I agree with this
Interest-group pluralism has always had its critics, who note that issues affecting the disorganized and disenfranchised would never be well-represented and that interest-group pluralism, with its incremental victories, could never confront big structural problems and imbalances of power. But for many decades, interest-group pluralism was what we had, and it worked reasonably well as a way for liberals with some share of power to allocate resources. And for particular issues, the environment in particular, interest-group pluralism gave that movement a broad base of support -- from voters who are conservative on other issues and from politicians as far to the right as the first President Bush -- that would not have been possible had environmentalism been defined in broader progressive terms.
But the politics of today's moment, of the situation defined in "The Death of Environmentalism" as "the radical right's control of all three branches of government," brings interest-group pluralism to its knees. Pluralism is a strategy for making improvements while holding governing power; it is not a strategy to save the world from those with unchecked power. And the radical right understands that it can maintain power by exploiting the weaknesses in interest-group pluralism, delivering to the strongest claimants the incremental achievements they and their lobbyists demand (a pro-industry Medicare prescription-drug program, for example) while undermining the very foundation of those demands -- an active, responsible, fair government. Washington is filled with organizations and lobbyists who consider themselves "public-interest" activists, who celebrate the 4-percent increase they won in appropriations for their pet program or the three new co-sponsors who have signed on to their innovative bill but who remain numb or indifferent to the fact that under current policies, those programs will soon cease to exist entirely.
Stellar. Defenders of certain groups will be quick to charge, "Kos attacks NARAL, so he's 'anti-woman'", or "Kos attacks HRC, so he hates gays". Fact is, those groups were created for a governing system where progressives had some measure of power, and those constituency groups could lobby for their causes in the halls of government. If I hated choice and gays and the environment and every other progressive constituency group I would applaud the status quo, because it is surely and inexorably leading to their demise.
That formula doesn't work in today's political environment. And we won't have a governing majority until the energy expended in pursuing pet interests gets redirected toward getting Republicans out of power and getting Democrats -- even some of the imperfect ones -- elected to replace them.
BTW, here's a link to "Death of Environmentalism", perhaps the essay that has most influenced my thinking in the past couple of years.
Our thesis is this: the environmental community's narrow definition of its self-interest leads to a kind of policy literalism that undermines its power. When you look at the long string of global warming defeats under Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, it is hard not to conclude that the environmental movement's approach to problems and policies hasn't worked particularly well. And yet there is nothing about the behavior of environmental groups, and nothing in our interviews with environmental leaders, that indicates that we as a community are ready to think differently about our work.
That same argument, with minor modifications, can apply to just about every single issue group in the Democratic Party coalition.
Whereas neocons make proposals using their core values as a strategy for building a political majority, liberals, especially environmentalists, try to win on one issue at a time. We come together only around elections when our candidates run on our issue lists and technical policy solutions. The problem, of course, isn't just that environmentalism has become a special interest. The problem is that all liberal politics have become special interests. And whether or not you agree that Apollo [an environmentalism/labor project] is a step in the right direction, it has, we believed, challenged old ways of thinking about the problem.
There is a clear generational divide between people who came of political age in the 60s and 70s, and those of us who came of age after the Republican takeover of government (the last 10 years or so). As I've written before, take a look at the new progressive organizations arising the past few years -- MoveOn, the blogs, Democracy for America, National Political Hip Hop Conference, etc -- all of them movement-based multi-issue organizations. That is the future of the American progressive movement. Not the single-issue groups that continue to hold their narrow interests above those of the broader movement.
United they stand, divided we fall. They learned their lesson years ago. We still haven't.
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