Obama's European Vision
Shifting America's animating idea from creation to protection.
By Daniel Henninger
Wall Street Journal Asia
October 31, 2008
The most basic explanation for why Barack Obama may win next Tuesday is that voters indeed want an economic deliverance. The standard fix in politics everywhere is to crowbar the old party out and patch in the other one. It is true as well that the historic nature of the first African-American candidacy would play a big role.
Push past the historic candidacy, however, and one sees something even larger is at stake in this vote. One sees is what Joe (The Plumber) Wurzelbacher saw. The real "change" being put to a vote for the American people in 2008 is not simply a break from the economic policies of "the past eight years" but with the American economic philosophy of the past 200 years. This election is about a long-term change in America's idea of itself.
I don't agree with the argument that an Obama-Pelosi-Reid-government is a one-off, that good old nonideological American pragmatism will temper their ambitions. Not true.
With this election, U.S. is at a philosophical tipping point.
The goal of Sen. Obama and the modern, "progressive" Democratic party is to move the U.S. in the direction of Western Europe, the so-called German model and its "social market economy." Under this notion, business is highly regulated, as it would be in the next Congress under Democratic House committee chairmen Markey, Frank and Waxman. Business is allowed to create "wealth" so long as its utility is not primarily to create new jobs or economic growth but to support a deep welfare system.
The political planets are aligned to make this achievable. In the aftermath of the financial crisis, prominent Democrats, European leaders in France and Germany, and more U.S. newspaper articles than one can count have said that the crisis proves the need to permanently tame the American "free-market" model. P.O.W. Alan Greenspan is broadcasting confessions.
This would be a historic shift, one that post-Vietnam Democrats have been trying to achieve since their failed fight with Ronald Reagan's "Cowboy Capitalism."
Of course Cowboy Capitalism built the country. More than any previous nation in history, the U.S. made its way forward on a 200-year wave of upwardly mobile, profit-seeking merchants, tradesmen, craftsmen and workers. They blew out of New England and New York, rolled across the wildernesses of the Middle States, pushed thousands of miles across a tough frontier and banged into San Francisco and Los Angeles, leaving in their path city after city of vast wealth.
The U.S. emerged a superpower, and the tool of that ascent was simple -- the pursuit of economic growth. Now China, India and Brazil, embracing high-growth cowboy capitalism, are doing what America did, only their cities are bigger.
Now comes Barack Obama, standing at the head of a progressive Democratic Party, his right hand rising to say, "Stop. We've grown enough. It's time to spread the wealth around."
What this implies, undeniably, is that the United States would move away from running with the high GDP, high-growth nations rising today as economic and political powers and move over to join the low-growth economies it once displaced -- old Europe.
As noted in a 2006 World Bank report, spending in Europe on social-protection programs averages 19% of GDP (85% of it on social insurance programs), compared to 9% of GDP in the U.S. The Obama proposals send the U.S. inexorably and permanently toward European levels of social protection. This isn't an "agenda." It's a new way of life.
Obama's federalized medical insurance system starts the transition away from private medical care and toward Obama's endlessly promised "universal health care." This has always been the sine qua non of achieving a U.S. social-market economy.
Obama's refundable tax credits are direct cash transfers from the federal government. This would place some 48% of Americans, nearly half, out of the income tax system.
This isn't just a tax proposal; it's a deep philosophical shift. In Europe it's called being "on the dole."
His stated intent to renegotiate free-trade agreements such as Nafta is also a philosophical shift. It means a transition away from a tradition of a hypercompetitive America dating back to the Industrial Revolution, toward a protected, domestic work force, as in Western Europe. The Democratic proposal to eliminate private union votes -- "card check" -- ensures the spread of a static, Euro-style work force.
Eliminating the payment limit on payroll taxes changes Social Security from an insurance to a welfare program. Obama's tax credits requires performing government-identified activities, the essence of a "directed economy."
All this would shift the animating American idea -- away from creation and toward protection.
Many voters -- progressive Democrats, wealthy older people, academics and college students -- regard this as where America should go. They explicitly want America's energies transferred away from unwieldy economic competition and toward social construction. They want the U.S. to reduce its "footprint" in the world. Monies saved by stepping down from superpower status can be reprogrammed into "investments" (a constant Obama word) in a Euro-style 19% of GDP in social protection programs.
I wish John McCain had been better able to make clearer what the truly "historic" meaning of Tuesday's vote is. Once it's done, it's done.
