Especially when it comes to education. It’s encouraging that even a paleoliberal like Mondale now believes that “we should weed out teachers who are unsuited to the profession” and that teachers’ union rules “must have flexibility.” There’s a great struggle under way today within the Democratic Party between Obama and the reformers on one side and, on the other, hidebound adult interest groups (especially the National Education Association) that have until recently dominated the party. If liberalism is about practical problem solving, then establishing the high standards and accountability necessary to rescue a generation of poor minority youths and train the American work force of the future must move to the top of the progressive agenda. Education reform is emerging as the first important social movement of the 21st century, a perfect cause for a new generation of idealists.
Jonathan Alter in the New York Times Book Review on the “tactical split within liberalism itself,” one between “action liberals” (policy wonks willing to cooperate with “deal-making and Big Money connections that often turn off the base”) and “movement liberals (“dreamy idealists” who prefer “emotionally satisfying gestures to incremental but significant change”).