Michael Lind is always a delight to read.
He is from Texas. He is an economic progressive. He also reflexively writes from a historical perspective like I do. This is a great take on what is going on with contemporary progressivism, the lockdowns which devastated the economy and the realignment of the two parties.
“The bitter debate over lockdowns and mask mandates in America is not just another polarizing culture war between left and right. It also has elements of a class war. But it’s not the class war you might think it is.
Some on the populist right and anti-capitalist left interpret the prolonged state lockdowns as a conspiracy by big business against small business. It is easy to see how people could reach this conclusion. …
The major debate over lockdowns has been between small-business owners, who form the political base of the Republican Party, and professionals, particularly in the educational, government, and nonprofit sectors, who provide the political base of the Democrats. …
As Christopher Caldwell noted in a recent article, the three occupations with the greatest proportion of donors to the Democrats in 2020 were professors, librarians, and therapists, joined by nurses and teachers. …
What I describe in The New Class War as America’s dominant public philosophy of “technocratic neoliberalism” is a synthesis of two distinct traditions: pro-market neoliberalism in economics, and technocratic progressivism in political culture. While economic neoliberalism is a moderate form of right-wing libertarianism, the second strain of this hybrid ideology, technocratic progressivism, can be traced back to the original American progressives of the 1900s. …
American progressivism was marked from the beginning not only by its fetishizing of social science but also by an irrational crusading streak inspired by Social Gospel Protestantism. …
Contrary to popular belief, however, the New Deal was not the sequel to Wilson-era progressivism. From Franklin Roosevelt to Lyndon Johnson, the Democratic Party was a Jacksonian coalition of white Southerners, family farmers, and members of private sector trade unions (collective bargaining for public sector workers was only authorized on the federal level in the Kennedy years). The rural “courthouse gangs” and the urban working-class machine bosses made sure that the Johnny-come-lately progressives, many of them Ivy League eggheads from the Northeast, had little influence on Democratic policy. The mainstream New Dealers viewed the government as a pragmatic power broker among organized, negotiating interests—“interest group liberalism”—and rejected the progressive idea of government as expert technocracy.
Between the mid-20th century and today, however, college-educated, professional-class progressives went from being the least influential members of a New Deal Democratic coalition dominated by representatives of the urban working class and rural Americans, to being the social base of the Clinton-Obama-Biden Democrats. One factor has been population transfer among the parties, with former elite liberal Rockefeller Republicans joining the Democrats, while former working-class Reagan Democrats have become Republicans. …
While agriculture and related industries now provide 10.9% of U.S. employment, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, direct on-farm employment accounts for only 1.3% of U.S. employment today. Meanwhile, in 2019, 35.4% of men and 36.6% of women had completed four years of college.
Because American colleges and universities since the 1900s have been the main carriers of technocratic progressive culture, the expansion of college graduates from a tiny minority to a third of the population has massively expanded the social base for this worldview. As university graduates go into business and finance and media, they bring the technocratic progressive values they learned in college. This explains in part the phenomenon of “woke capitalism” driven by the younger generation in the private sector. At the same time, the nonprofit sector, which shares its early 20th-century culture of technocratic progressivism with the universities, has ballooned in the last few decades, as tech and finance billionaires have poured large fortunes into it. …”
Read the whole thing.
Jimmy Dore said yesterday on his show that there has been no major progressive legislation passed by Congress in his entire lifetime. Obviously, this includes my entire lifetime as well. We have gotten nothing but Reaganism from both parties for my entire lifetime. I turned forty years old last year.
There are two major reasons for this which Michael Lind hits on above with glancing blows, but which are not discussed in the article and need to be spelled out:
The first reason is that modernism finally trickled down from American elites and hit a critical mass among the Baby Boomers in the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s and 1970s. The Boomers were the first generation to attend college en masse and also the first to grow up watching television which exposed them to modernist values. The elitist, anti-traditional mindset of modernism unleashed a bitter culture war which has been raging for fifty years now. The current debate over “trans” is another debate over modernism because these people have always romanticized and elevated the interior self over anything external to the self like the family, kinship or class relations. The idea that a man can become a woman by wishing it were so and that “her” true self is different from biology and that society should go along with this lifestyle is the ultimate example of the modernist mindset. This is why they are so bizarrely obsessed with internal or non-material things: the self and its expression and actualization, controlling the narrative online, controlling and dictating thoughts, scolding and policing words people say on the internet, etc. They are more interested in transforming consciousness than material reality. This is what really animates them: cultural liberalism or eliminating all traditional barriers to their own self-expression, an obsession with identity, turning the world upside down, novelty seeking, etc.
This is a funny illustration of modernist and woke and middle class progressive liberalism:
The second major reason is the Voting Rights Act. It accomplished what it was designed to do which was to end Jim Crow. It enfranchised Southern blacks and created a new mass constituency for Democrats in the South who as a result had less need for their old constituency. The unanticipated consequence of the Voting Rights Act was that it radically changed the internal balance of power within the South. Specifically, it nullified much of the former political power of the Southern White working class while also alienating them. This had the effect within the South of empowering the White suburbanites who became the demographic base of Reaganism. Meanwhile, Democrats could essentially “wave the bloody shirt” of Jim Crow for the next 50 years to keep their own base in line. This is why charges of “white supremacy” have become more and more vitriolic and hysterical as we have moved further and further away from it in time. The current lib narrative, for example, is that “anti-Asian hate” and “racism” and “white supremacy” is the reason that Coomer shot and killed those sex workers in Atlanta the other day.
