How liberalism self-destructed

NewGeography delivers a devastating and quite accurate critique against modern-day liberalism, detailing how it has lost its way, is out of touch with much of the country, and worst of all, has no real message.

Liberalism once embraced the mission of fostering upward mobility and a stronger economy. But liberalism’s appeal has diminished, particularly among middle-class voters, as it has become increasingly control-oriented and economically cumbersome.

Modern-day liberalism, however, is often ambivalent about expanding the economy — preferring a mix of redistribution with redirection along green lines. Its base of political shock troops, public-employee unions, appears only tangentially interested in the health of the overall economy.

One of the biggest problems in the ongoing California budget train wreck is the chokehold the public unions and their pension funds have on the state. Sure, there are plenty of other self-interested players, but the plain truth is that California can no longer afford to pay those pensions and the unions are stonewalling the whole way..

As for Green ideas, there are plenty of ways to present them as ways to create jobs, and not that you people are polluters and uncaring and we liberals and the government know what is best for you.

Populism, a traditional support of liberalism, has been undermined by a deep suspicion that President Barack Obama’s economic policy favors Wall Street investment bankers over those who work on Main Street.

There’s no suspicion about it. Obama was backed early and with big money by the investment banks, who have enjoyed a wondrously high ROI for their efforts. More than anything, I’m a populist now. Liberals generally seem hostile to the idea. It scares them, all those crazy people in the country with guns and pitchforks who won’t listen to the perceived liberal wisdom. The arrogance!

The failure of Obama-style liberalism has less to do with government activism than with how the administration defined its activism. Rather than deal with basic concerns, it appeared to endorse the notion of bringing the federal government into aspects of life — from health care to zoning — traditionally controlled at the local level.

This is one reason that Health Care Reform faced such unrelenting hostility. Many saw it as just one more massive government intrusion into their lives, just like TSA is now.

Perhaps worst of all, the new liberals suffer from what British author Austin Williams has labeled a “poverty of ambition.” FDR offered a New Deal for the middle class, President Harry S. Truman offered a Fair Deal and President John F. Kennedy pushed us to reach the moon.

In contrast, contemporary liberals seem more concerned about controlling soda consumption and choo-chooing back to 19th-century urbanism. This poverty of ambition hurts Democrats outside the urban centers. For example, when I met with mayors from small, traditionally Democratic cities in Kentucky and asked what the stimulus had done for them, almost uniformly they said it accomplished little or nothing.

As I’ve said here before, a primary problem with liberalism is that since, starting in the 1970’s, it abandoned its traditional base of minorities, the poor, and the working class, it has no idea what it believes. Worse, it wants ever-bigger government, because that’s where its self-interest and patronage system is.


  • Chris Hedges has recently been publishing some great pieces about this – which he calls “The Death of the Liberal Class.” That’s also the title of his new book on the subject.

    I think part of the confusion and disarray these days among radicals/leftists/etc in the US is that the political scale has moved so far to the corporatist side of things that if you call yourself a liberal, you tend to really be a conservative who doesn’t like Republicans, if you are a liberal who stands firm in what you believe, then you are pretty much a radical, and if you are truly a radical, then you’re just plain lonely.

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