[Hillary Clinton] is the nominee because the Democratic Party, which used to fight about great issues of war and peace, of the deeper meaning of foreign and domestic policy -- it was a vital thing -- is now kept together by one central organizing principle: the brute acquisition of power, and holding on to that power no matter what. The worst members of the party appear to care almost nothing about what that power is used for, how it will be wielded to achieve higher purposes. They’re just making a living. They’re just on a team....I have several reactions to this. The first is to the last bit ("They want to have connections..."). The reaction is that I'm shocked, shocked, to see that back-scratching is going on in Washington. That's never happened before.
The Democratic Party and its lobbyist/think-tank/journalistic establishment in Washington have long looked to me to be dominated by people devoted mostly to getting themselves in the best professional position and their kids into Sidwell Friends School. They want to be part of the web, the arrangement. They want to have connections, associates, a tong. They want to be wired in.
But to the rest of what Noonan writes here: Is this Democratic Party you recognize? We're at the end of an eight-year democratic presidency. What do you remember about it? A concern with the rights of women, LGBT people, and non-whites. An effort to bring undocumented immigrants out of the shadows. A struggle to wrap up two wars, even if that struggle was often one step forward and two steps back. An end to government-sanctioned torture. A slow process of trying to close Guantanamo. A nuclear deal with Iran. Increased taxation of the rich. And, of course, Obamacare.
Really? None of that qualifies as "fight[ing] about great issues of war and peace, of the deeper meaning of foreign and domestic policy"? Preventing the privatization of Social Security and Medicare, which Democrats have done successfully for the past generation, doesn't count? Denouncing the racism and anti-Muslim bias of the opposing party and its nominee this year -- that doesn't count?
You can say that the Clintons are less principled. But Bill Clinton raised taxes on the wealthy, fought to provide universal health coverage, supported an assault weapons ban, and paid a serious political price for it. He weathered a government shutdown led by a Republican who, as Paul Krugman reminds us, sought Medicare privatization. His vice president went on to fight climate change in the face of widespread ridicule on the right.
I'm not saying that many Democrats in Washington aren't also self-serving insiders. But the party stands for something. The voters certainly do, and if there's been hesitancy about the presidential nominee this year, it's because voters have demanded that she live up to our principles. And she's insisted that she does -- her rhetoric hasn't tacked to the center.
We're a divided nation because we don't agree on abortion or gun control or whether Islam is a religion you're free to practice in America under the terms of the Constitution. There are Democratic positions on all these issues and more. What Noonan writes here makes no sense.