The reason that we had so much progressive legislation in the early 20th century from the Bryan era through the Wilson and FDR era and through the LBJ era is because we had created a lily White electorate in the South. We had settled the race question and reduced sectionalism in the 1900s when Jim Crow was created. This was because a new generation came to power that had grown up during the Gilded Age and the people who fought in the Civil War were dying off and the whole country was ready to move on from 19th century conflicts. The South was much poorer, much more rural and less educated than it is today. The Southern electorate was overwhelmingly White. There were still a few black voters here and there and especially after World War II. As a result of this settlement, White Southerners elected a different breed of politician and that had the effect of changing the politics of the entire country.
Consider this irony which I never see discussed in the media: when Jim Crow existed, when blacks were actually disenfranchised, when “white supremacy” was at its height in the South, when the South was far more “racist” than it is today, it was also much more populist and economically progressive and supported reforms which improved the well being of everyone in the country. Libs talk about restoring the Glass-Steagall Act which separated commercial and investment banking. It was written by two Southerners during the Great Depression. The most “racist” White Southerners of that era like Rep. John Rankin of Mississippi have more “progressive” accomplishments like the GI Bill, the TVA and the Rural Electrification Administration than any of these libs do today. Unlike Joe Biden whose only accomplishment will be the COVID relief bill, FDR literally collaborated with actual “white supremacy.” The South voted for Bryan three times, Wilson twice, FDR four times and even LBJ which is why Medicare exists.
We’re at the end of the Reagan era now though. The forces which brought the True Cons to power within the South and within the Republican Party and thus to power in the country as a whole are played out. Now these people in the wealthy suburbs are drowning in a sea of White working class voters who have been steadily attracted to the Republican Party through its culture war strategy. The center of gravity within the Republican Party has steadily shifted away from the True Cons or Republican establishment wing. Trump has brought into the Republican Party a horde of White working class voters who reject its conservative ideology not unlike how Bryan hijacked the Democratic Party in the 1890s.
Young progressives are much more woke or politically correct and prone to extremism than older generations. Young conservatives are far more populist, nationalist and reactionary and also prone to extremism than older generations. The funniest thing about this dynamic is how it plays out with non-Whites too. There are “woke” blacks like Ibram X. Kendi, Charles Blow and Jonathan Capehart. There are also Trumpist blacks and Trumpist “Latinx” who also hate “libs” for all the same reasons that we do. Older blacks and Hispanics are confused and alienated by younger woke White lib progressives.
America is bitterly polarized, but it is not racially polarized. In fact, it is becoming less racially polarized. The most bitter divide in the country is between two groups of White people who hate each other. The divide is a cultural, class and educational divide between college-educated White libs who tend to be urban or suburban professionals and who have have cosmopolitan and modernist values – which is the reason they hate other White people – and White working class voters with traditional values who tend to be small business owners or workers and who live in rural areas or the suburbs. It is really two groups of White people who are fighting each other and exchanging fire with non-Whites caught in the middle.
I think this explains what I am seeing whenever I watch the corporate media. Supposedly, I am a “white supremacist” and a “far right bigot” who is driven by “hate” (this is what libs say about us), but when I watch television and read the media what strikes me most is how these people turn everything into a racial issue. COVID is a flu-like virus which kills everyone and which we know really just kills old and sick people. And yet, the lib narrative about COVID is that it is an example of systematic racism due to racial inequity in death rates as if the virus is somehow racist. I think the reason that libs are doing this is because racial polarization is their political strategy. In order to retain power, they have to win an overwhelming majority of the black, Hispanic and Asian vote so they constantly exaggerate racism. This is also fundamental to their self-image: they are the White saviors who are far better than everyone else below them. If you watch them on television, they talk mainly about themselves and how virtuous they are and how vicious and bad other White people are. They are signaling their social status to other members of their in-group.
Unfortunately, these people are simply incapable of passing progressive legislation that benefits everyone in the country. They have been far less successful at this than Jim Crow era segregationists like Sen. Theodore “The Man” Bilbo. George Wallace accomplished more here in Alabama by building community colleges than these people. 90% of blacks in Alabama voted for George Wallace in 1982. In contrast, the White upper middle class professional wing of the Democratic Party is so culturally toxic with White working class voters in rural states these days that they can’t do anything!
Libs will say that you can’t talk to people like Tucker Carlson. He is a “racist” and “white supremacist.” BTW, this hysterical and impractical mindset is why have accomplished nothing in fifty years and overall well-being in this country has plummeted for our entire lives and all we have to show for it is neoliberalism, political correctness and a bunch of people virtue signaling and doing nothing in Congress. Is Tucker Carlson really as bad as Theodore Bilbo? Is there anyone in all of American politics like Bilbo?
Maybe we have hit rock bottom though or we are now approaching the bottom like we did around 1900. The rise of populism in the 1890s and 1900s was a good thing, not a bad thing. It changed the two parties and was the beginning of a big upswing that lasted until the 1960s.