There is an “intense struggle for the soul of the Democratic Party” being waged between those who believe that the United States is “the leader of the free world” and those who reject that premise and see rather “hubris, not leadership in America’s history,” Josh Block, president and CEO of The Israel Project, wrote in an op-ed for The Hill Thursday.
The Israel Project publishes The Tower.
Block describes the first group, who also are “fighting for tolerance, social progress and economic prosperity” at home, as “progressives,” while the latter group are “neo-progressives” or “neo-progs.”
The candidacy of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I – Vt.) for the Democratic presidential nomination shows the appeal of isolationism within the Democratic Party, Block argued. But in embracing isolationism, Sanders and President Barack Obama have failed to uphold an important aspect of progressive American principles: to show “those living under the harsh boot of oppression” that “America was with them.”
Block cited the administration’s “utter passivity” to the carnage in Syria and the Sanders’ advocacy to normalize relations with Iran. “Would the progressive position—either of values or policy—be to allow Russian, Iran and Assad free reign, or move as fast as possible to normalize relations with an Iranian regime that does all those things, and is simultaneously a military, terrorist and cyber security threat to America and our allies?” Block asked.
Block traced the rise of the neo-progs to the merging of two forces: “the netroots, that early-2000s far-left, tech-savvy wing of the party,” and the “resurgent anti-war left of the 1970s” who joined forces in opposition to President George W. Bush and “the misguided war in Iraq.” Neo-progressive isolationism gained force during the Obama administration and served as “rationalizations for shirking America’s role as leader of the West.”
The consequence of these rationalizations has been devastating to a true progressive worldview:
These deliberate choices, which Sanders applauds and would accelerate, have increased human suffering, war and famine, deepened instability, and undermined trust in global systems that we need to constrain behavior by bad actors and maintain a system of enforceable mores.
Never before have regimes that contribute to human suffering and oppose progressive values been so free to act without consequence or fear of American retribution.
Does that sound “progressive” to you?
Block’s critique of the Democratic Party echoes concerns raised by Martin Peretz in The Democratic Party, on the Edge of the Abyss, which was published in The Tower Magazine in August 2015.
Peretz observed that Iran and its “gunmen continue energetically disrupting the status quo, from Yemen to Lebanon, from Gaza to Bahrain,” and that “as Iranian efforts expand, ISIS grows stronger.” He concluded:
About this matter of political consequences: has the Democratic Party forgotten the McGovernite legacy from which it fought for so long, and for a time so successfully, to free itself? The George W. Bush Administration’s post-invasion missteps in Iraq, and their grisly consequences, have given the Democrats a dangerous sense of their own freedom: Americans may oppose aggression without strategy, but history has shown that they also oppose idealism without strength and pragmatism without principle.
Our current president flatters himself with comparisons to Abraham Lincoln. But Lincoln knew about confronting adversarial regimes possessed of corrupt, intolerant and militant principles. Even as he worried about losing his re-election bid 151 years ago this summer to New York Democrat Gen. George B. McClellan, who advocated a quick peace with the South and an end to emancipation, he sent Gen. Philip Sheridan to destroy the economic infrastructure of the Shenandoah Valley and Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman to do the same in Georgia. Lincoln understood that there are some illegitimate regimes that demand resistance rather than compromise.
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