Monday, January 28, 2013

Why Don't More Americans Call Themselves Liberals: Ans. Too Many Phoney Ones!

"For the Democratic Party is not a collection of diverse interests brought together only to win elections. We are united instead by a common history and heritage--by a respect for the deeds of the past and a recognition of the needs of the future "- John F. Kenendy

Rachel Maddow presented some astounding facts a week ago, on her show. The theme was that despite the fact Repukes portray the U.S. as a “center right nation", poll after poll discloses Americans are foursquare for LIBERAL programs. 82% do not want any cuts to Social Security and 74% demand no cuts to Medicare. 94% are also in favor of universal gun checks. So why, despite polling for unabashed liberal positions or programs do only 22% of Americans regard themselves as liberals.

One worthy theory is that  of Joel Kotkin, a fellow in urban design at Chapman University, who argues in similar terms to what I have (in previous blogs) regarding the infection of the Democratic Party by cancerous Neoliberalism, or shameless pro-Business dominance. Kotkin argues that the Democratic Party and the left are now dominated by what he calls “gentry progressives”: largely white, well-educated, culturally liberal urbanites. (Or analogous to what we who attend football games refer to as the ‘brie and wine’ crowd, who sit in their temp. controlled little domes and schmooz while we in the lower seats grab some brats and beer and sit in the elements!)

In an essay published by Forbes  a month after Obama’s decisive re-election, Kotkin wrote:

“The now triumphant urban gentry have their townhouses and high-rise lofts, but the service workers who do their dirty work have to log their way by bus or car from the vast American banlieues, either in peripheral parts of the city (think of Brooklyn’s impoverished fringes) or the poorer close-in suburbs. This progressive economy works for the well-placed academics, the trustfunders and hedge funders, but produces little opportunity for a better life for the vast majority.”


Kotkin makes the additional case that the Obama coalition which united well-educated, often upscale liberals, with such struggling, often disadvantaged constituencies as single women, racial and ethnic minorities, and the young is fragile at best:

“The class issue so cleverly exploited by the president in the election could prove the potential Achilles heel of today’s gentry progressivism. The Obama-Bernanke economy has done little to reverse the relative decline of the middle and working class, whose share of national income has fallen to record lows. If you don’t work for venture-backed tech firms, coddled, money-for-nearly-free Wall Street or for the government, your income and standard of living has probably declined since the middle of the last decade.”

The fragility of temporary, expedient political coalitions, as opposed to a party grounding itself in firm principles, may be why JFK warned against them in one of his most famous and stirring quotes:

"For the Democratic Party is not a collection of diverse interests brought together only to win elections. We are united instead by a common history and heritage--by a respect for the deeds of the past and a recognition of the needs of the future"  

Sadly, the New Dems seem to have forgotten that message, and have left their respect for the deeds of the past behind to build on the quicksand of expediency and temporary coalitions. This is what Kennedy was warning against, and instead insisted the party needed a committment to its common history and heritage - which clearly is distinct from the Reeps. This common history thereby demands REAL progressives (aka bona fide Liberals, as opposed to Neoliberals)  embrace the principles of the New Deal and NOT put Social Security up for grabs as the wine and brie faction are wont to do.  

Yet all these Gentrified Libs (who are really Neoliberal - free market worshipping freaks) consider “Entitlement reform”  a necessity and share Beltway Hack Bob Woodward’s deformed meme, expressed in his recent book, The Price of Politics’, as: 

"Unsustainable entitlement spending on Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security as highlighted by Republican House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan and familiar to all informed politicians and economists....has been left largely unaddressed."

Thus, feeding the fears of the landed gentry libs that "costs are now exploding"  according to the immutable logic of demographic and actuarial facts.    No surprise then that this debased progressive "elite " now fancies it can disregard the distributive consequences of their  New Deal- 1960s forbears. A perfect example of these brie and wine degenerates:   calling for gradual reduction in Social Security benefits – either by raising the retirement age or switching to a “chained” Consumer Price Index (a revised inflation index which cuts government spending by reducing annual cost of living adjustments.  

