Thursday, June 22, 2006

In search of the intelligent left

Posted by Craig Westover | 8:53 AM |  

Bloggers on the left whose pixels puckered at Karl Rove’s comments about how the left and the right differ in the blogosphere and my lament at a lack of good liberal thinking might want to read David Brooks’ piece in today’s Pioneer Press.

After noting that “the blogs I have scanned are heavier on vituperation of President Bush and other targets than on creative thought” and that current Democrat leadership is “unimaginative,” Books offers some hope of more substantial policy ideas from the left and more internal debate.
A covey of relatively new Democratic think tanks in Washington are sponsoring conferences and lectures where more substantial policy ideas are being aired and debated. And this past week, two new publications appeared — one online and the other in print — that promise to push the thinking of the opposition party even further.
Brooks cites the online publication The Democratic Strategist as having a hopeful mission that is yet unfulfilled.
They declare that "The Democratic Strategist will be firmly and insistently based on facts and data. It will seek strategies rooted in empirical research from the fields of public opinion research, political demography and other social sciences and will avoid empty rhetoric and abstract theorizing."

Would that it were so. That kind of intellectual discipline is sorely needed in Democratic debates. But the first issue is filled with pieces in which familiar Democratic names take up familiar positions, with few of them bothering to adduce any evidence to support their views. . . .

As Galston [co-editor William] conceded in an interview, the editors and the readers will have to be more insistent that future authors live up to the promise of the reality-based publication.

The other new entry, called Democracy: A Journal of Ideas, is edited by 33-year-old Kenneth Baer and 30-year-old Andrei Cherny, both former speechwriters for Gore. Their first issue is really impressive.
Brooks cites a piece by Jason Furman of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, that sounds interesting. It focuses on the perverse distributional effects of tax deductions for employer-based health insurance. At present, they subsidize the well-to-do and short-change those struggling to afford health insurance.

Even a conservative can say “amen” to that premise. I haven’t read the article, but if the tone is that employer-based health insurance, rather than individual-based health insurance, is ineffective (not evil) then we’re on to something.

In any case, the search for intelligent liberal commentary is looking up.