The Exhaustion of Liberalism
11/15/2015—The New York Times ran a story on Thursday about Democratic Party losses at the state level: in Obama era, G.O.P. bolsters grip in the states. The story laments the loss of young Democratic Party talent as the Republican Party has succeeded in capturing a huge majority of state legislative seats and governorships – – Republicans now control 32 state governorships.
The focus of the story is absurd. The problem of course is not the lost young Democratic candidates, but the loss of political support. Candidates follow support, not the other way around. And if the Democratic Party were to gain support, young attractive candidates would appear.
So, the question is, why are the Democrats doing so badly? After all, the Republican Party looks to be in a terrible position: on the wrong side of immigration in a country becoming more racially diverse, against gay rights in a country becoming more accepting, against action on global warming in the country that is coming to see that global warming is true and a threat, for religion in a country that is becoming more secular, against action on economic inequality in a country devastated by stagnant wages.
The article hints at an answer. The Democrats have trouble winning over voters, President Obama acknowledges in the article, and even when they do, they have trouble motivating their voters to vote. This is a problem, a deep problem, of message.
Adam Edelen, the focus of the article, who was defeated in his reelection bid for state auditor in Kentucky, stated that the problem for the Democrats is that the party is “perceived to be elite.” And the president, he said, helps foster that perception.
Now why should the Democrats have a problem re-engaging the guy who works in a factory or the woman was trying to raise kids on the salary of a waitress? Isn’t it the Republicans who favor the wealthy?
The answer may lie in the phrase, God, guns, country and family. The problem remains that old President Obama quote from after the 2008 presidential primary in Pennsylvania: “And it’s not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.” Here President Obama is trying to reach out but he is talking about people rather than to them.
But the problem is not Obama. What do liberals really believe about God, guns, country and family? Most liberals are embarrassed if not hostile to all four as understood by most people in this country and certainly as understood by most white working-class voters.
Now add to that liberals support for higher taxes and you have a recipe for disconnection with ordinary people.
All this can be dealt with. It requires only two things: first, the absolute end of postmodern irony; second, the substitution of wages for taxes. Forget the rich. Just pay the poor.