Third Way Responds

After my post Wednesday morning asking questions about Third Way, I actually received an email response from the group. I have placed the complete response in the extended entry. The most relevant part of the response dealt with what the term "third way" actually means, and what other two "ways" to which they are relatively "third." Prepare for a long post in the extended entry.
From Third Way:
Chris raises a series of fair questions about our name and our goals, and we appreciate the chance to answer them.

We named our organization Third Way because we believed that former President Bill Clinton, whose philosophy of governance he called a "third way," started a vital conversation about the future of the progressive movement that we wanted to help carry on.

The question, as Chris notes, is what is this "third way," and what does it mean today?

Well for starters, here's what it's not: for us - and for Clinton - the "third way" is not about "triangulation" between left and right, Democrats and Republicans. It's not a mushy center that merely splits the difference. There is no future in that kind of policy or politics, and the idea of "triangulation" was the spawn of one venal man - Dick Morris - who wasn't speaking for Clinton or his philosophical heirs.

While the meaning of the term "third way" has been used in many different contexts, in different eras and in different nations, here's what we mean: For us, the "first" and "second" ways we implicitly refer to in our name are not wings of the present-day progressive movement, but rather the historic approaches to progressivism. Thus, we are the "third way" in a series, not on a political spectrum.

As we see it, the "first way" of progressivism was reform, mostly through regulation. In response to a radically changing nation and the excesses of Gilded Age capitalism, Teddy Roosevelt and other reformers used government oversight to tame abuse and to turn America outward to face the world.

Next, in reaction to the Great Depression, dramatic waves of immigration and other demographic changes, FDR, Truman, Kennedy and Johnson forged a "second way" for progressives - a basic social safety net, woven by the social programs of the New Deal, the New Frontier and the Great Society. These leaders also built and maintained American global leadership.

Those two movements were stunningly successful - they helped forge American greatness, and modern progressives stand on the shoulders of those giants. But today, at the beginning of the 21st century, we believe that the progressive movement must commit itself to the search for a third way - a way that recognizes and responds to the tectonic shifts we've undergone in the last two decades; shifts such as economic globalization, the end of the bipolar world, the rise of stateless terrorism, and the rapid advances in the flow of information that are transforming our economy and buffeting American families.

Such a "third way" must be grounded in core progressive values that balance freedom, opportunity and security. But whether we're designing big thematic ideas, specific policies, messaging or political strategy, we believe that such thinking must not be beholden to the orthodoxies of an earlier era. Indeed, we believe this kind of re-thinking is an imperative both to govern effectively and remain politically relevant.
<Br. This is in the long tradition of progressive thought. The first and second ways for progressives were not about the rigid application of an ideology. Rather, they were built in the spirit of experimentation, pragmatism and reform. We see this next era requiring that same spirit, and we welcome a serious and sustained dialogue with many other progressives about the future of this movement and the ideas that animate it.<Br>
Finally, Chris suggests that we do not share his values and that we "disagree on everything." We don't. In fact, if you read our work, we think you'll find that we actually agree on many things. We hope that readers will check it out and judge for themselves.

And double finally, we appreciate the comments from New Donkey on this issue. While that posting makes many of these points, we thought we should speak for ourselves.
Over at New Donkey, Ed Kilgore adds some more comments:
First of all, the term "Third Way," used most often in the U.S. and in the U.K. to describe the New Democrat movement associated with Bill Clinton, and the New Labour movement associated with Tony Blair, referred not to some middle-point between Left and Right, but to a modernizing and self-consciously progressive effort to create a new Left capable of competing with the New Right of the U.S. conservative movement and of the British neo-liberal ascendancy of the early 1990s. In the U.S., the Third Way was aimed at transcending not the Left per se, but the paleo-liberals of the Democratic establishment of the 1970s and 1980s, who were temperamentally reactionary in that their sole purpose in political life seemed to be the preservation of every legislative and bureaucratic detail of the New Deal/Great Society accomplishment of the distant past, regardless of changing times or perverse outcomes.

What really started the "Third Way" movement in the U.S., and led immediately to the creation of the DLC, was Gary Hart's 1984 presidential campaign, which was a direct challenge to "the groups," the vast coalition of single-issue advocacy organizations united behind the candidacy of Walter Mondale. "The groups" were focused almost exclusively on taking the party and the country back to the pre-Reagan 1970s; the proto-Third Wayers thought that progressives needed to stand for something, well, progressive, even if the media insisted on calling any alternative to the prevailing Democratic orthodoxy "moderate" or "centrist" or "neoliberal" or even "conservative" (and yes, some advocates of the alternative went by each of these monnikers, along with just plain "liberal"). Mondale's disastrous general election defeat gave the new movement a lot of momentum.

