Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Redefining American Class Warfare (I)

Progressives such as the New York Times’ Thomas Friedman believe we are on the verge of solving major problems, if only the “tea party” would get out of the way:
The Republican Party is being taken over by a Tea Party faction that is not interested in governing on any of the big issues — immigration, gun control, health care, debt and taxes — where, with just minimal compromises between the two parties, we’d amplify our strengths so much that we’d separate ourselves from the rest of the world. Instead, this group is threatening to shut down the government and undermine America’s vital credit rating if it doesn’t get its way. This kind of madness helped to produce the idiotic sequester — the $1.2 trillion in automatic, arbitrary and across-the-board budget cuts from 2013 to 2021 — that is already undermining . . . our strongest assets.
In other words in Friedman’s eyes, we have nearly arrived at the progressive paradise of “philosopher kings” rule discussed in the previous blog.

Friedman’s New York Times colleague, conservative Ross Douthat, has a different take on the “tea party,” viewing these populists as more the Republican future than the establishment Republicans favored by Friedman’s progressives:
the populists tend to have 1) decent ideas and 2) a better sense than their [GOP] establishment rivals of how to brand the party as something other than just a tool of rich people and business interests. . . it isn’t [right] for the Republicans to escape their current cul-de-sac, for the party leadership to “win” and the populist base to “lose” . . . Instead, somebody. . . has to both integrate and purge — leaving the Tea Party’s baggage by the roadside while [speaking] to populist impulses and taking up populist ideas, and folding both into a strategic vision . . . more connected to political reality.
Robert W. Merry, writing in the less-well-known National Interest, suggests Republicans are
a party that lacks discipline, that doesn’t seem to know what it wants to accomplish, that can’t put forth a consistent and coherent message, that can’t get its focus on the fundamental questions of our time[, first:] What is the U.S. government going to do about the debt overhang—currently approaching $17 trillion—that is tied increasingly to runaway entitlements and threatens the financial stability of the nation? The second is: What kind of nation are we going to be—a European-style social democracy or a nation committed to traditional U.S. concepts of limited government and measured federal intrusion into the private economy?
Douthat and Merry agree Republicans made a mess trying to force Obamacare funding cutoffs on a Democratic senate and president. Yet Merry advocates a traditional “shrink government” libertarian agenda instead of the European social democracy model progressives love, while Douthat favors populism that includes middle class-favored government programs.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA)
As these admitted setbacks and differences suggest, Republicans are fumbling in the aftermath of last year’s crushing presidential defeat, which has yielded up a progressive triumphalism colorfully described by self-identified GOP commentator Alex Castellanos of CNN:
Today's Democratic Party belongs to Elizabeth Warren. It is the party that just nominated a Sandinista trainee who returned from Nicaragua with "a vision of unfettered leftist government" for mayor of New York City, according to the New York Times. And today's Democrats think this is a good thing.
They dream audaciously, as Ruy Teixeira wrote in the Atlantic, of a new "Emerging Democratic Majority." As Peter Beinart noted in a Daily Beast piece, "The Rise of the New New Left," "Bill de Blasio's win in New York's Democratic primary isn't a local story. It's part of a vast shift that could upend three decades of American political thinking."  The Democratic Party is now animated by the "mobilized left," Beinart writes, emboldened by Internet activism. Their cause was galvanized by President Obama's seemingly impossible re-election.
This blog agrees with Castellanos’ conclusion that
Obama's answer to every economic challenge has been top-down. Our governing class knows best, he believes, especially since Washington's elite now includes him. . . His view of government is cast from the bronze of Franklin Roosevelt and the '30s. He puts our . . . public sector at the top of American life, to mandate redistribution and prosperity.
Except we don’t have prosperity, now or in the near future.

The progressive victory is top of the mind to conservative Matthew Continetti, of the “Washington Free Beacon”:
Democracies love consensus—to a large degree democracies cannot function without it. But the premises of the American consensus today, whether a Democrat or a Republican holds them, are liberal. You have heard them before: the status of illegal immigrants must be made legal, so-called austerity harms the economy, governments must do something to forestall climate change, free trade is all benefits without costs, economic integration with China is a net-plus, diversity is a compelling state interest, health insurance is a right, abortion on demand is a right, Islamophobia is a bigger worry than Islamism, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the root of Mideast turmoil, and at the end of the day human beings across the world, no matter their nation or religion or culture, are basically alike.
Continetti doesn’t believe this agenda works for most of us, citing the example of California:
California has been a laboratory experiment in liberalism, for illegal immigration, progressive taxation, generous welfare benefits, union-run public schools, generous public service pensions, and the most cutting edge environmental policies. The result. . . a hollowed-out economy and politics that satisfies the moral imperatives of rich liberals by buying off interest groups and the poor, and sends the middle class to Nevada and Arizona.
in the words of the New York Times. . . “the skill level of the American labor force is not merely slipping in comparison to that of its peers around the world, it has fallen dangerously behind.” [We are left with] an America governed by liberal or libertarian principles, an America that has adopted economic and social policies that benefit the established and the ascendant, the smart and the wily, while ignoring or bribing the poor and low skilled.
Of the commentators, Continetti most precisely suggests progressive rule isn’t working for the rest of us. The progressive ideal is reality in the sense that progressives truly rule today. Yet the progressive ideal of equality, no classes, or rather one healthy, all-encompassing middle class, is far from reality in a political order run top-down by a meritocratic elite delivering unemployment in place of jobs.

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