Monday, February 14, 2005

Howard Dean answers my question

Posted by Craig Westover | 2:15 PM |  

I’m not faulting Hugh Hewitt or Peter Beinart for not giving me the answer I was looking for when I asked my question at the big Hewitt-Beinart debate on the future of the Democrat Party, sponsored the AM1280 “The Patriot” this past Thursday. Mine was the last question of the a long night. Besides, Howard Dean answered it Saturday.

Here’s how Doug at Bogus Gold phrased it in his live blog of the debate --

New Question: Big tent? How do parties go about it? Principles or pragmatics? Explain philosophy?

Hugh: Building big tent complicated. Toss out ideas. Find what works and people want. That's how to build an open tent. Opportunity not subsidy society.

Peter: Plugs New Republic Magazine, in response to Hugh's Blog-flog.

Dem big -tent - party of opportunity. Cites MLK. Education & economic opportunities. Integration & national unity. Disenfranchised must be included. Cites gays hoisting American flag instead of rainbow flag after sodomy laws overturned. It's still the party of Marshall Plan, Truman, Kennedy. Maybe someday some of audience will come back. Well received by audience.
Basically there are two ways to fill a tent. Spoon up a variety of politically diverse dishes so there’s something for everybody, or create a masterpiece of a meal that no one can resist.

Here’s Howard Dean’s menu as reported in the Washington Post --
Incoming Democratic National Committee chairman Howard Dean spent yesterday in a series of meetings with valued Democratic constituencies at the Hilton Washington. He did the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Caucus at 12:15 p.m., the Seniors Coordination Council at 12:45 p.m., the Women's Caucus at 3:40 p.m., the Native Americans at 4:35 p.m., the African Americans at 5 p.m., the Asian Pacific Islanders at 5:20 p.m. and the Hispanics at 5:40 p.m.
Despite Peter’s elegant statement of Democrat principles, bottom line is Democrats don’t think in principled terms. They think in terms of groups, and that necessarily limit’s the size of their tent. Eventually they’ll reach the point -- if they haven’t already -- where group interests collide and there’s no basis for consensus. To use an example Peter used, think Black Churches and the Democrat’s stance on abortion and gay marriage.

In the same Washington post article, Dean is quoted saying "This is my seventh meeting of the day," he declares to the [Hispanic] crowd. "I think they only have one caucus in the Republican Party," which he calls "homogenous."

That’s not a bad thing if “homogenous” means belief in the same principles, which is what Hugh was getting to in his answer to my question. When you party is based on principles, there’s no limit to how big it can grow. Anyone and everyone is welcome. They need only hold to the unifying principles.

However, “homogenous” is not a good thing when Republicans are afraid to go after the tough sales. To keep party momentum growing, Republicans and Conservatives need to translate their party principles into actions that benefit traditional Democrat constituencies. That’s not pandering; if Conservatives really believe their policies are best for the country as a whole, then they must be both able to demonstrate how and have the willingness to reach outside the tent and pull new constituencies in -- not wait for them to wander by on their own.