Democrats are still looking for explanations for their stunning rejection in the midterms — citing everything from voting rights violations and Middle America’s racist orientation to Americans’ inability to perceive the underlying genius of President Barack Obama’s economic policy.
What they have failed to consider is the albatross of contemporary liberalism.
Liberalism once embraced the mission of fostering upward mobility and a stronger economy. But liberalism’s appeal has diminished, particularly among middle-class voters, as it has become increasingly control-oriented and economically cumbersome.
Today, according to most recent polling, no more than one in five voters call themselves liberal.
This contrasts with the far broader support for the familiar form of liberalism forged from the 1930s to the 1990s. Democratic presidents from Franklin D. Roosevelt to Bill Clinton focused largely on basic middle-class concerns — such as expanding economic opportunity, property ownership and growth.
Modern-day liberalism, however, is often ambivalent about expanding the economy — preferring a mix of redistribution with redirection along green lines. Its base of political shock troops, public-employee unions, appears only tangentially interested in the health of the overall economy.
Often eager to micromanage people’s lives, contemporary liberalism tends to obsess on the ephemeral while missing the substantial. Measures such as San Francisco’s recent ban on Happy Meals follow efforts to control the minutiae of daily life. This approach trivializes the serious things government should do to boost economic growth and opportunity.
Perhaps worst of all, the new liberals suffer from what British author Austin Williams has labeled a “poverty of ambition.” FDR offered a New Deal for the middle class, President Harry S. Truman offered a Fair Deal and President John F. Kennedy pushed us to reach the moon.
In contrast, contemporary liberals seem more concerned about controlling soda consumption and choo-chooing back to 19th-century urbanism. This poverty of ambition hurts Democrats outside the urban centers. For example, when I met with mayors from small, traditionally Democratic cities in Kentucky and asked what the stimulus had done for them, almost uniformly they said it accomplished little or nothing.
Tuesday, November 23, 2010
Liberals: "obsessing on the ephemeral while missing the substantial"
Joel Klotkin writes in Politico - How Liberalism self-destructed: