April’s cover story, The Vanishing Liberal: How The Left Learned To Be Helpless (subscription only, getcha one), is a case in point. It traces liberal movements going back to the 1870s, points to globalization in the 1990s for its current woes, and arrives at this assessment of President Obama and the Dems:
Whereas the Populists’ soapbox lecturers or the Progressives’ magazine exposés or FDR in his radio “fireside chats” explained the way of the world to the people and argued for why and how that way must change, Obama—like most Democratic leaders—concedes that the way of the world is wrong but tells us why it must stay that way because, some time in the past, powerful interests decreed it so.
Thus we are told that single-payer or a public option may be a good idea but that private insurance companies are simply too well–ensconced for reform. Afghanistan may be hopeless, but we have already committed to it. The power of the people is never activated, nothing much is asked or required of us, even as thugs overrun congressional town-hall meetings.
Instead, the party that claims to represent all progressive interests in this country proceeds with its impervious, self-interested agenda. The administration’s stated priorities for the near future are to balance the budget before a deep recession has abated and to commit the nation to a long-running war in a dysfunctional Asian country that we neither understand nor care about—thereby promising to repeat, simultaneously, the two worst mistakes made by liberal presidents in the past seventy-five years. As for the long term, the White House will form a commission bent on cutting “entitlements,” such as Social Security and Medicare, that are the bedrock of retired Americans’ prosperity.
This situation has most sentient folks on the left deeply disturbed -- hell, I was just chatting with my 78-year-old mother-in-law on the phone 20 minutes ago and she said in her sweet Southern way, “the only thing I’m mad at Obama about is that I just don’t understand why he didn’t open Medicare up to everybody and be done with it.” Indeed.
And the money quote:
Obama, the congressional Democrats, and most of our politicians at every level now maneuver within political confines defined by financial and military interests they cannot conceive of challenging.
The Tea Party is in no better shape:
No one is going to abolish the Federal Reserve, or the income tax, or Social Security and Medicare; if they did, small businesses and working people would be trampled beneath the corporate entities bent on their exploitation.
Liberalism is dead, the “great, forced opening of the past 130 years” it spawned has ended. And a true reformist movement? Good luck with that.
Hate to piss in peoples' Wheaties but even if healthcare reform passes, we're still doomed.
Adding .... All is not completely lost, of course. But the point of the article is to show how liberalism has been reborn repeatedly throughout history by appealing to new constituencies -- farmers, workers, immigrants, blacks, women, gays. A place was made at the table for those who had been excluded from the halls of power; now, the "ruling elite" is one of
unparalleled diversity, and includes unprecedented numbers of women, minorities, and individivuals who have worked their way up to power on brains and determination alone, usually without having inherited connections or wealth. It is a meritocracy much like the one long envisioned by many liberal reformers--and it has decided to capitulate, reap its considerable rewards, and draw the ladder up after it.
In this environment it will take a massive effort to bring that ladder down again. Will it happen? I just don't know.