Who would be most affected? Those in the bottom quntile of the elderly who depend on Social Security  for 84 percent of their annual income, and those in the next quintile dependent on Social Security for 83 percent of their income. At the beginning of 2012, the average Social Security benefit was $1,230 a month, or $14,740 a year. For 35 percent of elderly white beneficiaries, for 42 percent of Asian-Americans, for 49 percent of blacks, and for 55 percent of Hispanics, Social Security represents 90 percent or more of total income.   

Tragically, in the current debate over financing the cost of income support for older Americans, the chained C.P.I. proposal has more political support than the TRUE  progressive alternative of raising the current $113,700 payroll tax cap . Low-income Social Security beneficiaries are not equipped to absorb cuts in benefits that a switch to a chained consumer price index would entail; on the other hand, according to the centrist Tax Policy Center, raising the cap on income subject to the payroll tax could completely cover Social Security costs into the foreseeable future without reducing benefits.  

But do the entitled "liberal" brie munchers and chardonnay sippers in their gated communities want this? Hell no! These lily-livered rats would rather keep their lower taxes than make any real sacrifices for their lower wage, struggling, blue collar brethren! And then they have the nerve to wonder why so few Americans - barely one fifth - describe themselves as political liberals? Well, DUH! Because along with the Repukes who soiled the name, so have these MFs by their disdain and inaction for true liberalism.  

As NY Times columnist Thomas B. Edsall noted (‘New Liberalism’)”

“Obama’s victory and the growing evidence of an emerging majority Democratic coalition pose the danger that the left will take false comfort. The demographic forces currently powering the Democratic Party in no way guarantee a resilient coalition assured of a long-term competitive advantage.

In addition to the glaring class conflicts between the party’s upscale cultural liberals and the larger body of Democratic voters with pressing material needs, there are a host of potential fissures.

In cities from Los Angeles to Chicago to Houston, African-Americans are competing with Hispanics and others for government jobs, good schools, good neighborhoods, political power and basic resources. Republicans are looking toward these tensions to see how their party can capitalize on them"

Can the Repugs profit at Dem expense? Of course! If enough of the lower strata Dems see how the Gentrified bunch is screwing them over! Just watch and see in the coming months if a Chained CPI is really enacted under a nominal Dem administration or if Medicare age thresholds are increased. You will see the Reeps able to exploit it like a  pack of hyenas rips into defenseless prey.

The way to preserve and expand Dem victories? Upper income Dems must be part of the solution and not the problem. They must not show themselves as Neoliberal rats, who already have theirs, and deny (or cut) government support for their lower- income brethren.  They need to re-learn the lesson, seemingly lost, that in this age of vast corporate wealth and power the rest of us need gov't as a counter-lever now more than ever. IF the Dem party isn't prepared to embrace its own heritage (from FDR) and ensure that, they may reach the stage of the Whigs faster than the Repukes!


Tris Stock said...

Three words; Dunning–Kruger effect

Copernicus said...

Ah, but three words doesn't provide an explanation! Can you expatiate? Can you articulate in more detail? (Maybe 150 words?)

Three words, yeah, maybe. But the problem is that people can still interpret that def. in various ways which may not be what you really meant when you wrote: "three words: Dunning–Kruger effect"

For readers not in the know, Wikpedia defines it as: "a cognitive bias in which unskilled individuals suffer from illusory superiority, mistakenly rating their ability much higher than average. This bias is attributed to a metacognitive inability of the unskilled to recognize their mistakes."

That could possibly mean two things:

1) Liberals themselves are deluded (i.e. in their alleged 'superiority') and hence display this bias when they construe why more Americans aren't aligned.

or 2) Most Americans already regard themselves as superior to liberals and their ideas so display this bias by not calling themselves liberal.

It would be interesting to get your take!