Thursday, July 05, 2012

Murphy The Progressive


The loser in a  political dispute is always willing to negotiate with the winner, if a possible detente will restore some of the loss. To the chicken in the mouth of the fox, compromise is an enticing proposition. The fox, who has the chicken in his jaws, naturally will be negotiating from “a position of strength,” as the diplomatists say, and so would in any negotiation be loath to surrender an advantage that has been conceded to him in a power struggle.

Mr. Murphy, in a discussion with theeditorial board of the New Haven Register, has identified himself as a progressive, ticking off some of the identifying marks of progressivism:

“I don’t think being a strong Democrat is mutually exclusive with being someone who cares about bipartisanship and reaching across the aisle,” Murphy said. “I am a progressive when it comes to my views on the war and when it comes to my views on the environment and health care. I believe in universal health care. I believe in a strong environment. I believe in a fair tax code that ends up with higher rates for the affluent. I believe we should get out of Afghanistan and Iraq. And I believe that I should argue very strongly for those things.”

And, he added, “All that being said, I think that after you’ve argued your case, there’s a time and a place to sit down and negotiate. And perhaps vote on something that is good but is not perfect. The problem is that in Washington today, there’s no relationships (sic) between the two parties, so there’s no one to negotiate with.”

The original progressive – Teddy Roosevelt during the election of 1912 – was by no means a pacifist, nor is there reason to believe that Mr. Murphy is a pacifist simply because he has opposed wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. There are, by the way, conservatives, though neo-conservatives cannot be counted among them, who also object to the war in Afghanistan.

Bill Buckley thought a hot engagement in Afghanistan, known through history as “the graveyard of empires,” was a bad idea and admitted to having had second thoughts regarding the Iraq war. Pat Buchanan still fiercely opposes entangling military engagements for reasons best cited by John Adams, who thought America should be “the friend of liberty everywhere, but the custodian only of its own.”  And there are constitutionally driven Tea Party activists who think every war following World War II is illicit because congress had not passed war declarations authorizing the president to exercise his constitutionally prescribed war powers in post World War II military engagements.

The war in Afghanistan conceivably could be opposed by a progressive such as Mr. Murphy for any of the above reasons. But he cannot march against war under Teddy Roosevelt’s old progressive banner, because Teddy, still a Rough Rider when he drew his last breath, rarely spoke softly in public and did not hesitate to brandish a miliotary big stick. In the brief interregnum between the World Wars, President Woodrow Wilson, not quite as progressive as socialist presidential candidate Eugene Debs, favored peace and the League of Nations; but when Hitler began swallowing parts of Eastern Europe and Japan bombed Pearl Harbor, then President Franklin Roosevelt -- Teddy’s cousin and, like him, of a progressive inclination -- rose to the occasion.

One would like to think that Mr. Murphy would follow in such footsteps if Pearl Harbor or perhaps Washington D.C. were to be bombed by terrorists linked to Iran. Certainly Mr. Murphy would not be unmoved if bigoted and murderous Salafists were to succeed in pushing Israel into the sea. For these reasons, Mr. Murphy might have paused during his New Haven Register editorial board interview to explain to those considering voting him into the U.S. Senate precisely which wars since World War II he opposed and – more importantly – for what reasons.

Congressional negotiation, it would appear from his editorial board interview, is for Mr. Murphy a matter of style, not substance. He cares very much about “crossing the aisle” to negotiate with Republicans concerning the chickens in THEIR mouths. But Mr. Murphy, a seasoned Beltway politician after three terms in the U.S. House, has no intention of surrendering the still quivering universal health care chicken in HIS mouth. Between universal government provided health care and something short of it, no compromise is possible.

One needn’t fear that Mr. Murphy’s stylistic preference will force him to surrender President Barack Obama’s progressive health care program, a baby step on the way to universal health care, which Mr. Murphy has said numerous times he favors. Mr. Obama’s health care program recently received the imprimatur of the U.S. Supreme Court. Since Bull Moose presidential candidate Roosevelt unsheathed his progressive platform at Osawatomie, Kansas, his modern imitators in the United States, kept in the wings by a discerning voting public, have been hankering after the same kind of health care system that is partly responsible for bankrupting much of Europe. Mr. Roosevelt’s program would have permitted the aggregation in the executive department of new powers, derived from the commerce clause in the U.S. Constitution, to regulate ALL businesses in the United States.

Sound familiar?  

“Democracy,” H. L. Mencken wrote, “is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard.”
And modern progressivism is that theory of government that will give it to them – good and hard.
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