The American left has never been as left or as strong as the left in other countries. Today, it has become dominated by white grievance just as much as the right. On identity issues, it is white self-grievance; on other issues, it’s a laundry list of more social spending that benefits the already-middle class. Almost all of it is deeply infused with the politics of complaint and monday-morning quarterbacking. It’s very obvious, for example, that leftist critics of Obama would not be involved in any manner with the Syrian conflict, but they don’t explain why this would be effective in any credible manner.
It’s too much to criticize the agenda of the far left as that of a fifth column but before anyone agrees with dismantling the American Empire, they must explain what will replace the incumbent world order, the pax americana, if you will. I don’t support empire for its own sake, but I’m skeptical everything suddenly fixes itself if we disengage from the world.
On the economic front, it is certainly the case that the American safety net is too weak. But is free college part of the safety net? So many problems stem from poverty and malnutrition, yet those issues have taken a backseat to restoring the middle class to the perks that only the upper middle class now have instead of lifting the bottom out of poverty.
The one exception to this has been the largely union-backed campaign to raise the minimum wage to $15. While this only helps people with jobs, it’s actually treating the problem.
Unlike many, I have no problem with things that sound like “class warfare.” I’m not squeamish about higher taxes on wealth and incomes, but where I differ is that I believe this should be done in the name of social welfare, not punishment. Punishing “Wall Street” simply to punish them might feel good, but it won’t bring us back to the post-war middle class unless the program is tuned to raise incomes. In general, punishing the corporate class is largely not all that different than criticisms of the government from both sides that aren’t constructive, are monday-morning quarterbacking, and in the case of the left are basically just critiques of capitalism in general.
The reason this is getting worse on the left is that it has turned into its own echo chamber in a way that it wasn’t 10 years ago. When Dolores Huerta and Paul Krugman are rejected because of their choice of candidate, it’s clear that any dissent isn’t tolerated. If you propose an idea that seems like a compromise to win an election, you’re selling out. When the election results bear that warning out, it was rigged, or it was the media—anything other than the fact that Americans aren’t who they are.
Americans are not all Ph.D.s in some liberal arts subject. They are not all sweater-wearing NPR listeners. Nor are they all NRA members who worship Ayn Rand. America is more complex than that.
I focused on the left because a I generally believe that capitalism requires a safety net—if that’s socialism, then I whatever; but I do not believe the government should own the means of production.
The right in this country is beyond saving. They too fail to realize that they will never win a majority for many of the ideas they won’t compromise on, like trickle down economics. Their conversion into white Christian nationalists is complete.
The problem is that the technocratic center, to the extent that it exists, is still far too partisan to be called a “center” and does not really exist in the Republican party. There are a few left here and there, but for the most part, the Republican of governance was purged.
This leaves the Democratic party divided between the governance wing and the activist wing and in our system those divisions leave it vulnerable to losing even when the ideas of the other side aren’t great.
It also means that the Democrats too will eventually feel the centrifugal force pulling them to the extreme and they will probably overreach with policy.
Two areas where this may occur, in my opinion, are crime and identity politics. Crime is low. If that changes, those to blame for it will suffer a huge political price. In the identity politics realm, the continuous insistence that campus notions of equality can translate to the population at large will stall out. “I was born this way” appeals to basic American fairness. Self-flagellation and expecting to do whatever you want without consequences do not.
The problem here is that new things happen and new challenges will occur. If the only two solutions on offer come one each from a rigid fantasy world where all ideas must conform to doctrine, eventually there will be no effective governance.