By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
So outing options should have been a no-brainer for those populist Democrats. Instead, it was a nonstarter. High-tech, after all, is a major source of Democratic campaign contributions; other than entertainment, it is the only major industry that gives the Democrats more money than the Republicans. In the 2000 election, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, Silicon Valley gave the Democrats $20.7 million, and covered their bets by forking over $18.5 million to the Reeps. This is no accident; the techie-Democrat alliance has been cultivated by Democratic pols ever since Gary Hart’s 1984 presidential campaign. Nor is it merely the result of countless quid pro quos. Like Hollywood, Silicon Valley shares the Democrats‘ feminism and cultural liberalism; like Hollywood, Silicon Valley is too young and cool to be comfortable around Republicans -- something the Democrats never let them forget.
Investors, alas, hold no such sway over the Democrats. They are too diffuse to constitute a funding base, and they have no distinct affinity for the party’s cultural liberalism. So when the Pooh-Bahs of Silicon Valley (led by such longtime Democratic money men as John Doerr) told the Democrats to leave their options alone, the Democrats immediately obliged. Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle killed an effort by John McCain to require option expensing, and he punted into the indefinite future a bill by fellow Democrat Carl Levin to direct the new Federal Accounting Standards Board to come up with such a plan. Given a priceless opportunity to stand up for Main Street, the Democrats stood up for the executive suite instead.
III. One Order Passeth . . .
Despite the Democrats‘ best efforts to squander their advantage in the coming election, the Republicans still have reason to fear that the political ground is shifting beneath their feet. Their problem is not just the stench of dirty deals that have already rendered Dick Cheney hors de combat, and left the president even more incoherent than usual. It’s not just the public‘s understanding that cronyism and preference for the rich are the very purpose of the Bush administration. It’s not even Americans‘ growing disenchantment with business, and with the carte blanche treatment the Bush White House accords it. The change in public opinion may be deeper than all that, and more perilous to the GOP.
In fact, we seem to be nearing the end of an entire era in American politics and ideology. The age of market extremism, as Kevin Phillips calls it, that began when Ronald Reagan came to Washington in 1980, no longer seems sustainable. The faith defining that age, which insisted that government was the problem and markets the solution, has run its course. The party that championed that faith is retreating in confusion.
None of this means that the other side -- the party of the mixed economy, of public purposes and social provision, of a sovereign people rather than the almighty dollar -- is in very good shape. That party atrophied during the age of laissez faire: Labor grew weaker even within the Democratic Party; progressive state and local governments dwindled to a precious few; liberals took refuge in less fundamental causes, some in niche issues and identity politics. Whether the Democrats are ready or not, though, a crisis of faith is toppling the old order. And until liberals can formulate their own faith and solidify their ranks, the new one will remain stubbornly unborn.