New Deal Liberals Transform into the Faux
Populist Radical Left
elections looming in 2014, it is about time for Barack Obama to gear up another
progressive “war” against the rich, the limb loppers, the fat cats, the tonsil
pullers, the “enemies” of Latinos, the jet junketers, the women haters, and
those who knew neither when to stop profiting nor how the government had really
built their businesses. We shall shortly witness some of the wealthiest and
most privileged of capitalist America decrying inequality and unfairness from
the 18th hole in Hawaii, the Malibu gated estate, and the Beacon Hill mansion.
And the faux populism will probably work, at least if 2008 and 2012 are any
easy to chart the evolution of the wealthy progressive elite from the
occasional limousine liberal of the 1950s and 1960s to the now dominant
hierarchy of the Democratic Party.
traditional Democratic boilerplate that I grew up with (as much as a ten year
old can notice much of anything in 1963) — minimum wage, 40-hour work week,
overtime pay, disability insurance, fair housing, civil rights, assistance for
the needy — was mostly achieved by 1970. Equality of opportunity, however, did
not translate into equality of result — given differences and imperfections in
instead of two children, three packs of cigarettes a day, four beers after
work, two DUIs, a messy divorce, a freak accident on the job — the
possibilities of either unsustainable responsibility or mishap are endless —
can send one from middle class into poverty, well beyond the powers of the most
enlightened government to prevent it. What is the liberal to do in those cases
to ensure that we end up the same?
by 1995, the huge expansion of the U.S. economy, globalization, and sweeping
breakthroughs in technology radically transformed the prior idea of “poverty,”
as I had remembered it in 1960 (we of the rural middle class a half-century ago
all used the privy farm toilet when outdoors around the house, and shared a
party phone line with eight other families). Today’s poor struggle with drugs,
crime, shattered families, and malaise, but not outdoor privies, the lack of
air conditioning and heating, dusty dirt roads, or a denial of access to a phone or TV. Deprivation now is almost defined as the absence of a free
electronic tablet at school.
riots do not break out over bread, but more likely about the nth model of Air
Jordan sneakers. When I go to a local Quest lab for a blood draw, the waiting
room is full of poor who suffer terribly from diabetes and kidney failure
brought about by carbohydrate- and sugar-driven obesity, not
malnourishment.Too many calories are
the scourge of America. There are no stormings of the local Wal-Mart to spread
beans and rice around; occasional flash mobbing of electronics stores
nationwide is prompted by desire for smart phones and pads.
seen holiday shoppers in my environs shout and push over big-screen TV holiday
sales, not rant over who gets the last ham hock at the meat counter. The
knockout game is not driven by poverty, but by boredom, a poverty of the mind,
and the assumption that there will be little government downside (e.g., getting
caught, convicted and sentenced to a long prison terms won’t necessary happen)
or private consequences (i.e. the frail-looking metrosexual target might well
pull out a .45 semi-automatic).
the liberal vision of legal equality of opportunity was mostly achieved, the
melodrama of ensuring an equality of result entailed. Wealthy liberals,
however, were not quite up to their own rhetoric, in the sense of living the
life of egalitarianism, diversity, and conspicuously reduced consumption. I
don’t remember any Silicon Valley grandees offering space for a few non-running
Winnebagos to be parked out behind their six-car garages. (I can offer
blueprints of how it is done by sending a few pictures from six or seven of my
neighbors.) There are few Kias on Malibu streets. Or less dramatically, Google
execs do not put their kids in Redwood City elementary schools to learn of
hard-knocks from the Other. Kanye West’s house has unused room for lots of
homeless people. MSNBC radicals do not take the subway home to inner Harlem.
Tenured Stanford faculty do not live in East Palo Alto.
The Modern Psychological Disorder of Elite
result of cosmic disappointment in the ability of progressive politics to
correct human disparities has given birth to the modern psychological disorder
of elite liberalism, which is mostly about squaring the circle of maintaining
privilege while deploring inequality. Say America is unfair ten times a day,
and the BMW in the garage and the new putter are no longer sins.