By Diane Francis
The Canadian National Post
Posted: October 30, 2008
Here's the latest map drawn based on polling support for the two candidates. It shows clearly once more that the America closest to the northern border, with the highest taxation and highest incomes, is as Liberal as Canada. All but three western states which are contiguous to Canada are populated by American voters who realize that Liberal societies providing universal healthcare, fair education for all and well-regulated economies are not dirty words. See the Canada "infomercial".
America will become more like Canada. At the same time, Canada has become more "Americanized" in the past two decades: better economic opportunities and less social engineering by governments.
The electoral map below from intrade.com is a forecast for the 2008 U.S. Presidential Election in which the nominees are Republican John McCain and Democrat Barack Obama. The electoral college value for each state is shown, and the states are shaded according to the probability of a win. 364 electoral college seats for Obama to 174 for McCain't.
The electoral map below is a forecast for the 2008 U.S. Presidential Election in which the nominees are Republican John McCain and Democrat Barack Obama. The electoral college value for each state is shown, and the states are shaded according to the probability of a win.
Pollster John Zogby: "With less than a week to go, todays numbers are not a good development for McCain. There is no momentum for him, and the clock is starting to run short. Worse news for McCain today is that Obama hit 50% in the single day of polling, while he dropped back to the low 40s. Obama increased his lead among independents compared to yesterday, has moved into a lead among men, and still holds about one in five conservatives. But six days, including Election Day, is an eternity and McCain cannot be counted out yet, though he may need a wing and a prayer."
Some observations which put the lie to the McCain/Republican rant about "socialism" or "liberalism":
Democratic support is hugely ahead in the highest taxed, highest income, highest educated and most socially liberal states in the union -- California; Illinois; New York; Massachusetts. These are America's engines of economic growth where immigrants and migrants who know the world live.
Obama will crush McCain, as I have been saying since winter before they each got the nod because America is changing and will become a social democracy like every other developed country in the world. John McCain and the Pentagon/Wall Street lobby are finished finally.
Undecideds should break for McCain
By Dick Morris
Posted: 10/28/08 07:05 PM [ET]
If current survey trends continue, Obama will finish with less than 50 percent in the polls. Even discounting the Nader vote (some people never learn), the undecided voters could tip the race either way. How will they break?
Since there is no incumbent, they cannot automatically be assigned to the challenger; and since turnout is likely to be huge, the current undecided voters will probably make their way to the polls and cast their ballots.
But for whom?
At the beginning of this contest, Obama effectively made the case that the election was a referendum on Bush’s performance in office. Painting a vote for McCain as a desire for “four more years of the same failed policies,” he made the most of Bush’s dismal approval rating. Had he been able to keep the focus on Bush, he would likely have inherited most of the undecided vote.
But as Obama surged into a more or less permanent lead in October, animated by the financial crisis, he has assumed many of the characteristics of an incumbent. Every voter asks himself one question before he or she casts a ballot: Do I want to vote for Obama? His uniqueness, charisma and assertive program have so dominated the dialogue that the election is now a referendum on Obama.
As Obama has oscillated, moving somewhat above or somewhat below 50 percent in all the October polls, his election likely hangs in the balance. If he falls short of 50 percent in these circumstances, a majority of the voters can be said to have rejected him. Likely a disproportionate number of the undecideds will vote for McCain.
But don’t write Obama off. His candidacy strikes such enthusiasm among young and minority voters that there is still a chance that a massive turnout will deliver the race to the Democrats.
None of the polling organizations has any experience with — or model for — so massive a turnout, especially among voters notorious for staying at home. But the primaries proved that these young and minority voters will not stay home this time, but will vote for Obama. The effect of this increased vote is hard to calculate, but it may be enough to offset the undecideds who will vote for McCain.
But the basic point, one week before Election Day, is that even if Obama clings to a four- or five-point lead over McCain in the polling, the election is not over. The question is not so much how large his lead is over the Republican, but whether or not he is topping 50 percent. As long as the polling leaves him below that mark, he is vulnerable and could well lose.
Clearly, in recent weeks, McCain has been able to cast Obama as a leftist. He has made the issue of income redistribution central to the campaign. With the aid of Joe the Plumber and the discovery of Obama’s Chicago PBS interview, in which he lamented the absence of redistribution of wealth, McCain has made the proposition seem central to Obama’s ideology.
