There is a general air of optimism amongst progressives in the United States, with the Republicans seemingly headed towards a good kicking in the mid-term elections next week. As a liberal, you might expect me to be quite enthusiastic about the prospect and, to some extent, I am.
But politics should be more about just winning, it should be about what you do once victory is achieved. And that's where my enthusiasm runs into the sands of "so now what?". Once upon a time, I had the privilege of mingling at the highest levels of the Democratic Party (Rachelle, my ex, was a State Party Chair, and I tagged along...), and the one question I never asked was, if you win, what then? Policy was never a serious concern, despite the huge number of thinktanks, pressure groups, lobbyists and other activists that surrounded political action in the US. It just seemed to be enough to be "against them".
I will confess that there was a slightly smug feeling to be able to read my Party's political philosophy off of my membership card, knowing that if you asked five senior Democrats to come up with their take on their Party's philosophical stance in three sentences, you'd probably get six different answers.
We know what Democrats are against, Iraq, George Bush and... errrh... and we know that they're in favour of the poor (do you know of a political party that is actually against them?). And that's what worries me... the sense that Democrats are fighting a battle to preserve the gains of the sixties, civil rights, gay rights, abortion, social security. It's a rather lonely battle, as Joni Mitchell put it, "you don't know what you've got 'til it's gone".
A classical liberal agenda would include devolution of power (but that's what States are for), an internationalist stance (but George is internationalist, in his rather 'assertive' manner) and enhanced freedoms (and that means for everyone, not just those of whom we approve. It isn't what the Democratic Party is about though. There is a sense that Government knows best, that free trade can only be bad for American workers.
So let's not get too excited about a change of control in Congress or the Senate. Until there is a clear indication that things will be different, get used to a sense of frustration with the American political system, you know that it makes sense...