In 1988, Dukakis basically straddled the lines of division in the Democratic Party, but did, it is sometimes forgotten, perform a lot better than Mondale. And in 1992, Clinton campaigned from beginning to end as a "different kind of Democrat," without notably sacrificing any basic progressive principles or for that matter, progressive support.
I find a couple of things interesting in these responses. First, the term is used in a historical context, not in an ideological spectrum context. I can accept that, and I like the corresponding rejection of "mushy middle" and "triangulation" politics it seems to imply. One serious question I have about that, however, is the use of the term and the meaning it carries in the vernacular. For example, feminism, which is also based on a series of historical progressions, refers to "waves" rather than "ways" in making this distinction clear in the vernacular. "Third wave feminism" seems to make the historical connection, and modern transformation, to past feminisms much more clear that "Third Way" does in its connection to past progressivism and claims of modern transformation. As an academic who moved into the political realm, I often found difficulty translating the way terms such as "materialism,""idealism," and "liberalism" were used in an academic setting and the way they were used in the common tongue of American political discourse (they tend to mean very, very different things). "Third Way" might want to consider how their name at least implies to most people that they are triangulating and targeting some sort of mushy middle, even if that isn't the meaning they intend when they use the term.

Further, leaving specific policies aside for a moment, I think it is fairly safe to say that no matter what the more academic purveyors of terms like "New Democrats" and "Third Way" have intended, those terms have frequently been used as a means to self-identify as moderate. When one considers, for example, the list of Democrats in the Congressional Progressive Caucus versus the list of Democrats in the House New Democratic Coalition, the latter list clearly has many more self-proclaimed "moderates" and "conservatives" than the former. Considering that these two caucuses basically don't do much of anything, and are primarily a means of self-identification for the members who join them, it seems hard to avoid the implication that terms like "New Democrat" and "Third Way" are in fact being used as a means to identify someone as centrist.

Yet further, when one considers that the voting gap between the Blue Dogs and the New Democrats, has, in recent years, been virtually identical to the gap between the New Democrats and the Progressives, it kind of does seem like a "third way" that threads the needle between two ideological ends in the Democratic Party. The established media often reports on New Democrats in precisely this fashion, and are spurred on by quotes from New Democrats like:
"As a group, they are moderate in temperament and reformers in spirit," Emanuel said.
And, in the same article:
"I think there's tremendous agreement and awareness that getting the majority and running over the left cliff is what our Republican opponents would dearly love," Tauscher said, "And that is a compunction that we've got to fight."
. I applaud the rejection of triangulation and the mushy-middle in Third Way's response, as well as their clarification that they use the term in a historic context rather than in terms of a contemporary ideological spectrum. However, at the same time, it seems irrefutable to me that terms like "Third Way" and "New Democrat" have been regularly and repeatedly used both by many Democrats as a means of self-identifying as moderate / differentiating from the party's left-wing, and also by the many in the established media as a means to triangulate against anything left-wing in America. It is in this sense that I don't think the name change I suggested above is in anyway a small point. The common, vernacular, usage of terms such as "New Democrat" and "Third Way" in American political discourse has a history of being extremely damaging to, and thus toxic within, American progressive / liberal / left circles.

Second, I think there are issues to be raised as to what degree the so-called "Third Way" was, in fact, an attempt to thread a moderate needle between various incarnations of right-wing and left-wing ideologies. Certainly, in his first two years of office, President Clinton enacted generally progressive tax legislation, and also attempted to pass universal health care in America. Those two initiatives are probably two of the most progressive things attempted by a President in decades. However, he also forced through NAFTA, which I don't think can be considered generally "progressive" in outlook. NAFTA was, after all, negotiated by Bush the First, and from the get-go was extremely lassiez-faire, pro-corporation in its economic implications.

Perhaps the issue I am trying to express here is better formulated as a question. Over the last two years, to what extent has the closer alignment between the policy proposals of groups like Third Way with what would be vernacularly understood to be American progressivism the result of current, extreme unpopularity of conservative policy? Those in Third Way now identify opposition to the Iraq War as a key to Democratic victory in 2006, for example. However, four years ago, many of those same people were castigating the progressive wing of the Democratic Party for its opposition to the war. To what extent is this policy and messaging shift simply because the national mood has changed, and does it represent something, well, rather "mushy" about Third Way and New Democrats? Is their definition of a new, third way of progressivism based more on whichever way the wind is blowing more than anything else, including "core progressive values?" Looking at the governing values set forth during a major roundtable discussion on "Third Way" progressivism back in 1999, they seem vague enough for this to be a distinct possibility:
"On Sunday, April 25, 1999, the President Clinton and the DLC hosted a historic roundtable discussion, The Third Way: Progressive Governance for the 21st Century, with five world leaders including British PM Tony Blair, German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, Dutch PM Wim Kok, and Italian PM Massimo D'Alema, the First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton and DLC President Al From. [5]

