The Long, Slow Surrender of American Liberals

by lizard

I’m going to preempt a post Pete Talbot is writing defending 4&20 Blackbirds (it’s been in draft form for 2 days and I couldn’t help taking a peek).

I guess Pete received an email from someone he respects, someone who wants to make sure Pete is following what has been happening at 4&20 lately. And what’s that you ask? Criticizing Democrats.

My criticism is neither new, nor original. After all, the sell out of the Democratic party has been going on for two decades now. For those who don’t wear party lenses, it’s not that difficult to discern.

I think the last 8 years have been particularly hard on Democrats, especially the progressive wing. Bush’s reign was abysmal. That’s why there was so much hope the electoral victory in 2006—returning Democrats to power in Congress for the first time in 12 years—would translate into policy push-backs on immense blunders, like the disastrous Iraq and Afghanistan Wars (because terrorism).

Here’s how an piece interpreted the anti-war polling leading up to the 2006 elections:

The November election is shaping up as a national referendum on the war in Iraq – and the GOP, AKA the War Party, is in deep trouble.

A recent CNN poll asked voters to rank the importance of the war issue: 48 percent said it is “extremely important,” while 38 percent averred it’s “very important.” The same poll shows overwhelming opposition to the war (62 percent, and climbing), and – the shocker – 56 percent believe the war was a mistake, while a mere 40 percent disagree – with the latter figure the lowest on record. The bad news for Republicans: when it comes to Iraq, voters would rather have Democrats in charge (51 percent). After all, a Republican administration, aided and abetted by a rubber-stamp GOP-controlled Congress, lied to them: according to a Newsweek poll, a whopping 58 percent say Bush and his team “purposely misled the public about evidence that Iraq had banned weapons in order to build support for war.”

In 2006 I was 27 years old, still idealistic and politically gullible. I can look back now and say the lack of action from the 2006 elections was the seed of my disillusionment with the only viable political alternative to Republicans. It was only a matter of time before I began putting together the implications of the Clinton years and the global reach of neoliberalism.

But it’s not the criticism of an abstract political philosophy that inspires the vice chair of the Missoula County Democrats Executive Board to slyly subtweet her displeasure at my recent criticism with these two tweets:

Only in some hallucinatory parallel universe would the local democrats be responsible for Van Valkenburg’s negligence and mess.

Oh, a new day and a new article about Fred digging a new hole.

I’m not interested in picking personal fights. I sometimes need to remind myself there are mostly good people trying to do good things within a broken system. And, I should add, there is a lot of shared frustration that gets channeled at different targets, sometimes unfairly.

That said, I don’t think it’s unfair to call out examples of Democrats deviating from the principles they are suppose to stand for.

The cover piece for Harper’s March issue is titled “Nothing Left: The Long, Slow Surrender of American Liberals“. Here is how Ellen Rosenbush introduces the issue:

How will future generations view the presidency of Barack Obama? In this issue of Harper’s Magazine, we present our latest commentary on the president and his legacy with a cover story by University of Pennsylvania political science professor Adolph Reed Jr. His essay is a compelling assessment of the failure of the American left. He begins with the left’s abandonment of Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal principles and achievements, and goes on to criticize both Bill Clinton and Obama for having moved toward the center. Yet Reed’s harshest salvos are directed at the left itself, which he views as effectively dead: it stands for nothing, and is now defined only by its not being the right.

To watch a Bill Moyers interview with Reed, click here.

C’mon, American liberals, don’t give up like Alec Baldwin. It’s not all hopeless. I saw random strangers helping each other in the mess of snow, all day. They were getting things done, practical things, working together for the common good.

It’s still possible.

  1. JC

    Geez, why can’t the democrat party just leave us lefty independents alone with all of our fuzzy extremist leanings? I mean, once liberalism was dumbed down to a handful of cultural issues, a dose of patriotism, and arguing over whether or not to tie social security to CPI or how many jobs raising the minimum wage will lose, there really aren’t any big issues publicly discussed in the party anymore.

    Progressivism is dead in the party–if progressivism means taking more steps forward than backward. One pro-gay bill will never ameliorate the way democrats have allowed the neo-stasi-agenda (NSA) to grow and erode the underpinnings of our nation.

    If democrats want to be relevant, they need to tack away from the center and least-common-denominator politics and take on the big issues: spreading empire and hegemony, loss of basic civil rights and privacy, crony capitalism/corporatism, a spreading surveillance society, and an oligarchy of plutocrats to run it all.

    Barring that, not much else matters. Our country is spiraling downward. It seems that democrats (and republicans for that matter) stand for little except continuing to fight a few wedge issues that years ago Karl Rove so successfully replaced meaningful political dialog with.

  2. Oh boy, what happened now? I’d say there’s not enough news going on right now to get people out of their negative funks, and what news there is has been about played out.

    • lizard19

      there is more “news” going on than I can keep up with. my own negative funk revolves around knowing there are things we could do, both locally and nationally, to improve people’s lives, but there is no political will to do it because the political environment has shifted so far right, progressivism is essentially dead.

  3. steve kelly

    Ants or grasshoppers? Grasshoppers are gaining, one happy meal away from extinction, but happy, texting, posing, and chattering about whatever it is they are supposed to chatter about. We simply need more ants.

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