ZenPundit
Monday, January 24, 2005
 
THE REAL PROBLEM FOR THE AMERICAN LEFT

Marc Shulman has an excellent post up today on an LA Weekly piece by John Powers assessing the state of the Left, from Wingnut to moderate liberal, in America. The piece was a good deal more honest as a self-assessment of the state of the American Left than other examples of its kind but he avoided two conundrums.

First, the Left already has better funded think-tanks and foundations than the Right by far. Ford, Carnegie, MacArthur, Rockefeller, Heinz are all Left of center and awash in billions. George Soros alone is a walking, talking grant machine. The problem is, as Powers noted, a shortage of ideas.

The ideas are short because the Left's emotive rejection of " ultraglobalized capitalism" remains an intractable stumbling block to coming up with a constructive and attractive program of political economy. Any attempt by a left politician or intellectual to devise solutions that work by respecting market realities ( i.e. reality) is attacked on the Left by purists long before Right-wing gets around to taking political potshots. Clinton had the political acumen to run that gauntlet but he also had the right enemies ( literally) whose bitter opposition to Clinton energized many on the Left to defend Clinton whatever the cost to ideological purity.

Economic laws continue to work even if the government passes programs and regulations that defy their logic. The symptoms may change - shortages of goods instead of higher prices during an inflation - but the laws of the market cannot be repealed by the fiat of human will. Many on the Left either refuse to except this or just assume that the costs of defying the market are acceptable or can be remediated with enough governmental control.

The second conundrum is not intractable but is tactical. The decent Left is too small in terms of a percentage of the population to win national elections once you remove both centrist swing voting moderates and the authoritarian Left. Republicans can sometimes ( 1980, 1984, 1988, 2000 and 2004) peel off the centrist vote, so leaders of the Democratic Party and liberals generally are unwilling to forgo their costly alliance with the undemocratic Left who provide so much energy, money and non-stop organizational effort in attacking the GOP and the Right. Buffoons like Michael Moore and sinister crazies like the members of ANSWER and the TIDES network receive a level of tolerance by mainstream Leftists that indicates that " No enemies on the Left " is still the unofficial slogan.

Dropping the unsavory, authoritarian and anti-American kooks means a generation in the political wilderness of hard work persuading centrists to convert into reliable liberals and partisan Democratic voters. Dave Schuyler in Marc's comments section alluded to a broad philosophical adherence to the premises of the French Revolution, the values of equality and collectivism by the American Left over the liberty and individualsm promoted by the American Revolution. I think that was a perceptive analysis. This is a psychological and political rubicon the moderate Left fears to cross.

Change will come when the moderate Left decides that they have more in common with fellow democrats on the Right than with the egalitarian but undemocratic statists to their Left.

UPDATE: Praktike took me to task in the comments section regarding the link on the activities of the TIDES groups. He also provided me with the TIDES rebuttal to charges of secretive wingnuttery, for which I am appreciative. Most interesting was the TIDES list of grant recipients which was of staggering length. TIDES grants mostly to mainstream liberal causes and not a few apolitical groups. They also grant to wingnuts along the way, like the National Lawyers Guild and groups far more obscure. So therefore I'm leaving up the earlier link but adding praktike's here in the update so that readers may make up their own minds regarding TIDES.
 
Comments:
The Capital "Research" memo you cite is hokum, and was debunked long ago.

-praktike
 
Hi prak

If it's specious I'll delete the link, I have no interest in spreading agitprop. Who is a good source on the de-bunking ?
 
http://www.tidescenter.org/press_rel_08.cfm

-praktike
 
Thanks !

I have to go to a meeting right now but I will read the TIDES rebuttal in full when I return.
 
"Change will come when the moderate Left decides that they have more in common with fellow democrats on the Right than with the egalitarian but undemocratic statists to their Left."

Agreed. Any ideas on what it will take to prompt this realization? More electoral defeats? Another megaterror attack in the U.S.?
 
Hi Marc,

I'm not sure. A grandly stupid and costly gesture by a Left-extremist that captures everyone's imagination by horrifying the country might do the trick, causing the reasonable Left to separate from the anti-democratic Left. Perhaps the Islamists would end up triggering an event like that as they affected Spanish politics in the other direction.

As long as the current thrat level exists, the pendulum is unlikely to swing back to a party deeply influenced/intimidated by hard-Left antiwar activists.
 
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