12/31/2007 05:42 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

The National Interest and 2008

There is something called the national interest. It is not an ideology. It is not the possession of a single cabal of self-appointed imperialists. It is not achieved by substituting consensus for principle. It is not "bipartisanship" for its own sake or in pursuit of bad policy. And it is not a euphemism for oil.

Our national interest is the product of more than two centuries of national history which constitutes an amalgam of colossal mistakes, most notably Iraq, and grand sacrifices and noble actions. It required a terrible civil war to establish that slavery was not in our national interest. It required a cold war to establish that alliance and collaboration was in our national interest.

Oil dependence, climate change, nuclear proliferation, concentrated wealth, fear of terrorism, theocracy, empire, corruption in government, an arrogant and ignorant executive, and violation of civil liberties are not in our national interest.

Equal rights for all, respect for our constitutional guarantees, including most notable habeas corpus, economic opportunity, regulation of market excess, our natural heritage and environment, fairness, justice, and checks and balanced government are all in our national interest.

The age of Roosevelt was replaced by the age of Reagan which itself is coming to an end. The age of Reagan was relieved only briefly by a rare period of peace and prosperity in the 1990s. The brief Clinton era pursued "centrism" at the cost of blurring the fundamental principles of the 20th century Democratic party -- a sense of national community (Roosevelt), citizen duty (Kennedy), and equality and justice for all (Johnson). Return to the age of Reagan, under the current administration, destroyed the security alliances established by Truman.

There will, presumably, always be a conservative party. But it must be retaken by pro-environment, anti-interventionist, fiscally responsible traditional Republicans. For its part, the Democratic Party must redefine itself for an American generation that does not know what it stands for or what its principles are.

The national interest cannot be achieved by settling old scores, vengeance for past wrongs, and demonization of those with whom we disagree. History operates its own court of justice and vengeance is the enemy of progress.

Together, the two new/old parties must recapture a sense of the national interest, above partisan victory and advantage, willing to achieve consensus for the good of the country as men and women of good will and leadership define it, operating in good faith and mutual respect, and most of all bound by constitutional guarantees and constraints.

I choose to be a Democrat. But I am able to do so because I am first an American.