Beinart’s Dagwood

Well, it’s official, and just about on time. At the Daily Beast, Peter Beinart has published the first full-scale prophecy of an imminent Struggle for the Soul of the Democratic Party, and what a big, sprawling dagwood of a column it is! It begins quite topically with Bill de Blasio’s fine showing in New York yesterday, then veers off at considerable length into German theories of generational change, then suddenly posits a take on asymetrical polarization based on the legacies of Reagan and Clinton, dashes through a mildly revisionist take on incipient revolts against Clintonism on the Left, treats Occupy as the central galvinizing event for progressive Millenials, and then concludes with a hedged prediction of an Elizabeth Warren challenge to Hillary Clinton in 2016.

As you will see if you read Beinart’s essay, the foregoing was a vast over-simplification of what he has to say, but at least no one can accuse him of a dashed-off or phoned-in analysis. I’m a bit surprised that someone with his background is so prone to buy the idea that Clintonism and Reaganism (and for that matter, Obamaism) are two sides of the same market-worshiping coin, ripe for a generational revolt; maybe he’s been sitting at Tom Frank’s feet.

I’ll save extended comment for tomorrow, in hopes that others will weigh into a debate that will be with us for many months. But since Beinart begins with de Blasio as the tribune of the Millennial Revolution on the left, I will observe that Dante’s dad actually did a bit better among old folks than among young folks in yesterday’s balloting. And since he mentions both the Washington Monthly and the New Republic (which he used to edit) as onetime journalistic bulwarks of the soon-to-be discarded Clintonism (and Obamism) that have now “moved left,” I would point out to him the not-exactly-distant-past March/April issue of WaMo devoted to praise of Obama as great president who continued Clinton’s legacy. My own basic view is that Clinton and Obama and virtually all center-left folk have “moved left” in response to conservative counter-revolutionary activity, the disastrous consequences of the Bush Era, and other manifestations of objective reality. As my resolutely New Demish friend Will Marshall observed nearly a decade ago, “we’re all populists now” thanks to W., who’s now being denounced as a RINO piker by most of his GOP successors.

So I don’t think partisan and ideological change on the Left is a simple matter of supercession of the Center by the Left, and the generational bend points are a bit complicated as well. But I appreciate Beinart taking the time and considerable ink to kick off a discussion that is both inevitable and healthy.

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Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.