back "in"; and once Democrats won elections, the bloggers turned to policy. That would be a happy story and would make me apologize for my implication that the left blogosphere was superficial in 2004.

Except for one thing: I don't divide politics into tactics and policy. There is a crucial third element, which is the creation of some kind of moving storyline that embodies core values. I think that's much more important than getting one's policy proposals right, and it was a conspicuous failure in '04. An argument about values and a narrative arc are what Barack Obama contributed to the left in '08. The particular positions that he took could be wrong, but in any case, they do not seem to attract much attention or support in the liberal blogosphere. For instance:

July 29, 2009 11:29 AM | category: revitalizing the left | Comments


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