The Schlitz Beer saga, the story of how America's once favorite beer altered its hallmark recipe disastrously while seeking short term profits at the expense of quality and reputation, has always seemed to me to be analogous to the modern Democratic Party of the last decades.
I have often wondered these past few years - when will the message and role of the Democratic Party become so watered down, so diluted, so unpalatable and unrecognizable from its former self that the public, even the most loyal customers, simply stops buying it?
I think we're there.
Don't blame the public, Democratic Party - blame your own executives for short-sighted expediency, blame substituting inferior ingredients and blame changing your brewing process. In short, you have failed at every level.
The old Democratic brew was reliable and earthy. It stood for the people at the bottom of the economic pyramid supporting the entire structure. It stood for labor and civil rights and economic and social justice and the general welfare.
To work towards those goals, the Democratic Party was the driving force behind two seminal visions and agendas that basically altered the fabric of modern American society, most would argue for the better: The New Deal and The Great Society. We have that vision to thank for providing the secure underpinnings against poverty and despair in old age that we currently possess, Social Security and Medicare, the so-called "safety net". Imagine our world today without those two great revolutionary entitlement programs. And yet some Democrats today are slathering at the bit to come to a "Grand Bargain" and to help Republicans to dismantle and erode our greatest achievements, both as a Party and as a nation.
Our goal as Democrats through these last 4 decades should have been to protect, expand and enhance the platforms of the New Deal and The Great Society and to continue forward on a path for security for all Americans. The previous formula was never summarized or captured better than in the "Four Freedoms" defined by FDR: Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Religion, Freedom from Want, Freedom from Fear.
Think about how short and understandable that message is. That was our original Schlitz recipe. That is what we have diluted and altered in the spirit of rudderless bi-partisanship and "centrism".
In the interest of solidarity and long term goals, Liberals have been required by Democratic leadership for the last 4 decades to suspend their own passions and desires and sublimate them for the good of the Party. But this 'neo-liberalism' as it turns out has not been good for either the Party or the country. And there has been no pay-off for the loyalty of the Liberals, quite the opposite; they have been forced to standby while the Party basically destroyed itself by becoming the "Almost Republican But Nicer" Party.
The Democrats now have to figure out how to salvage the smoldering ruin of a political Party it is at the moment. I'm not even sure it is possible to, and I mean that seriously. No one wants to be affiliated with a Party that literally stands for nothing.
The only thing that might bring back this zombie, walking dead party is passion and progressivism. Only this time the real thing. The old recipe.