As many have noticed, we have long had a Dems rox/sux debate here at DKos. This is not an attempt to resolve that debate. Rather, this diary is an attempt to explain (partially) the differing viewpoints people bring to the debate, and why these different viewpoints lead to different views of the Democrats.
In some sense, it all boils down to how different people view the primacy of economic and cultural issues. Those who think economics (e.g., economic inequality) are most important are most critical of the democrats. Those who think cultural issues (e.g., civil rights) are most important are more favorably inclined to the democrats.
Follow me below the fold for my explanation for all of this.
The democrats and republicans are the same.
This phrase, or some variation of it (e.g., the two parties are owned by the same oligarchs.), are often said here at DKos. This angers some and doesn't trouble others. Those who it angers usually respond that it ignores civil rights, abortion and the supreme court. Those who are not troubled by the phrase respond that they weren't talking about those issues--and critically, I think they are being honest about that.
Most people here on DKos would agree that the democrats are significantly to the left of the republicans on social issues. Most would also agree that the two parties are far too similar on economic issues. The difference between the roxxers and suxxers is the relative importance that they place on economic and cultural issues.
IMHO, most of the folks who use the "republicans and democrats are the same" rhetoric are talking about economics...but that's not entirely it. They are also people who think that, deep down, economics is the real foundation of society, that ultimately economics determines social policies (Basically an old school Marxist theory). That is, humans are seen as homo economicus. Its not that they think that the dems and republicans are the same on social issues, its that they think that economic issues (e.g., economic inequality) are far more important than social issues. From this view, if we address economic inequality, social and racial inequality will ultimately follow. Another way of saying this is that if minorities achieve economic parity, they will no longer face the social and civil rights abuses they currently experience.
I am more of a neo-marxist, placing social and economic issues on roughly the same level--each influencing the other. I place roughly equal emphasis on both economics and social concerns and see the directionality of importance varying on the particular issue. That is, I see a need for action on both sides of the equation at the same time.
Others see social/cultural issues as primary (gender, race, LGBTQ etc). By this view, if we solve social inequality, then economic equality will follow. That is, if we guarantee minorities the right to vote and fully participate in society, that will allow them to partake fully in the economy and achieve economic parity.
IMHO, most folks on DKos lie on a continuum between a primarily economic focus and a primarily social/cultural focus...with those on the economic side more critical of the dems and those on the sociocultural side more supportive. If the dems have been better on sociocultural issues and worse on economic issues, than those who care most about economics will be most critical of the dems, while those who care most about civil rights will be most supportive. The two positions in the rox/sux wars make sense given the underlying assumptions of the different factions.
To be clear, this doesn't explain everything. Some issues lie outside this continuum (e.g., the environment), and some folks have strongly differing views on the speed at which progressive action can occur (e.g., incrementalist vs revolutionary change). I am not saying that the economic/cultural debate explains everything, only that it explains much of it.
Recognizing these differences in perspective may not end the rox/sux wars, but perhaps it can help focus the arguments in a more productive way.