Checklist Liberalism and Social Democracy

CHECKLIST LIBERALISM AND SOCIAL DEMOCRACY….Mark Schmitt hopes that the Lieberman-Lamont race spells the beginning of the end of “checklist liberalism”:

For the enviros, it?s ANWR (the most trivial of victories, but the one that raises the money). For the minorities, affirmative action. (Likewise, of minor relevance to the actual structure of economic opportunity for most African-Americans and Latinos.) For women, it?s all about ?preserve abortion rights.? There are a couple others, but those are the basic buttons you press to be credentialed as a good liberal Democrat. After you press them, you can do whatever you want.

Mark says that Lieberman has been pushing all the right buttons but he’s losing anyway. And that’s a good thing: “What if all of a sudden you couldn?t count on Democratic women just because you said that right things about choice ? what if they started to vote on the whole range of issues that affect women?s economic and personal opportunities?”

Henry Farrell offers a different, but complementary observation:

Where netroots bloggers are playing an unique role is changing the way that this is being framed in the national political debate. They?ve made the Lamont insurgency into an attack on the shibboleth of bipartisanism….The fact that guys like David Broder and Morton Kondracke view this as an attack on the tradition of cosy bipartisanship (and their source of authority in the punditocracy) isn?t an accidental outcome, nor is it something that would likely have happened if there hadn?t been blogs pushing this message (and getting read by reporters and editorialists) over a considerable period of time.

If both these guys are right (and only time will tell if they are), it basically suggests an explicit turn to a European parliamentary model of party governance without the formal structure of an actual parliamentary system. Democrats take on the role of a social democratic party with a broader agenda than just pleasing a small core of interest groups, but the flip side is that loyalty to that agenda is more-or-less absolute. The idea that you sometimes cross party lines to work with the opposition goes from being a sign of grace to being literally unthinkable.

Is this good or bad? I haven’t made up my mind. But we’re about 90% of the way there anyway, and it may be that the final 10% isn’t really that big a deal. And if Mark is right that a broader concern for social democratic policies is one outcome of this, it would be well worth it.

I’m not quite sure that will be the case, though. But I hope he’s right.