Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.
Further down the thread you're urging me to consider context when judging politicians. You're failing to do so with Americans. It is a much more right wing society - I don't mean political views here, but in practice.

Completely different context. On the one hand, an autocratic, arbitrary monarchy whose underpinnings, unlike the rest of Europe, continued to reside in divine right and where people would regularly starve as the aristocracy diddled each other and their servants. On the other, a bourgeois democracy whose real sin is the soft (for now) tyranny of the majority and a benign, almost moralistic neglect of its underclass. Completely different in virtually all ways.

I don't criticize American liberals more than I call them on their bullshit. They claim, in the main, to be on the side of the poor, but they aren't. They claim to be for peace and for social justice, but they aren't. They claim to be for economic and social equality but that's quite alot more talk than action too. They represent, in the main, the middle class, and as such, they represent it well. But they certainly do not represent progress, for human rights and human gain.

Who is more left wing, the person pushing for higher payments and 'reform' of a universal health care system, or the one pushing for expanding government provided health care in one dominated by the private sector.

Not sure I get your question. Obviously, universal, egalitarian access to health care is the proper system, and given the economic inefficiencies inherent in that particular market, the state is the most efficient provider.

He who is the most left wing is he whose proposals do the most to bring about universal, egalitarian access to health care services. He who is wisest does so in the most economical fashion, which is via the state.

What about raising taxes on the wealthy in the name of fiscal responsibility and social justice, or lowering them in the name of economic efficiency.

Lowering them in the name of economic efficiency? Surely you jest.

To take an example, I'd say that Clinton was to the left of Schroeder, even though by some objective measuring stick he wasn't.

Not sure too many Germans would agree with you, maybe Oskar Lafontaine?

In any case you're wrong about American liberals not believing in government services. There's unanimous support for universal health care as the top domestic priority, and most in would prefer single payer. That many of them are debating what would be possible in practice given the magnitude of the task of the wholesale restructuring one seventh of the economy, and what sort of compromises would be acceptable doesn't change that.

Hey, I'm pulling for that too. Though I do seem to remember the last time they tried this. Clinton fucked it up, and those moderates you allude to below helped kill it too, and a couple of them are still around and still members of good standing in the Democratic caucus (Feinstein and Lieberman to name two). So all the intentions in the world are great, and when I see the Worldvision ad on TV, I want to do something about hungry kids in the Horn of Africa too.

But I'm pretty sure the Democrats, to whose wagon the left is hitched in the US, won't get the job done. After all, they never do. The most incompetent left in the industrialized world. So I hope you'll forgive me for not holding my breath.

We only number some twenty to thirty percent of the population - a significant number, but we're in a two party single member district system. Either we make deals with the moderates or we might as well give up.

You might as well give up, because 35 years of making deals with the moderates (remember, Jimmy Carter was a moderate too - the 2nd cold war started under him, as did the deregulation which Reagan of course accelerated) sure hasn't gotten anything done. Quite the contrary, it has simply facilitated the nation's drift rightward.

You're also ignoring the extent to which the mainstream of American liberals has shifted left since 2000, and degree of preoccupation with poverty, insecurity, and inequality that hasn't been seen since Mondale's landslide loss.

Well, I guess I'll believe that when I see it. I'm seeing a lot of temerity now. I'd like to believe this is true, but actually, I think American liberals haven't changed much at all, aside from instinctive Bush hatred. Now they have an enemyt with a face, and we'll see what happens when that convenient enemy is gone.

OTOH, I do think there's a palpable shift, in particular in the heartland of the midwest and parts of the bible belt, towards the sort of economic populism which, if harnessed correctly, could translate into progress. Then again, it could be harnessed into economic nationalism and xenophobia as well. So far, most of the voices of this developing trend are on the lefter side of the spectrum and are Democrats (Schuler, Hackett, Webb). If they get some traction, I'll be more hopeful, but again, given how entrenched certain interests are in the party which pretends to represent the left (and the poor as well, not necessarily the same of course) I'd have to refrain from holding my breath there as well.    

The Hun is always either at your throat or at your feet. Winston Churchill

by r------ on Thu Jan 11th, 2007 at 10:42:46 PM EST
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In the Clinton Schroeder example I'm saying that someone who acts to make the tax system more progressive and seeks to enact measures that will increase government support for the poor is arguably to the left of someone who does the reverse. What a politician expends their political capital on says more about them than an abstract ideological spectrum. That's because forcing through changes is what is difficult. That one person starts off with a system that is well to the right of the other needs to be taken into account. Otherwise you can start making the argument that Thatcher was to the left of LBJ, for example, because after Thatcher the UK had universal health care and the US didn't. And no, few Germans would agree with me about Schroeder, but that's cause they don't understand or know America, so rather than evaluating Clinton according to the context he was operating him, they do so as if he were a German politician working in Germany. On health care Clinton failed partly because he came up with a godawful mess of a compromise in the vain hope of assuaging the insurance industry, but partly because the American health care crisis was in its early stages. Managed care was in had only begun to spread a few years earlier, many people still had the old style health insurance that functioned like a wonderful single payer system - no dealing with bureaucracy, no worrying about approvals or reimbursements, just go to the doctor of your choice, present your card and you're free to go. Basically what Clinton was promising was their nightmare - managed care, in return he would away the fear of being uninsured, but very few voters were.

The shift in liberal thinking is the disenchantment with neo-liberalism, with the blind worship of the market. Not necessarily among the population as a whole, but among the self-consciously liberal elites. Krugman is a perfect example of that change - from orthodox neolib to something else entirely.

You might as well give up, because 35 years of making deals with the moderates (remember, Jimmy Carter was a moderate too - the 2nd cold war started under him, as did the deregulation which Reagan of course accelerated) sure hasn't gotten anything done. Quite the contrary, it has simply facilitated the nation's drift rightward.

It is funny how Carter is remembered, a mix of successful propaganda and the fact that he's been much more left wing as an ex-president. (Though I like the foreign policy part - my foreign policy politics are well to the right of my domestic ones). Still, the same sort of compromising also got us LBJ's Great Society. Compromise isn't a good or bad thing in itself, it's the results that count. If the next president can move the country substantially to the left, I'll be happy even if it doesn't go as far as I'd like due to the need to get the moderates on board.

by MarekNYC on Fri Jan 12th, 2007 at 01:20:54 AM EST
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