"The Third Way philosophy seeks to adapt enduring progressive values to the new challenges of he information age. It rests on three cornerstones: [6]
  • the idea that government should promote equal opportunity for all while granting special privilege for none;

  • an ethic of mutual responsibility that equally rejects the politics of entitlement and the politics of social abandonment; and,

  • a new approach to governing that empowers citizens to act for themselves.
"The Third Way approach to economic opportunity and security stresses technological innovation, competitive enterprise, and education rather than top- down redistribution or laissez faire. On questions of values, it embraces 'tolerant traditionalism,' honoring traditional moral and family values while resisting attempts to impose them on others. It favors an enabling rather than a bureaucratic government, expanding choices for citizens, using market means to achieve public ends and encouraging civic and community institutions to play a larger role in public life. The Third Way works to build inclusive, multiethnic societies based on common allegiance to democratic values.
That seems to border on astrological forecast vagueness to me. It seems like it could change in an instant, just as more and more Democrats are suddenly against deals like NAFTA after the economic boom of the 1990's faded. Whereas Bill Clinton pushed NAFTA through despite majority Democratic opposition, in the Senate his wife now votes against deals like CAFTA. To what extent is this change the result simply of changing public attitude on trade?

This post is already fairly long, so I will simply conclude by saying that while I am heartened by the comments I received from Third Way and New Donkey, there are still reasons to think that terms like "Third Way" and "New Democrat" are both a type of "mushy middle" and a means of differentiating oneself along the contemporary American ideological spectrum. If we can agree, at least in an academic sense, on the need to reject triangulation and meaningless equidistance between conservatives and progressives, then at least that is a start. Further, if we agree on the need for things like universal health care, and a need to oppose the war in Iraq, then we certainly have uses for each other besides simply being allies in an electoral coalition. However, my skepticism is not going to go away in a matter of months, or even a few years. I grew into political maturity watching New Democrats take over the party, and listening to comments from the leadership that often seemed to come at the expense of left-wing progressives such as myself. In just the last three weeks, I have seen Democrats waver on lobbying reform, conduct secret trade negotiations, and temporarily capitulate on Iraq. What I saw during the 1990's, what I saw during the drumbeat to war in Iraq, and what I saw over the last two weeks all seem inextricably connected to me, and one of the ways in which they are connected is through terms like "Third Way" and "New Democrats." Perhaps there will come a time when my inherent lack of trust and skepticism are lessened, but that won't be tomorrow, and it won't be before 2008.

Tags: Democrats, Ideology, Third Way (all tags)

Comments

30 Comments

Re: Third Way Responds

Here is my question to these folks.  In what way are you advocating progressive ideals?  Chris rightly points out that much of the work and language we have seen is about moderation.

There is a real conflict with your claim that you are basing your name on something Clinton said and claiming that you mean progressive.  Clinton was a moderate Democrat and governed accordingly.

Additionally, wasn't Clinton's third way about how the two parties related to each other and not solely about the Democrats.  

by juls 2007-05-25 11:05AM | 0 recs
Re: Third Way Responds

Chris, I'm with you on this one.  

In fact, you are being more than fair.  Reading the response above really turned me off.  To me, it was as if you had a neo-con trying to pass themselves off as a Democrat.

What they are pushing is "compassionate conservatism" for non-Republicans.

As for "tolerant traditionalism" I have this to say: isn't it nice they will "tolerate" the rest of us.  What condescending BS!  What they are saying is that they don't agree with our values, but they won't send us to Gitmo over them -- how nice.

by PageUp 2007-05-25 11:14AM | 0 recs
Re: Third Way Responds

There are a few words in the last quote that, read carefully, are not "astrologically vague":

>> equally rejects the politics of entitlement and the politics of social abandonment

In other words, the "third way" here is rejecting the idea of universal social programs in favor of means testing.  This is consistent with the history they give - especially the identification with Gary Hart's 1984 campaign.

In my opinion, this approach is disastrous both politically and as a matter of principle.  There are of course arguments to be made on the other side.  I would like to see these arguments made explicitly.  Does the Third Way support means-testing social security and medicare?  Does the Third Way prefer means-tested health insurance over uniform universal coverage?

by BRoss 2007-05-25 11:24AM | 0 recs
Re: Third Way Responds

Listen...say whatever you want about Third Way but don't cite Gary Hart...I don't think I ever heard the term "universal means testing" in that campaign.  It was 23 years ago anyway.

by howardpark 2007-05-25 06:00PM | 0 recs
Re: Third Way Responds

I'm not the one who brought up Gary Hart, it was in the Ed Kilgore quote in the original post:

>> What really started the "Third Way" movement in the U.S., and led immediately to the creation of the DLC, was Gary Hart's 1984 presidential campaign, which was a direct challenge to "the groups," the vast coalition of single-issue advocacy organizations united behind the candidacy of Walter Mondale.

