Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Liberals Rolling Back?: Center for American Progress

This is a year of mid-term election. One of the key focuses is whether liberals can roll back or not. According to the latest CBS/New York Times poll, the approval rate for President Bush has dropped to only 31 %, which is the lowest since he took office. At this stage, 44 % voters say they support Democrats while 33 % of them support Republicans for the mid-term election.

Opinion poll results can change easily. If liberals were to govern the United States, they must show their own policy vision to win real trust from the whole nation. Without this, they end up simply criticizing the current administration.

In 2003, John Podesta, a former chief of staff to Bill Clinton, founded a liberal think tank, called the Center for American Progress (CAP), in order to counterweight major conservative ones like the American Enterprise Institute and the Heritage Foundation. Currently, there are virtually no major think tanks to prevail liberal agendas. The Brookings Institution has strong ties with Democrats, but not so much ideologically-oriented. Moreover, Brookings has joint a project on regulation with the AEI. Most influential policy centers, including the Council on Foreign Relations, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, and so forth are nonpartisan or centrist. Some like the Project for New American Century is neoconservative, and the CATO institute is libertarian.

Readers can understand that liberals are not in a good position when it comes to policy making. Actually, Republicans are rated better than Democrats in the war on terror, betting 40 % approval over Democrats’ 35 %. Therefore, it is vital to examine whether liberals can really manage current crisis imposed on the United States and the world.

First, let me review missions of this think tank. Their motto is “Progressive ideas for a strong, just, and free America.” For this objective, the Center for American Progress conduct policy research ranging from domestic, economy, to national security issues.

In foreign policy, they state the following.

We promote the need for a strong, smart military and believe America must safeguard its homeland, fight terrorism and take on threats that know no borders. And we believe America's interests are advanced when we strengthen alliances and work with multilateral institutions that support the rule of law.

Unlike conventional think tanks, they advocate anti-Bush straightforwardly. Also, this think tank is dedicated to public education on a broad range of policy issues. Do they have feasible policy ideas? Last October, CAP published a policy brief, “COMBATING CATASTROPHIC TERROR: A SECURITY STRATEGY FOR THE NATION”, written by top experts including Madeleine K. Albright, former Secretary of State under the Clinton administration. Though this policy brief recommends withdrawal from Iraq, authors do not suggest how to manage this country after that. Quite interestingly, liberal experts share common viewpoints with the current administration that democracy promotion in the Middle East is the key to US foreign policy.

To foresee what happens in America and the world, people should not be so nearsighted to focus solely on election results. Whether Republican or Democrat, winning election is just the means, not the ends. Liberals must persuade the whole nation that they can manage current crisis more effectively. Remember that their approval rate on the war on terror is lower than that of the current administration.

Can liberals deal with critical challenges to America and the globe much better than the current administration? The key to the answer lies in their policy visions. This is the vital reason why people need to keep an eye on this progressive think tank.