The audacity of Obama’s injection of a social democratic concept borrowed from Western Europe into American politics is stunning. And almost half the voters seem to be buying it.
Former Edwards, Clinton, Obama Speech Writer Turns Republican
By: Michael van der Galien
October 28, 2008
By Dick Morris And Eileen McGann
The perfect storm combining the vast expansion of government’s role in the American economy, a looming Obama triumph and likely huge Democratic gains in Congress augur the most serious threat of the onset of socialism the United States has faced since the New Deal. But while it became obvious that FDR’s goal was to save capitalism, not to replace it, it is by no means clear that Barack Obama is similarly inclined.
As alarm bells ring incessantly, demanding government action to prevent the conflagration of our most important companies and markets, the Federal Reserve and Treasury rush to extinguish the flames with hoses filled with money. But this massive and needed public-sector intrusion into private enterprise begs the key question: After the fires are put out, will the government firefighters leave, or will they move into the companies they saved and evict their former corporate owners?
The current crisis makes it clear that the government will be invited inside the management and ownership of our top financial and corporate institutions. But it is unclear whether it will ever withdraw after the crisis has passed.
Obama’s stated goal of “spreading the wealth around” may indicate an inclination to embrace European-style socialist democracy. His emphasis on promoting “fairness” in income distribution and his willingness to sacrifice economic growth by raising taxes on “the rich” all seem to point in that direction. Will Obama realize that while government is needed to prevent a crash, it is hopelessly inadequate as an engine of prosperity? Bureaucrats are neither sufficiently competent nor honest nor independent enough to make key decisions about where capital should be invested, except when it is needed to extinguish the flames of crisis.
If Obama wins and takes a solidly and overwhelmingly Democratic Congress with him — including a filibuster-proof Senate — we will have to entrust our system of private ownership, limited government and free enterprise to the tender mercy of the left. But the newly empowered liberals will not have to breach the walls of the private sector, justifying each new intrusion by argument and logic. Rather, they will already be inside the gates, invited there to save these institutions from their own history of greed and mismanagement. Will the left simply leave government there, effectively converting our private enterprise system, where government absorbs about a third of our GDP into a social democracy, a la Europe, where the public sector accounts for almost half of the economy?
For those who would rather not find out, it is particularly important to redouble our efforts for John McCain and to battle for each Senate seat. McCain is only seven points behind — not an insurmountable margin. A good final week could save the free enterprise system. We owe it to our future to try.
America's new social democracy
By Geoff Garrett
October 18, 2008
As the economic crisis turns from a credit freeze on Wall Street into a painful recession on Main Street, Barack Obama and John McCain are throwing money at America's new everyman, "Joe, the plumber", standing for everyone in Middle America worried sick about what the future holds for them. Barring a stunning revelation, massive gaffe or international crisis, Australia and the world seem likely to get what most want: a president Obama. But an Obama victory would have little to do with the perceived failings of Iraq and the war on terrorism, the casus belli of Obama's candidacy and global anti-Bush antipathy. Instead, Obama seems likely to win the presidency because Americans are as mad as hell about the economic mess they blame on Bush.
Try as he might, McCain just cannot put enough distance between himself and the President on the economy. Bush and McCain are seen as lax-on-regulation, tax-cuts-for-the-rich, trickle-down-economics Republicans who have aided and abetted Wall Street's excesses and ignored Main Street's misery. Obama's answer is the standard Democrat economic fare of tax credits and affordable health care for poorer Americans, paid for by higher taxes on the wealthy elite.
What is different is that for the first time since Ronald Reagan won the White House in 1980, the Democrats seem poised to win the presidency on their own big-government terms. Reagan said government was the problem, not the solution, transforming US politics for a generation. Bill Clinton could win back the White House only by "ending welfare as we know it" and turning his Democrats into the party of fiscal prudence and budget surpluses. Now the US seems poised to go back to the future of old-style Democratic rule. Obama, by nature and history a Democrat outsider who promises post-partisanship not more partisanship, is an unlikely leader of this new US social democracy.
But if Obama wins the presidency, he will win as a conventional Democrat, with the probable support of strong Democrat majorities in both houses of Congress. The problem for Obama and the Democrats is that they will inherit a diabolical situation in which the prospect of failure is very real.
