A New Public Philosophy In "America's Search for a New Public Philosophy" (March Atlantic), Michael J. Sandel makes the argument that Democrats and Republicans both have "an impoverished vision of citizenship" and that the country cannot articulate a public philosophy that deals with civic virtue. Sandel is right in his assessment of the "national 'funk,'" and he points out that both conservatives and liberals subscribe to a Rawlsian version of neutral liberalism which is at the root of the problem. But Sandel overlooks contemporary alternatives that are being generated at the grassroots level--for example, the New Party--to counter the "threat to self-government" that both big business and the federal government pose to the republic.
The New Party, which includes the likes of Noam Chomsky and Cornel West, has won several local elections in Milwaukee, Chicago, and even Missoula, Montana, and has worked with unions and community organizations in St. Paul and Milwaukee to pass "living-wage" legislation to increase the minimum wage paid to employees of firms that receive public money. Truly the heir of the old Progressive movement, the party supports full employment, democratization of the banking system, fair (rather than free) trade agreements, and a reduction in military spending, among other things. The New Party is a localized phenomenon of regular people doing their civic duty--on a small scale. Its philosophy is one of civic involvement rather than the special-interest, individualistic philosophy of the Democrats.