What's Liberals' Big Idea? Who Cares
"FOR SEVERAL YEARS NOW, liberal eggheads have been having what seems like an important debate: Do they need "big ideas" like the conservative movement had during its long march to power? Serious-minded liberals launched what Democratic idea-broker Kenneth S. Baer called "the battle of the battle of ideas," in which they argue about whether it's time to argue about important arguments.
Just this week, Baer and Andrei Cherny — founders of a new, big-idea journal, "Democracy" — penned an op-ed article on this page calling for the pursuit of Big Ideas. In response to this effort, my fellow Times columnist Jonathan Chait says, and I'm not making this up: "Ideas? Feh." A more eloquent statement was posted on the liberal blog TPM Cafe: "The problem isn't getting people to believe in something — people can believe in anything. The problem is getting them to care." That captures the essence of liberalism's current plight. If it's not about emotions — caring, hating, feeling — it's about tactics. Big ideas have about as much animating force in liberal ranks today as Calvinism does at a porn studio. "