The statistics of Wall Street losses and the government bill for mopping them up are staggering. But the rising tide of bad news about the broader economy is at least as important. Up to 20 per cent of American homeowners are "under water", owing more in their mortgages than their homes are worth. Car sales, a bellwether of consumer sentiment, are down about one-quarter on a year ago. America lost more than 750,000 jobs in the first nine months of this year. The president of the San Francisco branch of the US Federal Reserve said this week what everyone else was already thinking: America is already in recession. The majority of people think the country is headed in the wrong direction.
Enter a resurgent American Keynesianism. The US budget deficit for the past year approached half a trillion dollars. America's accumulated public debt is close to $US10 trillion. With these debt and deficit numbers, the US couldn't join the euro zone because it is too fiscally profligate. And this is before the costs of the Wall Street bailout hit the Government's balance sheet, not to mention the enormous costs of Iraq and Afghanistan, which are not part of the regular budget.
Yet both presidential candidates want to cut taxes and spend more. Before the economic tsunami of the past month, Obama said he would give tax breaks to 95 per cent of Americans, invest $US15 billion a year in alternative energy and get cheap health insurance to most of the 50 million Americans who don't have it - with a bill of more than $US100 billion a year. McCain countered with a menu of his own capital gains and business tax cuts costing at least as much. Now McCain and Obama want to add an additional $US50 billion a year to the deficit, creating jobs, helping mortgage holders and cutting taxes on retirement accounts.
Cries that the US is on the precipice of the disastrous events of the 1930s all over again seem histrionic. But Washington's response to today's economic woes looks increasingly like FDR's New Deal from that period.
Can the US really run annual deficits approaching $US1trillion, with accumulated public debt as big as the US economy? It looks as if the country is headed in that direction with a president Obama at the helm.
Geoff Garrett is chief executive of the US Studies Centre at the University of Sydney.www.sydney.edu.au/us-studies
McCain Surrogate Calls Obama (Not His Policies) "A Socialist"
Huffington Post Blog
October 18, 2008
During a speaking arrangement in southeast Ohio, Sen. George Voinovich was quoted as saying of Obama: "He is left of Teddy Kennedy...With all due respect, the man is a socialist."
The charge - unfounded and essentially hypocritical - represents the logical extension of the McCain campaign's newest gambit. Following Wednesday night's presidential debate both the Republican nominee and his running mate have taken to deriding Obama's proposal for refundable tax credits as something akin to "welfare" or a "government giveaway." But they have never gone so far as to label the candidate himself "socialist."
McCain, in a radio address on Saturday, declared: "Barack Obama's tax plan would convert the (Internal Revenue Service) into a giant welfare agency, redistributing massive amounts of wealth at the direction of politicians in Washington... "At least in Europe, the socialist leaders who so admire my opponent are upfront about their objectives. They use real numbers and honest language. And we should demand equal candor from Senator Obama."
Sarah Palin, a day earlier, accused the Democratic nominee of having an economic agenda that resembled socialism. "Sen. Obama said that he wants to spread the wealth and he wants government to take your money and decide how to best to redistribute it according to his priorities," she said. "Joe [the Plumber, the new McCain working man surrogate] suggested that sounded a little bit like socialism."
There is, however, a kicker. The refundable tax credits that the McCain-Palin ticket is deriding are a major part of McCain's own health care plan. In fact, in his speech on Saturday, the Arizona Republican touted the fact that he would outfit "every single American family with a $5000 refundable tax credit" to help with insurance costs.
"Presidential campaigns are full of hypocrisy, of course," wrote the New Republic's Jonathan Cohn. "But I can't remember the last time a candidate was this brazen about it. It makes you wonder what McCain thinks about the public's power of perception."
Planetary President Obama
By Philip C. Bom
The American Thinker
October 17, 2008
Senator Obama could well become our first planetary president.
Candidate Obama heralds change and hope, but his ideological message reads like a "copy and paste" from documents written by socialists of the past century. He presents himself as a new politician but has adopted an old "world order" agenda. Obama's policies will certainly produce change -- but a fundamental change that will shock most Americans.
The Democratic Party's platform (authored by Senator Obama's policy director) reads like a planetary manifesto for a new global order.
Senator Obama himself has said he seeks to provide "a world that stands as one" with "global leadership grounded in the understanding that the world shares a common security and a common humanity" (Berlin speech and Foreign Affairs article, July/August 2007, FA). As president, Obama promises to "strengthen our common security by investing in our common humanity."
