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Yglesias: ‘Look At The Failures That The Right Has Brought On Us. Isn’t It Time To Do Something Different?’

By Matt Duss  

"Yglesias: ‘Look At The Failures That The Right Has Brought On Us. Isn’t It Time To Do Something Different?’"

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Continuing Matt Yglesias‘ interview with Think Progress about his new book, (reviewed here by Democracy Arsenal’s Ilan Goldenberg), Yglesias discussed some of the reasons why conservatives have successfully colonized so much of the territory around the foreign policy debate.

Yglesias said that “Democrats and liberals have not historically made [foreign policy] their big point of emphasis.” He also noted that, over the last several decades, the right has been much more audacious about foreign policy, building institutions, creating think tanks, and “work[ing] in a very organized and disciplined way to try to change our understanding” about how the world works, and about what policies American national security requires:

There wasn’t some organic popular hue and cry to invade Iraq. This was a movement that was built up over a period of years,…before September 11th—at a time when people would have said, “Well, you know, Paul Wolfowitz, that’s totally unrealistic. This is never going to happen.” And you know, it was never was going to happen. Except, then 9/11 came. That changed the dynamic. It made it possible to do things, and they laid the groundwork for it.

Yglesias suggested that “if liberals want to accomplish things in foreign policy…they need to lay the intellectual and popular ground-work for it,” building up organizations such as the Center for American Progress and creating the institutions to support progressive arguments for better foreign policy.

Yglesias also noted that this is a particularly opportune historical moment for such an alternative:

At the moment, what Bush has done has so clearly failed, that I think anyone has to at least stop and listen to what opponents have to say. That doesn’t mean necessarily you’ll convince people. You need to have good arguments. You need to have the fight. But there’s a chance to get the hearing for it. You can say, “Look at this. Look at the failures that the right has brought on us. Isn’t it time to do something different?”

Watch it:

Transcript:

YGLESIAS: Well, you know, in part it’s just because they’ve been more audacious about it. I think that Democrats and liberals have not historically made this their big point of emphasis. Even in opportunities when they’ve been able to govern they’ve said, “where do we want to shift policy. We’re going to put our emphasis, maybe on health care, maybe on things that are of interest to the environment.”

Whereas, there are institutions that have been on the right for quite some time who have worked in a very organized and disciplined way to try to change our understanding. There wasn’t some organic popular hue and cry to invade Iraq. This was a movement that was built up over a period of years, sort of before September 11th—at a time when people would have said, “Well, you know, Paul Wolfowitz, that’s totally unrealistic. This is never going to happen.” And you know, it was never was going to happen. Except, then 9/11 came. That changed the dynamic. It made it possible to do things, and they laid the groundwork for it. So, if liberals want to accomplish things in foreign policy, just the same as domestic policy, they need to lay the intellectual and popular ground-work for it, and then wait to see when opportunities present themselves and seize the moment.

For almost a generation, if not more, Democrats have been perceived as weak on national security issues. So, it’s been difficult for liberal arguments to get a hearing. Political consultants haven’t been interested in putting them forward. I think a lot of the public just hasn’t been interested in listening to liberals talk about foreign policy. But at the moment, what Bush has done has so clearly failed, that I think anyone has to at least stop and listen to what opponents have to say. That doesn’t mean necessarily you’ll convince people. You need to have good arguments. You need to have the fight. But there’s a chance to get the hearing for it. You can say, “Look at this. Look at the failures that the right has brought on us. Isn’t it time to do something different,” and then lay out what that is.

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