Saturday, December 22, 2007

A Scottish Lesson For U.S. Progressives

By Cernig

Over at The Left Coaster, paradox is making a case for staying with the Dems (who are now supping more juice from the military/industrial complex than Republicans). He writes:
I have looked high and low, near and far, with microscopes and telescopes, I talked to Jesus and the Gypsies, I read history and political science, and there is no other way. Believe you me after this last year if there were another alternative I’d be freaking taking it, yeah.

We are the party, the party is us, it’s our duty to change it, and there is no other alternative.
As I read, it struck me that the Democratic party at the moment is not unlike Scotland a year back - ruled by an entrenched elite who had become corrupted by corporate back-rubs and a belief in their entitlement to power. Think of the Scottish Labour Party as the current spineless and triangulating Dem leadership who will do or say anything to keep power but have few actual principles.

Then, along came Alex Salmond of the Scottish National Party and a split in the democratic socialist consensus which had kept Labour in power in Scotland for decades. The SNP won over Labour by only one seat in the general election and were expected to lose out to the previous status-quo of a Labour/Liberal coalition. But through sheer determination and by ensuring none of the Labour party's more far Right rivals would support the status quo, they are now the party of government. Think of the SNP as the progressive almost-majority inside the Democratic party's broad-ish tent.

How are progressives going to turn around the Democratic Party? The same way Salmond turned around Scotland's political scene.

The Scottish Herald's veteran political reporter, Iain Macwhirter, takes up the story:
Salmond has created a new form of progressive nationalism, unlike anything seen in Europe in the past three decades. The image of nationalism as a backward and narrow-minded political force, preoccupied with ethnicity and hostile to foreigners, has finally been dispelled. The SNP has made a reverse takeover of the Scottish social democratic consensus that Labour has presided over for the past half-century.

Instead of the SNP being blown away by the unionist majority, Labour were almost blown away by the sheer verve of Salmond's hyperactive administration. Labour end this annus horribilis in a terrible state, with a leadership crisis and a donations scandal. The new Labour leader, Wendy Alexander, has failed to offer any intellectual challenge to Alex Salmond's populist nationalism, and the party organisation is disintegrating.

Labour have feigned opposition to SNP initiatives on issues such as bridge tolls, prescription charges, graduate endowment, and then ended up supporting them. In fact, it is hard to find much that the nationalists have done in the past nine months that Labour really oppose as a matter of principle. They even support Donald Trump's blessed golf course. The truth is that the SNP were doing a lot of things that Labour MSPs would have liked to do, but couldn't because of the London connection.

Despite being only one seat behind the SNP, Labour have yet to mount any coherent opposition in Holyrood, and have ceded the initiative on many key issues - such as police numbers, trams, class sizes - to the Tories and the Liberal Democrats. Even on the constitution, the Labour Party has now joined with the SNP and the Liberal Democrats and - incredibly - the Tories to campaign via a constitutional convention for more powers for Holyrood.

For the first time, all the parties in the Scottish parliament are committed to further constitutional change, including taxation. Nothing could better demonstrate just how much things have changed in Scotland in the past year than the fact that there is now no-one arguing for the constitutional status quo.

And who could possibly have forecast, 12 months ago, that nationalists would not only be in power in Scotland, but also in Northern Ireland and in Wales. Progressive nationalism is now the most potent political force in Britain.

Alex Salmond may have been radical in office, but in one sense he has been profoundly conservative. He has become a Privy Councillor and insisted that Queen Elizabeth II will remain head of state of an independent Scotland. The SNP are now talking about the "social union" with England remaining, even when Scotland wins political independence. This is a recognition, I believe, that the UK still has a future, and that the SNP has come to terms with the modern world. Whether the modern world has come to terms with Alex Salmond remains to be seen.
Or, as Napoleon would have it "l'audace, toujours l'audace."

Progressives keep observing how supine the Democratic elite is in opposition to Republicans but then seem to believe that they are far more active in opposition to progressivism in their own party. Somehow I doubt that's true - it's far more likely to be reflexive and just as likely to buckle if progressives stop being scared of the elite's money and safe sinecure seats to instead seize policy initiatives. I believe Reid's punt on the telecom immunity was just such a show of weakness in the face of progressive policy with a popular push behind it, but the elite should be given no chance to catch its collective breath. Sure, a charismatic leader who can push progressive policy without talking about UFOs would be handy - but in the absence of such a leader (check where the candidates get their campaign money) hundreds or thousands can do the work of one.

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