Nostalgia liberals vs. accountability liberals

Fred Hiatt, himself a liberal, notices the rise of two different and contending kinds of liberals:  Nostalgia liberals and accountability liberals.

The priorities of nostalgia liberalism are community, social cohesion and preservation of New Deal and Great Society programs. Accountability liberals put more stock in market forces and individual empowerment. Their debate is sure to sharpen over the next four years. . . .

Accountability liberals say reform is needed to save Social Security — and that the only way to protect benefits for the poor is to scale back expected benefits for the wealthy.Nostalgia liberals worry that more means-testing will transform Social Security from broad-based social insurance into a poverty program that will gradually lose political support, and therefore funding.

Accountability liberals believe that failing city schools represent the nation’s biggest challenge, since they deprive a generation of mostly minority children the opportunity to move up. Charters, vouchers — whatever it takes to break them out of that prison is justified.Nostalgia liberals deplore those failing schools, too, but say traditional public schools are where America’s cherished melting pot comes to a bubble: the only right response is to fix them.

Accountability liberals like the idea that people who drive more should pay more. HOT lane fees will discourage driving, which is good for the environment, and keep bicyclists and transit riders from having to subsidize highways they don’t use.Nostalgia liberals agree on the need to discourage gasoline consumption, but they hate what they call “Lexus lanes.” Wealthy people shouldn’t be allowed to buy into better versions of public goods — be they parks, public safety or highway lanes with less traffic — than other citizens.

Accountability liberals favor more merit pay and less lifetime tenure for public employees. Nostalgia liberals put a higher priority on shared benefits and shared protections.

Accountability liberals would redirect the tuition subsidy that public universities give to all in-state residents to poor families who need it most. Nostalgia liberals would say that in-state tuition is part of the package that makes people feel part of their community and therefore willing to pay taxes that support higher education.

via Different liberal camps divide progressives – The Washington Post.

How do you see those playing out in the Obama administration?  The Democratic party?

Could we say that there are likewise similar divisions in conservatism, between those who emphasize social concerns and those that just emphasize the individual?

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • Tom Hering

    “Accountability liberals.” That label sounds so positive – so realistic. “Nostalgia liberals.” That label sounds so negative – so unrealistic. I wonder which of his made-up labels Hiatt attaches to himself? And just who he’s dismissing with his pejorative label? I’m guessing anyone to the left of Hiatt, who’s critical of establishment Democrats like Hiatt.

  • Tom Hering

    “Accountability liberals.” That label sounds so positive – so realistic. “Nostalgia liberals.” That label sounds so negative – so unrealistic. I wonder which of his made-up labels Hiatt attaches to himself? And just who he’s dismissing with his pejorative label? I’m guessing anyone to the left of Hiatt, who’s critical of establishment Democrats like Hiatt.

  • http://www.worldvieweverlasting.com SAL

    Seems like an awfully phony distinction to me.

    In observing liberal elected officials I don’t observe many ideological distinctives.

    “Accountability liberals” seems like a made-up category. Nearly all liberals support the status quo in regards to the New Deal and Great Society welfare state. Very few liberals support education reform out of deference to teacher’s unions. We’ve seen what happens to liberals who cross teacher’s unions (Adrian Fenty).

    Liberals ought to be a relatively homogenous group because they’re smaller than conservatives or moderates. Most differences among liberals boil down to unimportant things like race or gender.

    Within conservatism the largest differences appear to be between different economic classes, and between evengelicals and non-evangelicals.

  • http://www.worldvieweverlasting.com SAL

    Seems like an awfully phony distinction to me.

    In observing liberal elected officials I don’t observe many ideological distinctives.

    “Accountability liberals” seems like a made-up category. Nearly all liberals support the status quo in regards to the New Deal and Great Society welfare state. Very few liberals support education reform out of deference to teacher’s unions. We’ve seen what happens to liberals who cross teacher’s unions (Adrian Fenty).

    Liberals ought to be a relatively homogenous group because they’re smaller than conservatives or moderates. Most differences among liberals boil down to unimportant things like race or gender.

    Within conservatism the largest differences appear to be between different economic classes, and between evengelicals and non-evangelicals.

  • Bob

    ‘Could we say that there are likewise similar divisions in conservatism, between those who emphasize social concerns and those that just emphasize the individual?’

    Sure, we could.

    But first, show me the conservatives whose “social concerns” go beyond personal issues like abortion, and then there’ll be something to talk about.

  • Bob

    ‘Could we say that there are likewise similar divisions in conservatism, between those who emphasize social concerns and those that just emphasize the individual?’

    Sure, we could.

    But first, show me the conservatives whose “social concerns” go beyond personal issues like abortion, and then there’ll be something to talk about.

