Friedman ponders ‘one-party democracy’

FRIEDMAN PONDERS ‘ONE-PARTY DEMOCRACY’…. I’d overlooked Thomas Friedman’s NYT column this morning, but after noticing how angry it made conservative bloggers, I figured I should probably take a look.

I’m glad I did. Friedman argues that China’s one-party autocracy, despite its “drawbacks,” has proven effective at making “politically difficult but critically important policies needed to move a society forward in the 21st century.” The American democracy, Friedman adds, is in a tougher position and is struggling with challenges, in part because “the Republican Party is standing, arms folded and saying ‘no.'”

Look at the climate/energy bill that came out of the House. Its sponsors had to work twice as hard to produce this breakthrough cap-and-trade legislation. Why? Because with basically no G.O.P. representatives willing to vote for any price on carbon that would stimulate investments in clean energy and energy efficiency, the sponsors had to rely entirely on Democrats — and that meant paying off coal-state and agriculture Democrats with pork. Thank goodness, it is still a bill worth passing. But it could have been much better — and can be in the Senate. Just give me 8 to 10 Republicans ready to impose some price on carbon, and they can be leveraged against Democrats who want to water down the bill.

“China is going to eat our lunch and take our jobs on clean energy — an industry that we largely invented — and they are going to do it with a managed economy we don’t have and don’t want,” said Joe Romm, who writes the blog, climateprogress.org.

The only way for us to match them is by legislating a rising carbon price along with efficiency and renewable standards that will stimulate massive private investment in clean-tech. Hard to do with a one-party democracy.

Truth is, Obama and Democrats are actually pursuing a fairly moderate course on energy policy. You’d think, given right-wing howls, that Dems were trying to force a carbon policy based on command-and-control directives. They’re not, choosing instead to use a market-based approach that’s worked in the past. And Republicans are still screaming bloody murder.

The same is true in the health care debate, where Dems aren’t pushing single-payer, but rather, a policy that Republicans should at least be able to tolerate, if they were even slightly intellectually serious about the issue. As Matt Miller told Friedman, “Just because Obama is on a path to give America the Romney health plan with McCain-style financing, does not mean the Republicans will embrace it — if it seems politically more attractive to scream ‘socialist.'”

The G.O.P. used to be the party of business. Well, to compete and win in a globalized world, no one needs the burden of health insurance shifted from business to government more than American business. No one needs immigration reform — so the world’s best brainpower can come here without restrictions — more than American business. No one needs a push for clean-tech — the world’s next great global manufacturing industry — more than American business. Yet the G.O.P. today resists national health care, immigration reform and wants to just drill, baby, drill.

To clarify, I don’t think Friedman is recommending Chinese one-party autocracy as a solution to U.S. policy challenges. I suspect he thinks a credible, serious U.S. opposition party could produce better policies, and help position the U.S. for the future.

Friedman, however, can’t seem to find a credible, serious U.S. opposition party. That’s because there isn’t one.