The Corner

Semi-Apology

In the current print NR I’ve written presumably my last take on the Beinart “Fighting Party” essay. It’s more historically minded than the other stuff I wrote about it. But, even though no one has pointed this out, one could read it as a bit of a contradiction of my stem-winder against Kevin Drum from last month. In the G-File I’d criticized Drum for saying that Beinart should have first explained why liberalism should consider islamic totalitarianism an “existential threat.” The reason this annoyed me so was that Drum and others had been complaining for so long that the war in Iraq was a distraction from the war on terror and that “whistle blowers” like Richard Clarke were heroes, even though they criticized Bush from the hawkish right. If you don’t think terrorism is an existential threat why would you make such criticisms your own?

Well, in the current NR (reachable through NR Digital) I basically make the case that the Democrats are only capable of standing up to existential threats when the Democratic Party itself is facing an existential threat. Beinart wants the Democrats to emulate the Americans for Democratic Action from 1947. But, the problem with Beinart’s history is that the ADA was formed first and foremost not to fight Communists abroad, but to fight Communists in the Democratic Party. For the rest of its history, the Democratic Party and liberalism is general never purged the “softs” from the party or the movement. In that sense Drum is right. In order to make the case Beinart wants to make he does need to explain why Islamic totalitarians are a threat — a threat to the Democratic Party.

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