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Professor of Government and of Sociology Theda R. Skocpol said last night that it is time for the Democratic Party to shift back to the left and again embrace ideals of the New Deal, applying them to America's problems of today.
"We need a new social contract," Skocpol said. "We must bridge the division between blacks and whites that has bedeviled the Democratic Party for the past fifty years."
In a panel discussion organized by the Cambridge Forum, Skocpol was joined by Marshall Ganz, lecturer at the Kennedy School of Government, and Karen M. Paget, a member of the advisory committee on women's studies in religion at the Harvard Divinity School, all of whom spoke of the roles of progressive values in American politics in front of about 50 listeners at the First Parish church in Cambridge.
The event--part of the forum's fall 1997 public program series--was free and open to the public. WGBH, a local public radio station, recorded the event, which will likely be broadcast later this month.
The speakers were critical of the contemporary political reality in America, stressing the internal conflicts of the Democratic Party.
Paget discussed new organizing strategies that would be more inclusive of different ethnicities, races and genders.
"The framework for the new social contract lies in a broader coalition," she said.
Ganz was critical of the "commercialization" of--and the lack of participation in--American democracy.
"It's a question not of how to get money out of politics but how to get people back into politics," Ganz said. "It is not an exercise in consumer choice--we need participation."
Paget lamented the influence of special interest groups in the financing of campaigns.
"This is not a question of winners and losers in the marketplace," she said.
Skocpol suggested a return to the ideals of the 1930s, emphasizing an inclusive agenda that would benefit the poor, the middle class and the elderly through increases in welfare and social security.
"We can't talk about the 'how?' in politics without answering 'what for?,''' Skocpol said. "That's why we have outlined a vision."
That vision is outlined in The New Majority: Toward a Popular Progressive Politics, a new selection of essays by political progressives, including one by Skocpol entitled, "A Partnership with American Families."
"We're arguing that Democrats should take back the Democratic Party," Skocpol said when discussing what she described as President Clinton's conservative policies.
Aaron M. Goldzimer, a first-year at the John F. Kennedy School of Government, was critical of the speakers' progressive agenda.
"They're wrong. The 'real' new progressive majority talks about the international economy and how we can control it and how to promote a local sustainable community and economy," he said.
Brian R. Joseph, advisor of international relations at the University of Central America in Managua, Nicaragua, said the discussion was important in light of the central role America plays in global politics.
"The issues being worded here are very critical--their solutions have global importance," said Joseph, who studied with Skocpol at Harvard in the late 1970s.
In response to a question about her position on the American political spectrum, Skocpol quoted Sen. Paul Well stone (D-Minn.), who has claimed to "represent the democratic wing of the Democratic Party."
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