Obama adopts the old framework of international socialists. He jettisons the traditional meaning of security and adopts the view of democracy as social economic democracy. In his writings and speeches, Obama consistently calls for "building just, secure, democratic societies (FA)."
Senator Obama ties the concept of national security to global poverty. In the FA article, Obama claims that "the United States has a direct national security interest in dramatically reducing global poverty and joining with our allies in sharing more of our riches to help those most in need." He has the audacity to proclaim: "Like it or not, if we want to make America more secure, we are going to have to help make the world more secure" (AH, 304). For him, global security means eliminating world poverty.
According to the 1995 Commission on Global Governance (CGG), "...the security of people must be regarded as a goal as important as the security of states." In addition, "The primary goals of global security should be ... the security of people and the planet." The Democratic Party platform adopts this definition of national security (encompassing environmental security). The platform proudly promotes "Protecting our Security and Saving our Planet" as if they are one and the same. "We understand that climate change is not just an economic issue or an environmental concern -- this is a national security crisis."
Yet, while Obama promises to protect the American people, how often does he promise to protect the USA as an independent nation state? Following the ideology of CGG, he blurs the distinction between our national homeland and "our human homeland."
As noted, however, Obama's political ideas are hardly novel. Concepts and phrases (e.g. common humanity, common security, one world, economic security) in his speeches and in the platform can be found in the agendas of international socialists like the late Willy Brandt and Olof Palme. Even Obama's words of "change" and "hope" date back to 1981.
Both Willy Brandt and Olof Palme were important international socialist leaders during the 1970s: Brandt as Chancellor of Germany, and Olof Palme as Prime Minister of Sweden. In addition, they served together as leaders of the Socialist International with Brandt as President and Palme as Vice-President. Of particular interest is their later selection to chair commissions on development (Brandt) and disarmament (Palme). The commissions advanced the socialist perspective of the 1974 UN Charter of Economic Rights and Duties of States which laid the foundation for the new international economic order. The commissions also sought to promote a linkage between disarmament and development. The same perspective appears in Obama's positions.
In the 1980 Commission on International Development Issues report, Chairman Brandt made "a plea for change." He yearned for a new generation that would "liberate people from outworn ideas, from the grip of narrowly conceived national interests and from the passions and prejudices inherited from the past. A new international economic order will need men and women with a new mentality and wider outlook to make it work...." In his nomination speech, Obama agrees with Brandt on the "need to cast off the worn-out ideas and politics of the past."
Going back even further, the 1974 Charter for a New International Economic Order sought to establish a "just and equitable economic and social order" and promoted "economic security for development, in particular of the developing countries." A few years later, Brandt advocated "steps along the path to what could genuinely be called a society of nations, a new world order" based on international economic justice (redistribution of wealth and power among all nations). Note the similarity with Obama's words: "sharing more of our riches to help those most in need."
Brandt believed that world politics should move beyond an UN organization of nation states "towards a genuine society of nations." In addition, the 1975 Human Manifesto rejected the principle of independent nation states and pledged to place "the human interest above the national interest, and human sovereignty above national sovereignty." This is exactly what Obama has done in his emphasis on defending the American people (versus defending the USA as an independent nation state).
National security was redefined decades ago. The late international socialist, Olof Palme, (Chairman of the Commission on Disarmament and Security Issues) advanced a new definition. "The security -- even the existence -- of the nations of the world is interdependent." The report elaborated by stating "... that nations must come to understand that the maintenance of world peace must be given a higher priority than the assertion of their own ideological or political positions." "Common security requires that people live in dignity and peace, that they have enough to eat and are able to find work and live in a world without poverty and destitution."
Brandt hoped that a future leader would arise from "among the young generations who will soon carry major political responsibility." It seems that Obama may well be that New Leader for whom Brandt hoped.
Senator Clinton may be liberal Democrat, but the left-of-liberal Obama captured the Party nomination as a hero of hope and change. However, upon closer examination, his message of change and hope is anchored in old socialist doctrines. Obama launched his political career as a local community organizer. If elected, he will affirm his career as the great global community organizer -- and will fulfill the dreams of world socialists like Brandt and Palme.
The great New Leader's "heart is filled with love for this country" (AH, 362). On the other hand, his political head is filled with love for a new global order. He appears to be enthralled with dreams of global transformation through common security, economic security, and economic democracy -- concepts foreign to traditional American international policy. He could very well be a good UN Secretary General, but to entrust him with American presidential leadership will be a bridge too far. If elected, it will mean the end of America's political, military, and legal independence.