Notice the game Kilgore is playing here: the labor movement is being dismissed as just another a single-issue advocacy organization.  

Hostility to the labor movement is a key element of the "New Democrat" and "Third Way" attitudes.  They talk about problem-solving by means other than bureaucratic government programs.  But they won't advocate for labor law reform.  Strengthening unions is certainly a means of equalizing wealth and power without new government programs.

by BRoss 2007-05-26 08:03AM | 0 recs
Re: Third Way Responds

"It favors an enabling rather than a bureaucratic government, expanding choices for citizens, using market means to achieve public ends"

This part gets me - it's a not-so-subtle way of saying "government is bad at stuff, so let's privatize everything".

by LandStander 2007-05-25 11:35AM | 0 recs
You beat me to it!

"Using market means to achieve public ends" is code, and it stands for a reactionary, reflexive belief that market forces (and more specifically, market forces as defined by neo-liberalism) are the first, last, and only solution to be promoted through public policy. Notice there is no distinction between policies that are market-oriented, and those that are merely market-friendly.

What we need now is not the The End of History, nor a Third Way, but The End of Dogma, ie: the twentieth century has given us a wide range of analytical tools and policy prescriptions for our toolkit, from market fundamentalism to Keynesian to neo-liberalism to various degrees of state planning & regulation. All of these ideas had some measure of success, and all of them had some measure of failure (what's never commented on is how some of the leading market-based ideas of the past decade have run into significant trouble (think: free enterprise zones; Argentina; carbon share exchanges)). We need a large toolkit from which to make measured, prudent policy decisions that will implement a broad-based progressive philosophy.

What stands out to me most in the post above is, and I sincerely don't mean to be rude here, just how outdated the Third Way view of the world is, and as a result, how outdated their policy prescriptions are.

These people came of age in the 70s, after the implosion of (a very libertarian, culturally obsessed) New Left and the beginning of a period of profound estrangment in American society. The war and a whole host of cultural issues rent the fabric of America, and on a political level that meant the the majority party Dems were rent as well. The band of disparate special interest groups in 1984 that the author refers to was a sign of the larger fragmentation and balkanization in society, as well as a reflection of the lack of strong leadership in the Dem party throughout the 70s and 80s. And the fact that these "paleo-liberals" were fighting change tooth and nail is because the broader values of Dems and progressives was facing the most ferocious, sustained attack since at least the 20s.

I also find it curious that they chart their own worldview, not to broad themes of change in society, but to the political machinations of a couple of election cycles 20 years ago.

So what you are left with is a group of Third Way "disciples" who have taken a snapshot (of the breakdown of the party machinery) of the 80s, and tried to create out of it a political philosophy. Maybe that's why it appears to be "mush", and maybe that's why they always appear to lose every battle, except with their own party's base. There is no policy rubric, just the sensibilities of a generation of Dem politicians, based on experiences from two decades ago. Its not philosophy; its sociology.

And if you want evidence of just how poorly grounded these people are, remember that Blair, one of their leading lights, started his ministerial career in 1997 by championing social democracy, and towards the end in 05-06, he actually had one of his sons clerking for Tom DeLay.

Between today's progressive populists and the Third Way types, who should really be called "paleo"?

by Zach in Phoenix 2007-05-25 01:11PM | 0 recs
Re: You beat me to it!

I very much like your point about the "large toolkit". Dogmatic policies didn't work for the old left (FDR style) and it sure isn't working for the new right (Reagan and so on). Time we wised up and started picking and choosing those policies that actually work.

As for the "leading market-based ideas", which to me means neoliberalism, I think its flaws have been proven and people have taken this to heart. Movement in that direction has slowed since the early Aughts, and I hope to see some drastic reversal/reform from the next president. I think the stage is set for that - as we can see from the utter failure of recent trade negotiations, the clear refusal of many developing countries to continue `playing along', the shifting ideology of the electorates of those developing countries, and the rise of new economic powers and regional economic groupings. Call me an optimist, but the `old' model of globalization is dying and a new one is needed to take its place.

by LandStander 2007-05-25 03:46PM | 0 recs
Single issue groups

What exactly did these people do wrong?

