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I have seen the future, and it's Tony Blair

By Michael J. Smith on Wednesday March 29, 2006 10:29 PM

It's kind of an interesting speculative question: is the Democratic Party as bad, yet, as Tony Blair's New Labour? Or does it have a ways to go?

Either way, the New Labour example shows, I think, why it's vital to deprive the Democrats of their triumph this year -- and even more in '08. It's possible that the Rahm Emanuels, the Schumers, the Hillary Clintons, don't yet have complete and unquestioned control of the party -- a long shot, but possible. But if their dreams come true this fall, or in '08, Rahm and Chuck will be vindicated.

Blair's leverage, such as it is, derives from the fact that he brought the party back into power after the long drought of the Thatcher years. Give Rahm and Chuck a similar lever, and we'll be as badly off as the Brits are.

Can anyone doubt that the Brits are worse off now, with Blair in charge of Labour, than they were with Thatcher in Downing Street? Note that this is not the same as to say that Labour is "as bad as" the Tories, or that the Tories "would have done" exactly the same things.

The reason why the Brits are worse off now is simply that Labour is a frankly, avowedly, reactionary party -- its version of the Rahm and Chuck Show is in the driver's seat. Reaction owns both parties, lock, stock, and barrel, and neither party bothers to hide the fact -- indeed, they glory in it. Tories and Laborites have nothing to quarrel about except some stupid scandal now and again, and the result is an Iron Wall of bipartisan consensus, a political lockdown, a drastic shrinkage of political space.

Labour has been pretty pathetic for a long time -- like the Democrats. Like the Democrats, it was a poorly-organized, internally-divided, timorous and compromised operation. But the Keystone Kops are much preferable to a well-trained, highly disciplined, buff and nautilized Delta Force of right-wing throat-cutters.

If Rahm & co. succeed in November, and especially if they succeed two years from now, we'll see the complete triumph of Blairization within the Democratic Party. This will be great for the party and really, really bad for everybody else in the world.

A skeptic might ask why it matters -- the Democratic Party is such a useless, compromised, right-wing outfit that really, who cares whether it's openly Blairized or only Blairized behind the scenes? What difference does it make?

I think the answer runs along these lines: it's a good idea to deprive the enemy of a victory whenever you can, even if the tactical objective is not terribly important. Open, frank Blairization would be a victory for the really really bad people -- the Rahms and the Chucks and the people who pull their strings -- people who really couldn't care less about parties, but care a great deal about their wealth and power. If we can somehow deprive them of that victory, well , we should.

A victory for Rahm and Chuck and the other Blairizers in Novermber would be a net gain for what I can only call the forces of evil. The Blair strategy is, in essence, to say frankly that from henceforth there will be no opposition party; there will only be a competitor party, an alternative gang of right-wing thugs to call in whenever the other gang seems to be underperforming.

Whether the Democratic Party is already fully Blairized or not is an interesting question, but academic. The response of any decent person has to be the same, either way: A Blairized party must at all costs be rejected, and a party whose success would Blairize it must not succeed.

Comments (3)

Juan Kerr:

This analysis of the Blairite labour party is a bit simplistic. It's a mistake to assume that Blair has the same free hand on domestic issues as he has on foreign affairs. In the latter, of course, he has been a total disaster. However, on domestic issues, Blair's labour party has won the debate against the Tories on the question of tax cuts versus public investment. The party also has a very progressive position on many social issues, including child care, maternity and paternity leave, etc. THere is just no comparison with the pathetic Democrats here.


JK -- It seems reasonable that there might be a lag on the domestic front -- more pushback from the public. But would you disagree that Blair is heading, or trying to head, down the same path as our bipartisan consensus here?

Juan Kerr:

I would agree that Blair's 'third way' concept is inherently harmful to the European idea of social democracy. There can be no illusion that he is not a traditional labour politician. Nonetheless, that tradition still constrains him.
The Democrats are (as you rightly point out on this blog) just a bunch of corporate lackeys. I just don't believe this is by any stretch a fair description of the British labour party, even with Blair in charge.

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