Philip C. Bom is a professor of International Politics at Regent University in Virginia Beach, VA.
In Denver, German Social Democrats Listen to Obama and Learn
Hubertus Heil, 35, is general secretary of Germany's Social Democratic Party (SPD) and a member of the German parliament.
Deutsche Welle: Why did you come to Denver?
Hubertus Heil: We are here to observe the Democratic National Convention, not so much to watch the show -- interesting as it is -- as to talk to people in order to find out what an administration led by Barack Obama would mean in terms of foreign, security, economic and environmental policy. Obviously it would have an effect on German politics, and that is why we are here.
What conclusions have you reached so far?
Obviously, a lot remains unclear. The candidate here to be nominated is very promising, to Europe and Germany, but his agenda is still unclear. Take the question of Afghanistan or the environment. These are issues we are discussing, and it is apparent that the Democratic Party, and especially the unions supporting the party, have a keen political interest in helping steer globalization -- for example by addressing labor standards around the world.
As you just mentioned, the convention is also a lot about show. What has made most impression on you so far?
Großansicht des Bildes mit der Bildunterschrift: The SPD party conventions are much duller affairs. It's very impressive to see how much the city of Denver identifies with the Democratic Convention. It's an extraordinary and very media-savvy show, as is standard practice in the US. It couldn't be done in Germany, that's obvious, but it's very interesting to see how it works and to witness this political culture first-hand, and the US is in fact a very old democracy.
Have you met Barack Obama yet?
No. I saw him speak at the Victory Column in Berlin -- but I wouldn't call that 'meeting' him.
Do you think he would make a good Social Democratic chancellor?
No, because we have a very different political system. The US has a presidential system. We have a parliamentary democracy, which means every country needs candidates that fit the system. But don't worry, we'll find a candidate (for the chancellorship).
Which lessons will you have learned from the Democratic Convention that could be applied to the next SPD convention in Germany?
Nothing that's specifically relevant for the convention. As I said, we have a different political culture, including party structure. The SPD is a people's party, a member's party, while the Democrats in the US are organized differently, particularly during election campaigns. We're very interested in the online election campaign the party has been running, and the way it has managed to reach so many young people; how it's organized grassroots campaigns and recruited a lot of volunteers. We can learn more from the technique than the agenda.
How much information can be gleaned from Barack Obama's campaign team?
You can learn a lot from talking to advisers, as well as to senators and congress members. But obviously they are going to play their cards close to their chest. They'll be keeping most things to themselves. They'll also develop voter mobilization strategies for the final weeks of the campaign at the very last minute. We'll see.
There's a lot of talk here at the convention of rifts -- Barack Obama on one side, Hillary Clinton on the other. The party is hoping the convention will help it unify. Is there anything you can learn here that might help the SDP back home?
As I said, every party needs to work within its own political culture. But it will be interesting to see if Barack Obama can manage to win the blue-collar vote, the support of the working classes. In Germany it's obviously very important to reach the people who work hard and play by the rules. But that is as far as it goes.
By Samuel L. Blumenthal
Posted: April 17, 2008
As we listen to the three major candidates and try to decode their statements and slogans ("Change we can believe in "or "Yes, we can"), it becomes increasingly obvious that the main issue of this campaign is the nature of our government and whether or not it should be changed.
Changed to what? The Founding Fathers gave us a constitutional republic, which severely limited the power of government. It gave the American people the greatest freedom any people had ever enjoyed, and with that freedom they built the most dynamic, prosperous society in history.
Back in 1933, when Fabian Socialist George Bernard Shaw came to America to lecture us on our deficiencies, he said:
When you came to examine the American Constitution, you found that it was not really a Constitution but only a Charter of Anarchism. It was not an instrument of government: it was a guarantee to the whole American nation that it never should be governed at all. And that is exactly what the Americans want. …
You had perfected a Constitution of negatives to defend liberty, liberty, liberty – life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness – against the only checks on anarchy that could secure them, and fortified it by a Supreme Court which dealt out nothing but prohibitions, and a political party machinery of legislatures and senates, which was so wonderfully devised that when you sent in one body of men to govern the country, you sent in another body of men along with them to prevent their doing it.
Shaw, the socialist, did hit the nail on the head. And there are socialists among us today who want to do away with our constitutional system and change our government into a European style social democracy, which has unlimited power over every aspect of life.
