But Brownstein misses more than Beinart does with that focus, mostly because neither one of them see the profound changes that have occurred since the ADA. To both Beinart and Brownstein, this is still their fathers' Democratic Party. Yes, with Democrats mostly out of power in the executive branch for the past generation, Democratic foreign policy has necessarily been reactive. Neither, however, answer the question as to why Democrats have been shut out of the White House since Viet Nam, with two exceptions: two Southern governors, one whose election came in reaction to one of the worst political scandals in American history, and the other who won when conservatives split the ticket (and governed from the center out of political survival).
Put simply, the cacaphony of the American Left, which Beinart casts as a fringe element that receives inordinate attention, causes the American electorate to mistrust Democratic commitment to represent American interests instead of utopian, one-world ideals. That doesn't spring from Hollywood idiots such as Michael Moore getting too much press; that mistrust has been underscored by a generation of Democrats getting essential parts of foreign policy badly mistaken. Jimmy Carter kissed Leonid Brezhnev and scolded Americans for fearing Communism -- and then watched as the Soviets overran Afghanistan, threatening our vital security issues in the Persian Gulf.
Senators such as John Kerry insisted that Communists in Central America represented the will of the people and refused to address Communist expansion on our doorstep. When the US pressed the Sandanistas in Nicaragua by supporting the contras and forcing elections, Kerry and his friends on the left (notably Ed Asner) predicted that Daniel Ortega would win handily and give the Reagan Administration a well-deserved bloody nose. When the Nicaraguans tossed Ortega and his minions from office, they recovered from the shock just long enough to complain about voting "irregularities". (Sound familiar?)
Finally, in the Cold War to which Beinart asks Democrats to hearken, the party opposed every measure meant to win that conflict without military action. They believed -- believed -- that the world was condemned to a binary existence. Indeed, as John Kerry has said on more than one occasion, they did not consider Communism a problem to be solved, but just another strategy in governing that worked for some people. The Democrats fueled No Nuke rallies when Reagan updating aging weapons systems; they fought against defense spending when Reagan wanted to engage the Soviets on the economic front; and they made their preference for the status quo plain, even though millions of Eastern Europeans suffered under Soviet occupation for decades.
The Democrats didn't pursue all of these foreign-policy objectives strictly out of gainsay of the Republican executive as Brownstein proposes. These represented the Democratic core values! Moral relativism in the face of evil and an isolationist, none-of-our-business outlook results in retreat and surrender. Those policies and that track record does not represent mainstream American values any more, if they ever did at all.