The New Liberal Mold

Brent has a post prefacing his position on gun control with a detailed explanation of how he’s by and large a social liberal.

This strawman is generally an effete, tree-hugging environmentalist who is a current member of P.E.T.A., a card-carrying ACLU member, someone who favors gun control, and persecutes good, wholesome Christian folks for kicks.

Forgive me if I don’t recognize this person.

I am a liberal in the sense that I agree with and favor progressive political positions. I think that gay folks deserve to marry each other, that abortions should be at the woman who happens to be carrying the baby’s choice, and that church and state should be kept completely and utterly separate.

Labor liberals tend to deride an alliance with people who are motivated by cultural liberalism as an “elite consensus” that nobody outside the editorial pages of the Washington Post would support. That derision would come as a surprise to Russ Feingold, who is by far the most socially liberal person in the Senate but is a deficit hawk and voted for welfare reform.

American politicos have written a lot about how Democrats won 28% of the white Evangelical vote in 2006. But they also won 74% of the non-religious vote. In 2006, 11% of the voters were non-religious, even though polls show that about 15-16% of Americans are not religious; this despite the fact that non-religious people tend to have above average levels of education, which correlate with higher voter turnout.

Now, Brent and DarkSyde and Jim and Rick and Hank Fox aren’t natural liberals, at least not on non-cultural issues. DarkSyde was a Reaganite, and I think so was Brent. As I noted on UTI a few months ago, I was the only frontpager who was a traditional liberal; the other posters are better described as radical centrists. The culturally liberal radical centrists are now firmly in the Democratic column, but that’s mostly the result of Bush’s wanton incompetence, not to mention radicalism.

You don’t need to be a particularly astute observer to realize that the old American liberal mold has been crumbling for 10-15 years. The question is just what to replace it with. There are several alternatives; the one that’s gaining the most credence is the left-wing Dominionist one, which revels in ignoring social issues and having no foreign policy, and instead focusing on extravagant anti-poverty programs buttressed by even more extravagant rhetoric.

And contrary to what people routinely insinuate on Pam’s House Blend, that political tactic may actually succeed. There’s no particular reason minorities and labor liberals have to ally themselves with the radical centrists and the cosmopolitan types*. Left-wing Evangelists are just as big a bloc of voters, and one that is getting increasingly alienated with James Dobson. There’s no deep strategic reason for the economic left to give a damn about reproductive rights or civil liberties.

The problem is that labor liberals don’t seem like they really want that. A big chunk of them does in fact give a damn about reproductive rights. They just think inviting Jim Wallis and Amy Sullivan into their party won’t require them to ditch every liberal platform plank that isn’t about poverty or the environment.

The opposite alliance, concentrating on pro-choice groups, urban liberals, and libertarians who vote based on civil liberties rather than taxes can work just as well. It got Feingold to where he is now, and I’m still convinced it will get him to the White House if he changes his mind on 2008.

* Yes, “cosmopolitan” is in fact a euphemism for “gay,” “atheist,” and “Jewish.”

4 Responses to The New Liberal Mold

  1. I’m actually the opposite case of the current political dynamic that seems to be forming on in the Democratic Party. Much like Darksyde, I started as a cultural/social liberal who was economically right of center but was slowly dragged to the fiscal left as the arguments started seeming more and more convincing among the company I was keeping at the time. Environmentally I’ve always considered myself a centrist, between the greenpeace types and the pollute for economic benefit crowd on the right. Foreign policy wise I’ve stayed put as well, advocating a policy of international prudence and neutrality on matters of little or no concern to legitimate American interests in the vein of James Monroe.

    The Democratic Party can obviously form a quasi-libertarian wing to balance out the more radical evangelical types flooding into the party, I remember Kos saying something like this.

  2. Alon Levy says:

    The problem with Kos’s formulation is that the liberaltarian idea involves ditching a lot of very popular and very positive economically left-wing ideas: single-payer health care, the estate tax, funding public education, welfare. Kos seems to be talking about compromising on economics, while I’m talking about showing a spine on civil liberties issues.

  3. SLC says:

    Re Feingold

    Senator Feingold will be elected president when Mr. Levy sees the back of his own ear (old Arab saying).

  4. mtraven says:

    Who are these “left-wing Dominionists”? Jim Wallis? I disagree with his position on abortion and think it won’t fly in the Democratic party, but he’s hardly a Dominionist (which means someone who advocates full-scale theocratic rule), and as far as I know aside from abortion he doesn’t have any problem with civil liberties. So, what the hell are you talking about?

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