Obama cannot finish a sentence without lamenting unfairness; but he proves to
be no Jimmy Carter in scouting out the most exclusive of golf courses, and the
richest of fat cats to putt with. Elizabeth Warren talks of oppressed
minorities, but then invents a pseudo-Native-American identity to get a leg up
on the elite competition in order to land at Harvard. The fact is that the
elite who champion the poor and the poor themselves are not the players of the
1930s; the former usually make about the same amount of money and enjoy the
same privileges as those they damn, while the latter have access to
appurtenances and privileges denied the royalty of old.
wealthier and more secluded an Oprah, the most desperately she searches for
evidence of bias and inequality, finally reduced to the caricature of whining
about racially driven poor service over a $38,000 crocodile handbag. If most in
California don’t care what people do in their bedrooms, or if gays have on
average higher incomes than non-gays, or if gay marriage is now de rigeur, the
search for cosmic equality continues at an even brisker pace, resulting in
transgendered bathrooms in the public schools (crede mihi: the ten-year-old
daughters of the Yahoo elite will not encounter transgendered fifteen-year-old
boys in the female Menlo School restrooms).
not perverse, but logical that Obamacare architects don’t want Obamacare
coverage. It is understandable that Washington young-gun liberals know exactly
where DuPont Circle or Georgetown gets iffy. Modern liberalism provides the
necessary mental mechanisms to ensure the enjoyment of privilege. Al Gore was
the classical liberal of the age, crafting an entire green empire predicated on
opposing the very values that he later embraced to become, and preserve
staying, very rich.
Where Does This All Lead?
know, but the Republicans have not been able to explain to the country either
the illiberal nature of liberalism or its hypocrisies.
the presidency after eight years of liberal acculturation, the Republicans are
going to have to nominate a man of the people, in the Reagan fashion of the
wood-chopper who talks incessantly from first-hand knowledge about the common
entire array of issues is going to have to be reformulated. Take illegal
immigration. It is a gift for wealthy employers and La Raza elites, but an
anathema for entry-level laborers of all races whose wages are destroyed by
off-the-books illegals. Strapped taxpayers, not big business, pay for the
impact on schools, infrastructure, and the legal system when eleven million
cross the border illegally.
gun control is an elite musing: it does nothing to rid us of illegal weaponry,
but much to aggravate the middle-class hunter and homeowner, while exempting
well-armed security of the elite class.
interest rates have made banks flush with cash that they pay no interest on,
while hardly reducing credit card interest rates and ensuring that
play-by-the-rules middle class passbook savers lose money.
easing and the Federal Reserve have ensured a rush to the stock market that
booms while unemployment remains high. The world of Larry Summers, Jack Lew, or
Peter Orszag benefits — not the retired teacher with his life savings earning
nothing. The farm bill is still a giveaway to wealthy agribusiness at a time of
record farm prices, predicated on the quid-pro-quo notion that 70% of the
legislation’s funds will go to food stamps. But again, why let the progressive
mind feed on the carcass of the old, easily caricatured Republican wealthy?
response, we need to expose their hypocrisies and start worrying about a
shrinking middle class that has been damaged by Obama-era elites.Almost every issue from fracking, gun
control, illegal immigration and quantitative easing to Obamacare and cap and
trade invites a populist critique. Yet so far the Republican establishment
seems uninterested in making the case that the Democratic hierarchy is of, by, and for the elite. Liberals are funded and represented by the privileged in
Wall Street, universities, entertainment, the media, politics, foundations, the
arts, and government, and the inherited wealthy. They all have set the agenda
for the nation, called it progressive, and then sought exemption by seeking
more taxpayer money for entitlements to ensure the fealty of the poor.
is not progressivism, but instead pull-up-the-ladder-after-me regressivism —
and someone with some imagination and worldly experience needs to say that.
When multimillionaire Trimalchios like Bill and Hillary Clinton, the inherited
rich like John Kerry, or insider hucksters like Al Gore are called
progressives, we all are in sad shape.