Why today’s political ideologies are pretty much the same

James Kalb has published an article that explains (1) why Democrats and Republicans (also Libertarians, Anarchists, and Populists) are ultimately so similar; (2) why social conservatives, such as Christians and other traditionalists, have such a difficulty in being heard in the public square; (3) the underlying worldview that dominates contemporary Western societies; and (4) why this worldview is failing and how social conservatism might stage a comeback.

The article, published in Modern Age and online at Intercollegiate Review, is kind of long, so I urge you to read it here:  Out of the Antiworld | Intercollegiate Review.  After the jump, I will post excerpts to whet your appetite. [Read more...]

Democrats and Republicans reverse roles

Have you noticed that it’s now the Democrats who are trying to wage a culture war?  Meanwhile, all Republicans want to talk about today is economics, which was always the interest of the New Deal Democrats.  [Read more...]

Liberals are not relativists (unfortunately)

Conservative intellectual and Princeton Professor Robert George points out that liberals are not relativists at all. Rather, they are moralistic dogmatists:

Contemporary left liberals are hardly relativists! I often wish they were. They are moralists—moralists on a mission. The mission is to shape political and social life, and, to the extent possible, individual belief, in line with their passionately held moral convictions. [Read more...]

Obama as the liberal Reagan

E. J. Dionne, Jr., says that President Obama–in his goals, tactics, and leadership style– is the liberal Reagan:

To understand how Barack Obama sees himself and his presidency, don’t look to Franklin Roosevelt or Abraham Lincoln. Obama’s role model is Ronald Reagan — just as Obama told us before he was first elected.

Like Reagan, Obama hopes to usher in a long-term electoral realignment — in Obama’s case toward the moderate left, thereby reversing the 40th president’s political legacy. The Reagan metaphor helps explain the tone of Obama’s inaugural address, built not on a contrived call to an impossible bipartisanship but on a philosophical argument for a progressive vision of the country rooted in our history. [Read more...]

Reactionary liberalism

Do you remember how liberalism used to be idealistic and ambitious, taking on big problems with boldness and confidence?  Liberal presidents were always proposing vast new programs to solve our social ills:  the New Frontier, the Great Society, the War on Poverty.  Now, points out Michael Gerson, liberals seem bereft of new ideas and new programs.  They are simply trying desperately to hold onto the old programs, oblivious to their problems.  And instead of idealism, all they have is anger.  Read Gerson’s whole column, linked below.  An excerpt:

The Obama agenda also reflects a broader shift in American liberalism, which has become reactive. Liberals often defend unreformed, unsustainable health entitlements — even though these commitments place increasing burdens on the young to benefit those who are older and better off. They often defend the unrestricted right to abortion — even though it represents a contraction of the circle of social inclusion and protection. They often defend the educational status quo — even though it is one of the nation’s main sources of racial and economic injustice.

Others have termed this “reactionary liberalism.” It is more the protection of accumulated interests than the application of creative reform to new problems. In the place of idealism, there is often anger. When Obama failed in his first debate, liberals were generally not critical that he lacked idealism. They were angry that he wasn’t sufficiently angry.

via Michael Gerson: Liberalism’s shrinking agenda – The Washington Post.

From citizens to clients

George Will sums up Spoiled Rotten: How the Politics of Patronage Corrupted the Once Noble Democratic Party and Now Threatens the American Republic by Jay Cost, who argues “that the party has succumbed to ‘clientelism,’ the process of purchasing cohorts of voters with federal favors.”

Before Franklin Roosevelt, “liberal” described policies emphasizing liberty and individual rights. He, however, pioneered the politics of collective rights — of group entitlements. And his liberalism systematically developed policies not just to buy the allegiance of existing groups but to create groups that henceforth would be dependent on government.

Under FDR, liberalism became the politics of creating an electoral majority from a mosaic of client groups. Labor unions got special legal standing, farmers got crop supports, business people got tariff protection and other subsidies, the elderly got pensions, and so on and on.

Government no longer existed to protect natural rights but to confer special rights on favored cohorts. As Irving Kristol said, the New Deal preached not equal rights for all but equal privileges for all — for all, that is, who banded together to become wards of the government.

In the 1960s, public-employee unions were expanded to feast from quantitative liberalism (favors measured in quantities of money). And qualitative liberalism was born as environmentalists, feminists and others got government to regulate behavior in the service of social “diversity,” “meaningful” work, etc. Cost notes that with the 1982 amendments to the Voting Rights Act, a few government-approved minorities were given an entitlement to public offices: About 40 “majority-minority” congressional districts would henceforth be guaranteed to elect minority members.

Walter Mondale, conceding to Ronald Reagan after the 1984 election, listed the groups he thought government should assist: “the poor, the unemployed, the elderly, the handicapped, the helpless and the sad.” Yes, the sad.

Republicans also practice clientelism, but with a (sometimes) uneasy conscience. Both parties have narrowed their appeals as they have broadened their search for clients to cosset.

via George Will: An election to call voters’ bluff – The Washington Post.


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