There are complaints that the Democratic Party somehow sold out when it allowed Single Issue groups to have a seat at the table. But this is to ignore the history involved. The Civil Rights movement, Environmentalism, the anti-war movement, women's liberation, gay liberation all started out as marginalized movements that had to shout to be recognized. Which is to say pretty much like MyDD at the height of Bushism.

When you get right down to the heart of the language of "San Francisco democrats" "NASCAR Dads" "Soccer moms" "Third Way" "Faith voters" you realize that a lot of this is about making the Democratic Party comfortable for straight whites again. Well sorry the lazy days of automatic privilege are over.

The Civil Rights movement and environmentalism both were initially dismissed as being communist inspired and fundamentally anti-American. Both required some stridant language and action and certainly had the effect of alienating centrists, which is to say kind of like modern progressives bashing the DLC.

Too many people still have accepted the frame that the Democratic Party was fundamentally harmed by its embrace of Choice and Environmentalism and Gay Rights and Womens Rights when really what was going on was the exile of misogynistic racists. Sure it led to some electoral losses. So what, it put the Democratic Party on the right side of history.

A lot of this in my opinion is a disconnect between Boomers and Gen X that causes the latter to discount the major accomplishments of the former. People in their thirties look at each other in bewilderment, obviously no one in their right mind would pour industrial and human waste in rivers. Well they did and when we pushed back we were dismissed as anti-market, anti-American nutters out to bankrupt the country. Which is to say pretty much the same way the anti-Bush progressive movement was dismissed.

Many things that are now mainstream were fringe thirty years ago. The modern progressive movement is standing on the shoulders of giants. Dirty Fucking Hippie Giants. And yes it tends to spook people sitting in the comfortable center, they have to be brought along to the idea that being Green doesn't mean to wave the Red Flag, that opposing a war-time President isn't treason.

So this I think is a profound misreading and certainly mistiming of history.

"The band of disparate special interest groups in 1984 that the author refers to was a sign of the larger fragmentation and balkanization in society, as well as a reflection of the lack of strong leadership in the Dem party throughout the 70s and 80s."

It wasn't fragmentation and balkanization, it just felt that way to white males of privilege who were being displaced during the realignment. We had strong leaders in the 70's and 80's, they just increasingly were not white guys with Southern accents.

by Bruce Webb 2007-05-26 06:32AM | 0 recs
Re: Third Way Responds

And their frequent claims to be non-ideological look more and more ridiculous every time it turns out that privatisation is actually less efficient than government control. Take the example of Connex, which owned a rail franchise in southeast England and did so poorly it had to be bought out by the government. Under what was effectively renationalisation for the line, it was ranked as the best-run in the country. So what happened next? They sold it off to another train company, which is doing only slightly better than Connex was.

by Englishlefty 2007-05-26 04:40AM | 0 recs
Re: Third Way Responds

The Third Way's disclaimers to the contrary, from my perspective Clinton was all about triangulation. Co-founding the DLC, DOMA, the Sister Souljah incident, don't ask don't tell, or so-called welfare reform come to mind right away, in addition to NAFTA and other things Chris mentions; I mean, Clinton was president, not Dick Morris, and he didn't have to use that a strategy or language and he did.

Some of those orthodoxies of the 1970s look pretty good to me right now (in no particular order, and leaving out many as I'm simply free associating here):

  1. All the liberation movements (women's, gay, black, etc.)
  2. Freedom of choice
  3. Affirmative action
  4. Ending a war
  5. Antimilitarism
  6. Equal opportunity under the law
  7. Environmentalism

Yes, the world is different now, but I would argue that in many ways it's very much the same, with the same problems only worse now than then, in part because of the antiprogressive language and actions of third way, triangulating (which of course means a third way) moderates who far too often co-opt the language and frames of the right in order to marginalize and/or demonize the left.

by Aunt Martha 2007-05-25 11:43AM | 0 recs
Re: Third Way Responds

just to pick on one point, i hope that if we get the opportunity to implement true progressive policies like the ones you list over the next decade, that we'll find a better way to address racial inequality other than affirmative action.  starting with education.  but also harder to legislate things like discourse.  

but i don't want to get in a debate about the merits of affirmative action - just saying that it doesn't do much to address the underlying problems.

by corn dog 2007-05-25 01:49PM | 0 recs
Re: Third Way Responds

Two bad Atrios already gave out the Wanker of the Day award...

by Bob Brigham 2007-05-25 11:53AM | 0 recs
Re: Third Way Responds

In fairness, I think Klein really earned it today.  I am sure there are plenty of times left where the DLC crowd will earn wanker of the day

by Calvin Jones and the 13th Apostle 2007-05-25 12:01PM | 0 recs
Re: Third Way Responds

I'm torn, yet agree.

by Bob Brigham 2007-05-25 12:06PM | 0 recs
Re: Third Way Responds

Another meaningless debate on slogans.

by sashacohen 2007-05-25 12:17PM | 0 recs
Re: Third Way Responds

How many ways are there to say Corporate Whore without actually using such crass language? Would Political Bisexuality be appropriate? Political Botox? Silicon Politics? Political Pasties? Missionary Position Platforms? I'm stumped.

by Retired Catholic 2007-05-25 12:36PM | 0 recs
Re: Third Way Responds

These explanations seemed weird to me.  For instance, unless they've got a poor understanding of the English language, "Way" isn't how you describe what they're saying it describes.  As Chris notes with his comparison to feminism waves.

