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Changing Of the Guard
by: Chris Bowers
Thu May 08, 2008 at 15:15

Just like Mike earlier today, I would also like to compliment Matt on his outstanding Obama's Consolidation of the Party article last night. Unlike the previous two Democratic presidential nominees, Al Gore and John Kerry, Obama has not only won the nomination campaign, but he has actually built a huge infrastructure within the party. The Obama infrastructure is enormous, and is the first intra-party movement to have surpassed the infrastructure built up by the Clintons over the past two decades.

The Dean movement from five years ago was the first major threat to the Clinton power base in the party, but only the Obama movement actually surpassed it. This build-up was a necessary move on Obama's party, since otherwise it would have been impossible to defeat Clinton in a grueling, virtually 50-state campaign.

So, unless Obama somewhat surprisingly does not become the next President of the United States, the Democratic Party will experience its first changing of the guard since the late 1980's. What differences will be in store? Here are the three major changes I expect:

Cultural Shift: Out with Bubbas, up with Creatives:

There should be a major cultural shift in the party, where the southern Dems and Liebercrat elite will be largely replaced by rising creative class types.

Obama has all the markers of a creative class background, from his community organizing, to his Unitarianism, to being an academic, to living in Hyde Park to shopping at Whole Foods and drinking PBR.

These will be the type of people running the Democratic Party now, and it will be a big cultural shift from the white working class focus of earlier decades.

Given the demographics of the blogosphere, in all likelihood, this is a socioeconomic and cultural demographic into which you fit. Culturally, the Democratic Party will feel pretty normal to netroots types. It will consistently send out cultural signals designed to appeal primarily to the creative class instead of rich donors and the white working class.

Policy Shift: Out with the DLC, up with technocratic wonks.

My sense of Obama and his policy team is overwhelmingly one of technocratic, generally less overtly ideological professional policy types.

We should see a shift from the more corporate and triangulating policy focus of the Democratic Party in the 1990's, and see it replaced by whatever centrist, technocratic policies are the wonkish flavor of the month.

It will all be very oriented toward think-tank and academic types, and be reminiscent of policy making in the 1950's, 1960's and 1970's. A sort of "technocratic liberalism" that will be less infuriating than DLC style governance, but still not overtly leftist.

Coalition reorganization: Out with party silos, in with squishy goo-goos.

In addition to a shift in culture and policy focus, I also expect a different approach to coalition building.

A long-standing Democrats approach of transactional politics with different issue and demographic silos in the party shift toward an emphasis on good government (goo goo) approaches.

We will see lots of emphasis on non-partisanship, ethics reform, election reform instead of on, say, placating labor unions, environment groups, and the LGBT community by throwing each of these groups a policy bone or two.

Now, the focus will be on broad, squishy fixes that are designed to appeal to several groups at once. George Lakoff wrote about this a couple months ago.

I know this is all pretty vague, but it does sum up my basic sense about the coming Obama administration and Democratic Party. Overall, instead feeling like Blue Dogs, Joe Lieberman and media pundits are running the party, it should feel kind of like PIRG, but a bit more right-wing, academic and well-to-do.

In other words, PIRG without seeming like DFHs run the show. That should be an upgrade from the 1990's, but expect quite a few times where progressives will need to take oppositional stances.

Chris Bowers :: Changing Of the Guard


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