To some extent we are already there, considering all of the government programs since Roosevelt's New Deal that have intruded into every aspect of American life. But the two-party system has remained true to its function: to make it difficult for Congress and state legislatures to enact laws that are too radically removed from our basic form of government. The result is often gridlock, but that's what's supposed to happen when politicians try to impose laws the people don't want. We call them checks and balances.
There is no doubt that both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are on the side of social democracy. Where McCain stands is hard to pin down. He does occasionally sound like a conservative in favor of limited government, but he is not a movement conservative committed to a set of articulated principles. And neither is Bush. They espouse a kind of mushy country club Republicanism that occasionally echoes the principles of government enunciated by our Constitution.
But since everything has changed since 9/11 in the interest of national security, it has become hard to tell what kind of government we actually have. We have a horrendous problem with illegal immigration .
Our economy is bedeviled with enormous debt, inflation, a falling dollar and employment insecurity. We are involved in a costly, frustrating war in Iraq and Afghanistan against Islamic extremism. The price of gasoline is changing driving habits. The government schools are still dumbing down the kids. And the calls for "change we can believe in" makes all conservatives very uneasy about our future.
Does "change we can believe in" mean giving up our national sovereignty for a North American Union to be later linked with the European Union?
Shaw may have called our constitutional system anarchic, but what did he offer in its place? In the same year he spoke, Hitler took control of Germany and got rid of any anarchic tendencies among the German people. The Communists in Russia were starving Ukrainians and applying the merciless dictatorship of the proletariat over every poor Russian.
Are the American people hankering for social democracy? Do they want socialized medicine? Do they want more government regulation and higher taxes?
Willy Brandt (christened Herbert Frahm, he took the name of Willy Brandt after emigrating) was born in Lübeck on 18 December 1913 and brought up by his grandfather, a social democratic worker from Mecklenburg. He joined the SPD in 1930. In late March 1933, Brandt fled first to Denmark and then to Oslo, where he worked as a journalist and supported the German resistance. He became a Norwegian citizen in 1940. Influenced by the undogmatic and liberal popular socialism of the Nordic countries, Brandt saw the SPD as a party that would be able to integrate all the democratic socialist forces and set about charting the prospects for the peaceful restructuring of Europe after the defeat of Nazi Germany.
The party executive appointed Brandt its representative in Berlin in 1948, the same year in which he resumed German citizenship. Seats in the Federal Parliament and the Berlin House of Representatives were followed by his election in 1957 as Mayor of Berlin, a post he held until 1966.
Brandt's ascent in the federal party as a representative of the reformist wing (member of the Federal Executive in 1958, Vice-chair in 1962) took place more or less concurrently and was accompanied by setbacks. Brandt had a fine nose for prevailing trends as well as the ability to integrate different political factions within his party. He was the SPD's candidate for the chancellorship in 1961 and again in 1965 but he lost on both occasions.
In 1964, he was elected SPD party chair. In 1966, the SPD entered a grand coalition with the CDU/CSU, in which Brandt was Vice-Chancellor and Foreign Minister.
In 1969, the SPD formed a coalition with the FDP, in which Brandt was Federal Chancellor. In this capacity he laid the foundations of his Ostpolitik, which aimed to regulate relations with the countries and peoples of Eastern Europe. A reliable partnership with the West remained the prerequisite for this policy of peace and rapprochement, however. Brandt also succeeded in instigating some notable internal reforms that were designed to reduce the authoritarian nature of the state and transform the Federal Republic into an enlightened citizen's state. He also prompted his party to rid itself of its last vestiges of traditionalism. As a result, the terms democracy and socialism were merged to form the concept of Democratic Socialism. Following the federal elections of 1972, which endorsed his political agenda, Brandt emerged as a charismatic leader, becoming the symbol of a better Germany and establishing himself as a prominent statesman who commanded international respect (underlined by his award of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1971). Two years later, on 6 May 1974, he resigned as Federal Chancellor in the wake of the espionage affair surrounding Günter Guillaume, a GDR agent who had been a member of his staff. Brandt later came to regard his decision to resign as wrong.