So reading between the lines is a little necessary.  The Third Way email points to Ed Kilgore's piece as another way of saying the same thing they're saying.

Here's what he said:

In the U.S., the Third Way was aimed at transcending not the Left per se, but the paleo-liberals of the Democratic establishment of the 1970s and 1980s, who were temperamentally reactionary in that their sole purpose in political life seemed to be the preservation of every legislative and bureaucratic detail of the New Deal/Great Society accomplishment of the distant past, regardless of changing times or perverse outcomes.

Translated:  Privatize Social Security.

That's not in any way shape or form a progressive policy.  It's a clever way of saying that they're the ideological heirs to the New Dealers when in fact they're the ideological heirs to the anti-New Dealers.  They may say, "Hey, we're just being pragmatic."  Maybe, but it's a very naive pragmatism since no sentient political observer actually believes that privatizing Social Security is anything but a step towards dismantling it.  And eventually other social safety net programs.

by corn dog 2007-05-25 01:31PM | 0 recs
The Fightin' Orthodoxies. Worst.Team. Ever.

It's just plain ridiculous to devote yourself to fighting 'orthodoxies'.

In baseball it's an orthodox belief that making an out while at bat is a bad idea. This was true in 1887, 1957, and 2007. You can devise new strategies but if your strategies discount the orthodox belief that making an out is bad on offense than your new strategies are going to suck.

Similarly the 'Third Way' crowd was the least reliable opponent in the recent Save Social Security battle. Why is fighting the 'orthodoxy' of Social Security an innate good for the Third Way? It has the lowest administration costs of any government program, it's universal, and it's hugely popular. Why is the Third Way crowd so massively arrogant as to think they can IMPROVE on that record? And why is somehow getting Wall Street involved with a social insurance program a good idea to the Third Way?

The new paradigm of globalization exists in part because the Third Way CHOOSE globalization as a path. Third Way acolytes simultaneously say a new way is necessary while actively working to kill the old way. To quote management expert Peter Drucker, 'Nothing is less productive than to make more efficient that which should not be done at all'. Third Way is all about improving labor conditions with China through trade when the very act of trading with China, trading goods made with child and sometimes slave labor in awful condition SHOULD NOT BE DONE AT ALL. The act of trading with China DESTROYS hard won labor conditions in the US, ground fought and won by the  first and second way.

It's orthodox to think food safety regulation...eh...helps with food safety. The 'less feces and poison in my food the better' is pretty damn orthodox. So why monkey with the idea of having a strong presence of food inspectors and I dare say REGULATION. Community policing seems to be a popular idea with the Third Way. Why is the same concept when applied to food safety or workplace safety in need of reform? Nothing says safe food to me more than a guy on my payroll in a  food plant saying 'You get shit in the spinach and we're closing your ass down'. That's a concept that is 100 years old. If it ain't broke, don't fix it. Regulation well applied is good, not bad.

These Third Way government types all think that computers and technology and new ways solve problems. Well...garbage in, garbage out. There are real economies that can be found through technology but there are also many dead ends. I see the Third Way as nothign more than a cult of the new.

I like my old-time Democratic values. I want to go to battle with them in the political forum. At a time when Republicans are going to battle by refuting evolution and advocating a return to the patriarching I feel positively cutting edge with my Upton Sinclair/FDR/Harry Truman orthodoxies.

And the big lie in Third Way thinking was Bill Clinton's faith-based initiatives. Nothing and I mean nothing is more orthodox than religion. So the Third Way thought giving government funds to religious groups to provide social services was "fighting orthodoxies" how? Why does Third Way (and Bill Clinton) think that all of the programs they invent will be applied by responsible wonks? It's a fundamental misreading of human nature and politics. The Faith-based initiatives began under Bill Clinton have turned into a giant nightmare all because Third Way was so busy making a fetish of fighting orthodoxy that they didn't realize funding the church with tax dollars was the oldest orthodoxy of all. And before you accuse me of being anti-religion the origins of American separation of Church and State come from Roger Williams - who wanted more to protect the church from the secular concerns of the state, than to protect the state from the religious concerns of the state. Faith-based initiatives damage churchs, they don't help them. Ask Roger Williams.

