Here's a thought for progressives: Bush isn't the problem. And the next president should not try to be the anti-Bush.
No, I haven't lost my mind. I'm not saying that we should look kindly on the Worst President Ever; we'll all breathe a sigh of relief when he leaves office 405 days, 2 hours, and 46 minutes from now. (Yes, a friend gave me one of those Bush countdown clocks.) Nor am I suggesting that we should forgive and forget; I very much hope that the next president will open the records and let the full story of the Bush era's outrages be told.
But Bush will soon be gone. What progressives should be focused on now is taking on the political movement that brought Bush to power. In short, what we need right now isn't Bush bashing—what we need is partisanship.[…]
[M]any pundits have attributed last year's Republican defeat to Iraq, with the implication that once the war has receded as an issue, the right will reassert its natural political advantage—in spite of polls that show a large Democratic advantage on just about every domestic issue.[…]
The question, however, is whether Democrats will take advantage of America's new liberalism. To do that, they have to be ready to forcefully make the case that progressive goals are right and conservatives are wrong. They also need to be ready to fight some very nasty political battles.
And that's where the continuing focus of many people on Bush, rather than the movement he represents, has become a problem.[…]
[A]ny attempt to change America's direction, to implement a real progressive agenda, will necessarily be highly polarizing. Proposals for universal health care, in particular, are sure to face a firestorm of partisan opposition. And fundamental change can't be accomplished by a politician who shuns partisanship.
Krugman also includes this remark, which won't please all self-described liberals, but since my guys come out on top I'm willing to play nice about it:
[A] word about terms—specifically, liberal vs. progressive. Everyone seems to have their own definitions; mine involves the distinction between values and action. If you think every American should be guaranteed health insurance, you're a liberal; if you're trying to make universal health care happen, you're a progressive.
And here's the thing: Progressives have an opportunity, because American public opinion has become a lot more liberal.
I doubt if many liberals will agree to Krugman's claim that liberalism is simply the potential for progressive action. Of course it's true that, for a variety of reasons, progressives are more than ready--always have been--to act on certain things that liberals aren't. Campaign finance reform is a good example: Most progressives accept that the American government can't be completely fixed as long as our elections are financed by corporations. Most liberals see the solution to that as making changes to the existing finance laws to mitigate the most obvious bad effects of the status quo without addressing the fundamental question of who owns our elections, and hence our elected officials. The point isn't that the two groups have the same values on this issue, and one is willing to act while the other hangs back; liberals and progressives generally proceed from different values on the matter. Preserving the campaign finance status quo is action from the liberal point of view.
(There's a funny little back-story about Krugman appearing in Slate, by the way; you can read about it here.)
Krugman's piece is going onto the Readings list in the sidebar.