He remained chairman of the SPD, though, and assisted its transformation into a modern popular party. As chairman of the Socialist International, a position to which he had been appointed in 1976, he contributed significantly to the democratisation of Southern Europe. In 1977, he chaired the Independent Commission on International Development Issues (the so-called North-South Commission), which drafted development strategies for global action based on solidarity. Willy Brandt succeeded in recruiting prominent politicians and experts to the North-South Commission. On 12 February 1980, following two years' work, the Commission presented its report, which immediately attracted global attention.
Known as the Brandt Report, the study undertook a review of development policy, calling for the integration of the underprivileged countries of the South into the global economy. The Commission hoped this would lead to the requisite improvements in the economic and social situation of the disadvantaged countries.
After 23 years in office, Brandt stepped down as chairman of the SPD in June 1987. He became honorary chairman of the SPD and also kept his seat in the Federal Parliament. He returned to the forefront of the political arena in 1989. A man who had always considered himself both a German patriot and global citizen, he was one of the driving forces of German reunification.
A Forward-Thinking Peace Policy
The Social Democrats act on the assumption of a wide-ranging concept of peace, security and development. Social Democratic peace policy is more than a security policy. We know that in the long run, peace can be achieved only by a package of political, economic, cultural and development cooperation measures, by effective multilateralism and an even-handed international economic and legal order.
We support the transatlantic partnership. We share common values and interests. We wish to rebuild our alliance with the USA from the bottom up. In the knowledge that a peaceful world order and sustainable global development can exist only if we work together with the USA, Europe and the USA must agree on common objectives for the central questions of the future. We want to agree on a joint leadership role with the USA in climate protection, develop rules for a fair world order and build upon cultural exchange. We are in favour of an open debate of values with the USA on questions on which we have a difference of opinion, such as the death penalty or Guantanamo.
...3. Creating a Fair World Order
The process of globalisation brings companies, economies and the politics of national and international institutions ever closer together. It is neither possible nor desirable to stop or reverse this process. Creating a fair world order, taking advantage of the opportunities provided by globalisation and helping to fight the dangers is the correct response to the challenge. A fair world order is in our own enlightened interests and is an urgent concern of ours. The SPD wants to take its responsibility. Today, responsible government also means taking on global responsibility.
- Implementing internationally-binding ecological standards for a sustainable world economy and far-sighted energy policy.
- The removal of barriers to trade, customs barriers and industrial country subsidies, in order to offer the developing countries a fair chance on the world markets,
- The resumption of the Doha Development Round under the aegis of the WTO,
- Strengthening trade-driven development cooperation,
- Boosting voluntary initiatives for responsible corporate governance, such as the Global Compact,
- Supporting programmes to bring about the transparency of financial flows in the raw materials sector, such as the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI).
Power for Renewal
The Social Democratic Party’s Godesberg Manifesto of 1959 transformed it from a workers’ party into a people’s party. With its Berlin Manifesto of 1989 social democracy assimilated the stimuli of the new social movements – not least the idea of sustainability. The SPD’s first manifesto of the twenty-first century must again provide new answers: new answers to the challenges of Europeanisation, globalization, and social, demographic, and technological change. The time is out of joint: new things are emerging while the old ones slip away only gradually. How can change be combined with stability and social justice? How can we enable renewal and cohesion?
We must not rely on passive adaptation to change but seek actively to guide it. The existence of a wide range of different market economies and welfare states both in Europe and the rest of the world furnishes impressive proof that even today there is considerable room for maneuver at national level.
When the SPD adopted its Berlin Manifesto in December 1989 the extent and the contours of national and European change were only discernible in outline. The fall of the Berlin Wall on 9 November 1989 symbolizes the victory of the people of Europe over the Post-War order. The attack on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, is the symbol of a new era of global conflicts which challenge our world community.
In 1998 the SPD once more took on the responsibility of governing the whole of Germany. Social democrats formed policy in the Bundesländer, cities, administrative districts and municipalities. Our policies accelerated the renewal of our country. The upshot is that the guiding principles of the Berlin manifesto no longer suffice to point us in the right direction. However, the Berlin manifesto can serve as the starting point for a reformulation of social democratic policy for the twenty-first century. The Godesberg manifesto’s basic values of freedom, justice, and solidarity remain. It is not our basic values and goals which are changing, but the political point of departure for their realization.
As the mainstream party of the left in Germany we are conducting the debate about a new basic manifesto for society as a whole and with society as a whole. We are willing to join forces with anyone who shares the values and aims of social democracy. And we stand opposed to any who hold different views. We shall be proactive in the battle of ideas in Germany.