As for the moderate in temperment Third Way I'll quote me some othodox Augustine. "Hope has two beautiful daughters: anger and courage. Anger at the way things are, and courage to struggle to create things as they should be."

I don't see much anger in the Third Way and I don't see much courage. And that doesn't give me much hope that the Third Way is a positive force in our politics.

by joejoejoe 2007-05-25 01:44PM | 0 recs
Re: The Fightin' Orthodoxies. Worst.Team. Ever.

sure, off topic, but making an out while at bat is frequently a good idea.  and that's fully part of baseball orthodoxy.  it's even got a name: sacrifice.

by corn dog 2007-05-25 01:51PM | 0 recs
Sacrifice

A sacrifice is never as good an idea as a hit.

by joejoejoe 2007-05-25 02:04PM | 0 recs
Re: Sacrifice

if you could predict when a batter would get a hit, then sure.  but if you're in a tight game, late innings with a runner on first and no outs (or one out), going for the hit would be a terrible idea because you'd risk hitting into a double play.  or if you had no or one outs, late, tight game, runner on third, trying to get a hit would be downright criminal.

by corn dog 2007-05-25 04:09PM | 0 recs
Outs are precious

Giving up an out for the uncertain prospect of a sacrifice is rarely a good strategy. A successful sacrifice may be a successful strategy but a there are dozens of ways to achieve the same result without intentionally giving away the most precious resource you have - your outs, your life. A sacrifice bunt popped up for an out is just about the saddest thing in baseball, let alone politics. The Third Way is eager to sacrifice the efforts gained by hard fought efforts of the first and second way for the theoretical benefit of their untested new strategies. That's a radical proposition, not moderation.

by joejoejoe 2007-05-25 05:36PM | 0 recs
Re: The Fightin' Orthodoxies. Worst.Team. Ever.

Here's 4 paragraphs from Will Marshall from a piece titled 'The Third Way after Clinton' from 5/10/01 that pretty much makes every point I made above.

"Trade poses a particularly knotty problem for Democrats. President Bush is expected to ask Congress for authority to negotiate a Free Trade Agreement for the Americas (FTAA). While Bush would merely continue his predecessor's policy, Democrats remain deeply divided on trade. Organized labor, a potent Democratic constituency, fought Clinton's key trade initiatives which as a result seldom received a majority of his own party's votes. New Democrats, while resolutely pro-trade under Clinton, will come under fierce pressure to maintain party unity in opposition to a Republican President's request. But such "solidarity" would carry a stiff price: Democrats would be indelibly stamped as the party of economic reaction and protectionism, wiping out a decade of progress toward refurbishing their image as the party of prosperity. Scuttling FTAA might also be taken as a slight by America's Latino voters, a fast-growing constituency the party cannot afford to ignore.

This pattern may be repeated on other issues. Many New Democrats, notably Lieberman, agree with the premise of Bush's initiative to forge a closer partnership between government and faith-based organizations in tackling the nation's social problems. The initiative, however, draws reflexive opposition from the militant secularists of the left, who see it as a plot by the religious right to breach the separation of church and state.

But the biggest test for Democrats is likely to come over Social Security and Medicare. Both programs already face massive unfunded liabilities and risk being swamped by the demographic tsunami that will hit when the baby boomers, 77 million strong, begin retiring about a decade from now. Traditional Democrats, however, view these programs as the holy of holies and resist fundamental changes in how they are funded or the benefits they will pay out in the future. This has ceded the reform initiative to Bush, who wants to allow workers to divert part of their Social Security taxes into personal savings accounts invested in stocks and bonds. While many Democrats reflexively denounce this "privatization" scheme as a plot to take the "security" out of America's biggest social insurance program, the idea has proved popular with the public, especially younger workers.

Democrats should be wary of the trap Bush has set for them. If they merely decry his proposal as a right-wing bid to "ruin" Social Security, they will appear to large swathes of the public as obdurate defenders of the status quo at a time when the public broadly recognizes the need for a modernizing the system. This is why the party needs New Democrats -- to fashion a progressive alternative to Bush's proposal that would not only encourage personal savings and wealth creation, but also restructure Social Security to strengthen its vital achievement of reducing poverty in old age and to constrain its currently unsustainable growth rates which threaten to squeeze out other progressive priorities."

http://www.ppionline.org/ppi_ci.cfm?knlg AreaID=128&subsecID=187&contentI D=3361

Note - I don't mean to imply Third Wayers are for shit on spinach. I was making a point about regulation above. My apologies to the chefs at the Third Way.

by joejoejoe 2007-05-25 02:02PM | 0 recs
Re: Third Way Responds

Third Way has more to do with Ross Perot than Gary Hart -- and I worked for Americans With Hart (I was the Wisconsin Director).  Kilgore's response, and I respect him, sort of seems to be in a time-warp.  Things have changed since 1999.  Things have changed a lot since 2001.  Let's turn the page...

by howardpark 2007-05-25 05:57PM | 0 recs
Your first instinct was right Chris..

