The events hosted by the National Democratic Institute, the “foreign policy” arm of the Democratic Party, during the Democratic Party convention in Denver over the next few days tells a lot about the ideological affinities of the U.S. democrats.
Although some European progressives would like to think that the Democrats belong to the left, the reality shows that their point of gravity lies more realistically between the Liberal and the Socialist Internationals.
As it was already the case at the 2004 Convention most of the foreign leaders that have been invited to talk on the various panels belong to the center-left or even to the center-right.
The list of guests suggests that the Democrats feel more at ease with the liberal democratic wing of the Liberal International (an organization that includes “liberals” like the British Lib/Dems as well as conservatives like the Belgian Mouvement réformateur ou the Dutch VVD) than with the mass-based social democratic parties that form the core membership of the Socialist International.
The NDI has chosen to link up with the Club de Madrid, a association of former moderate heads of state and of government, that tend to focus more on multilateralism and conflict resolution than on a social and progressive agenda. The debate on poverty, for instance, will give the floor to such personalities as the neoliberal Peruvian economist and theoretician of the informal economy Hernando de Soto and the former president of the World Bank, James Wolfensohn.
Former Chilean president Ricardo Lagos, who can be described as a center left political leader, is the most “leftist” personality among the guests of the NDI.
Are the Democrats less liberal à l'américaine than "libéraux" the European way. U.S. liberalism and European progressivism imply indeed a stronger commitment to social justice and real belief in the power and the responsibility of the state to intervene in favour of equal rights.
This is a point that U.S. and European progressives will have to ponder and act upon if they really want to believe in Barack Obama’s promise of change.