  • SKPeterson

    Maybe I’m not a good conservative, as I’m probably far more on the libertarian side of things, but I do have social concerns that go beyond abortion – the increase in out-of-wedlock births and single-parent families headed by very young mothers for one. While this is held up as an argument for abortion, I think it points to the same social pathologies. We also see this manifest itself in the large-scale failure of public education to reverse the downward spiral of inner-city minority communities compounded by high levels of unemployment and crime. Where are the most abortions? The same places that have the most out-of-wedlock births, the same places that have the highest percentages of single-parent heads of household, the same places that have the lowest educational attainment, and the places that receive the highest levels of public welfare assistance. Liberals, accountability types or nostalgics, often hold that the welfare is needed to address or redress these problems in minority communities beset by institutional racism. I would argue that abortion is a symptom, a heinous outcome, resulting from the confluence of these problems which often exist, persist, and diffuse through vulnerable minority communities because of the pernicious mixing of welfare benefits with the “soft bigotry of lowered expectations.”

  • SKPeterson

    Maybe I’m not a good conservative, as I’m probably far more on the libertarian side of things, but I do have social concerns that go beyond abortion – the increase in out-of-wedlock births and single-parent families headed by very young mothers for one. While this is held up as an argument for abortion, I think it points to the same social pathologies. We also see this manifest itself in the large-scale failure of public education to reverse the downward spiral of inner-city minority communities compounded by high levels of unemployment and crime. Where are the most abortions? The same places that have the most out-of-wedlock births, the same places that have the highest percentages of single-parent heads of household, the same places that have the lowest educational attainment, and the places that receive the highest levels of public welfare assistance. Liberals, accountability types or nostalgics, often hold that the welfare is needed to address or redress these problems in minority communities beset by institutional racism. I would argue that abortion is a symptom, a heinous outcome, resulting from the confluence of these problems which often exist, persist, and diffuse through vulnerable minority communities because of the pernicious mixing of welfare benefits with the “soft bigotry of lowered expectations.”

  • Tom Hering

    Having an abortion is a result of receiving welfare benefits? What happened to the argument that poor women have more children in order to increase their benefits?

  • Tom Hering

    Having an abortion is a result of receiving welfare benefits? What happened to the argument that poor women have more children in order to increase their benefits?

  • formerly just steve

    Tom, why can’t both be true? Not everyone is the same.

  • formerly just steve

    Tom, why can’t both be true? Not everyone is the same.

  • http://enterthevein.wordpress.com J. Dean

    “Accountability liberal?”

    That’s like saying “Carnivorous vegetarian.”

  • http://enterthevein.wordpress.com J. Dean

    “Accountability liberal?”

    That’s like saying “Carnivorous vegetarian.”

  • Tom Hering

    formerly just steve @ 6, where’s the evidence of a direct connection between having an abortion and receiving welfare benefits? Of welfare benefits being responsible for the “symptom” of abortion?

    J. Dean @ 7, I too think it’s a contradiction in terms. Though not for the same reason you do. What Hiatt is trying to say is “conservative liberal.” Like, he’s not really on board with progressivism, but he still wants his friends to think of him as a progressive. So he still gets invited to all the same partys, I guess.

  • Tom Hering

    formerly just steve @ 6, where’s the evidence of a direct connection between having an abortion and receiving welfare benefits? Of welfare benefits being responsible for the “symptom” of abortion?

    J. Dean @ 7, I too think it’s a contradiction in terms. Though not for the same reason you do. What Hiatt is trying to say is “conservative liberal.” Like, he’s not really on board with progressivism, but he still wants his friends to think of him as a progressive. So he still gets invited to all the same partys, I guess.

  • Kirk

    Soooo… an “accountability liberal” is just a compassionate conservative in the Democratic party?

  • Kirk

    Soooo… an “accountability liberal” is just a compassionate conservative in the Democratic party?

  • Tom Hering

    Kirk @ 9, :-D

    Reagan Democrat? Third Way Centrist?

  • Tom Hering

    Kirk @ 9, :-D

    Reagan Democrat? Third Way Centrist?

  • Joe

    “formerly just steve @ 6, where’s the evidence of a direct connection between having an abortion and receiving welfare benefits? Of welfare benefits being responsible for the “symptom” of abortion?”

    A direct connection? we are talking about social sciences with this kind of stuff, for better or for worse they deal almost exclusively in correlation.

  • Joe

    “formerly just steve @ 6, where’s the evidence of a direct connection between having an abortion and receiving welfare benefits? Of welfare benefits being responsible for the “symptom” of abortion?”

    A direct connection? we are talking about social sciences with this kind of stuff, for better or for worse they deal almost exclusively in correlation.

  • Tom Hering

    “Correlation is not causation but it sure is a hint.”

    What’s being hinted at? Welfare benefits? Are abortion rates lower among the poor who don’t receive benefits?

  • Tom Hering

    “Correlation is not causation but it sure is a hint.”

    What’s being hinted at? Welfare benefits? Are abortion rates lower among the poor who don’t receive benefits?

  • http://facebook.com/mesamike Mike Westfall

    I thought it was liberals who just love to jump to causation conclusions based only upon correlation.

  • http://facebook.com/mesamike Mike Westfall

    I thought it was liberals who just love to jump to causation conclusions based only upon correlation.


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