You shouldn't have even bothered engaging these clowns.  Just reading that rambling, rationalizing PR screed they sent you sapped me of all my energy.  "Third Way" is nothing but a euphemism for the slow killing of the progressive movement from within.

by jeffuppy 2007-05-25 06:07PM | 0 recs
Re: Third Way Responds

It's interesting to look at them as more of a psychological or personal empowerment movement for folks who have socially progressive instincts but find themselves comfortable and active in the business class and its general worldview.

In the early 80's Reagan's movement made it safe and fun to be a businessman, an entrepeneur.
Many who had never tried it before suddenly did, and purely at the level of a life adventure, it became a new way to have experience, to have a life.

So these movements rose up as a way of capturing what it would mean to continue to be somehow progressive, for someone now living in that new suit of clothes.

Not entirely unlike asking now what it means to be a Dem or progressive, when one has 'come of age' online and super-empowered as a netizen.
Maybe the netroots should re-christen itself 'the fourth wave'.

The problem is that even though there are more and more green businesses, social entrepeneurs and other things, and various think tanks have been set up, the progressive business class, so to speak, has not become a dominant institution.
All the main media organs of the business world seem suited up with talking points, platitudes and attitudes crafted during various phases of right-wing ascendancy.

It's cool to be successful and green, but this hasn't translated into it being cool for the newspapers and magazines and talk shows of business being self-consciously, unabashedly progressive.

If the third way could really take over that space or a chunk of it, then they would be viewed by progressives in general as great pioneers.

But they seem a bit ambivalent about their place in history.
They like having successfully found a place in the business world, and like coming up with, yes, spectrum-splitting political ideas, but they don't seem passionate about dominating the consciousness of the business world, setting the talking points of that world.
They seem more interested in talking in a business frame to the resistant progressives, than in talking in a progressive frame to the resistant right-oriented business class.
Seems like this is psychological, they want to be businessmen who do progressive things, rather than being progressives who do business.

What the right has set out to do and done very effectively is defining and dominating the discourse of the business world.
The voice of the left in the business world still sounds like an excuse or explanation or after thought in that space, while the voice of the right sounds like a proclamation or declaration of the givens of that world.

Progressive activities in the business world have thus remained a sideshow, and while awesome they are going on and growing, still have nowhere near the vibrance that would be needed to wield real power and thus no match politically for determined hard-right folks.
The third way still has its future cut out for it, still defining their place in history.

by jimpol 2007-05-25 07:23PM | 0 recs
Re: Third Way Responds

The DLC was founded as, and remains, a conduit for corporate bribery to Democrats.

And would they ever give response space on their website to any person or organization with whom they had disagreed with (or more likely attacked)? No way.

by Kobi 2007-05-25 10:12PM | 0 recs
Deeply suspicious of this language

On questions of values, it embraces 'tolerant traditionalism,' honoring traditional moral and family values while resisting attempts to impose them on others.

I recoiled at the use of the term "tolerant traditionalism" in reference to support for religious practice. The subordinate phrase (honoring...) spins away from the implications of the language, but one of the most important advances in the Western democratic tradition came when James Madison made it his personal mission at the Virginia convention to excise the word "tolerate" from the first amendment to better establish freedom of religion.

Although it is not clear that the members of the Virginia convention knew that they were doing it, they had, by Madison's amendment, removed freedom of religion from the purview of what lawyers today call "legislative grace"--with the implicit assumption that waht is thus given can be withdrawn by the power that grants it--by making the fundamental philosophical claim that freedom of "conscience," or belief, is not a matter of toleration, forbearance, or gift, but rather what the Declaration of Independence, issued a little over a month later in Philadelphia, would call an inalienable right, equally possessed by all. That was new.+

I know this is a subtle point, but religious chauvinism is a force in American politics right now, and I am suspicious that "tolerant traditionalism" is a coded hat tip to it.

+From The First Liberty by William Lee Miller

by johnalive 2007-05-26 06:38AM | 0 recs
Re: Third Way Responds

Call them Libertarians.  Call them Republicans.  Mostly what I hear is another way to try to drag the country even further to the right.  At least, that's pretty much where we would end up if we followed their guidelines.  

Thumbs down.  

by zippetydoodah 2007-05-26 08:39AM | 0 recs

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