There are some fresh signs this morning that our critique of the Democrats as a party that has abandoned liberalism and the working class in favor of the woke progressivism of affluent, college-educated professionals with modernist, cosmopolitan and antiracist values has drawn blood. Eric Levitz has a new article that lashes out at Michael Lind who has articulated most of these cutting arguments.
“And yet, some American intellectuals — who style themselves as champions of greater economic equality and political democracy — insist that workers have no interest in which of these two parties holds power.
This iconoclastic brand of post-partisanship isn’t the exclusive property of revolutionary communists, or left-libertarian Fox News personalities. The viewpoint is also upheld by at least one “radical centrist”: a man who dreams of a cross-class coalition for expanding the welfare state, collective bargaining, and public investment in manufacturing — and has, nevertheless, spent the past few years arguing that the working class has no interest in seeing Democrats defeat Republicans, and that the Democratic “Establishment” poses a greater threat to democracy than Donald Trump does.
That man, Michael Lind, has long been a heterodox presence in the American commentariat. A professor at the University of Texas and founder of the center-left New America Foundation, he has, at various points in his career, been a neoconservative apologist for the Vietnam War, centrist proponent of entitlement reform, and arch critic of the libertarian right. In recent years, however, he’s become an intellectual guru to the minority of American conservatives who are genuinely interested in formulating a new economic orthodoxy.
Lind makes routine contributions to American Affairs, a journal of the nationalist right, and American Compass, a putatively pro-worker conservative think tank that champions collective bargaining and industrial policy. The fullest expression of Lind’s current worldview can be found in his 2017 book, The New Class War, in which he argues that the ascent of the populist right in the U.S. and Europe is a symptom of the de facto disenfranchisement of the Western working class during the neoliberal era. …
None of these predictions have panned out. Biden’s critics on the right and left have called his agenda many things, but “fiscally conservative” is not one of them. The White House economic team is composed almost entirely of thinkers in Jared Bernstein’s “pro-labor” mold, and their influence on the president’s policies was plainly apparent in the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan. The president has already enacted a “much larger child tax credit” for a single year, and will soon propose an extension. He has already overseen the passage of bipartisan legislation aimed at relocating strategic production to the U.S., and is calling for an additional $300 billion for the promotion of domestic manufacturing. Finally, far from pushing for entitlement cuts, Biden is calling on Congress to spend $400 billion extending at-home care to every senior citizen on Medicaid’s wait list.
So, the reality of Bidenism has already roundly contradicted Lind’s expectations of it. In fact, it has demonstrated that Lind’s entire framework for understanding American politics is fatally deterministic: The Democratic coalition in 2020 was less working-class than at any time in modern history, yet the Democratic Party is, nevertheless, more pro-labor than it’s been in many decades. …”
I don’t even disagree with Levitz’s attack on the Republicans.
It is true that the GOP is subservient to the interests of wealthy donors and Corporate America and an antiquated economic policy agenda that is harmful to their own base and disguises this by leaning into polarizing culture war battles. Pretty much everyone here is fully aware of this scam.
Has the reality of Bidenism really contradicted Michael Lind’s analysis though? Have PMCs not continued to migrate into the Democratic Party? What happened to the $2,000 stimulus checks? What happened to student loan debt relief? Where is the $15 minimum wage which was promised? Will the PRO Act be passing Congress any time soon? What happened to the public option in health care? Is the wealth tax on the table? Are the Democrats really going to tax the wealthy and Corporate America or will the SALT caucus and other interests have their way? From my perspective, it looked like Joe Biden shifted from Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton’s position of taxing +$250,000 households to +$400,000 households. Joe Biden appears to have retreated on the corporate tax rate and the capital gains tax rate. We don’t know what kind of infrastructure bill will pass Congress or whether the American Families Plan will go anywhere. It seems highly unlikely at the moment that the new child tax credit will become permanent.
If Joe Biden and the Democrats have predictably trimmed their sails on health care and economics, which is what we would expect given the dominance of the Democratic Party by coastal, white collar urban professionals, we can say they have delivered on the most deeply polarizing issues. To be sure, Joe Biden has succeeded in killing the Keystone Pipeline and raising gas prices. He has succeeded in driving up inflation because Democrats are unwilling to tax their affluent suburban base and Wall Street to pay for trillions of dollars in new spending. He has succeeded in abolishing the border. Democrats have succeeded in making “Defund the Police” a reality and have unleashed a massive urban crime wave. Joe Biden has succeeded in bringing wokeness into federal policy. He has moved to bring “trans women” into the military while screening and purging the military of anyone who is labeled a “domestic extremist.” At the behest of Democrats, Silicon Valley has succeeded in banning Trump and censoring his supporters.
If you turn on the television to watch CNN or MSNBC, it has become more politically correct and geared to the sensibilities and obsessions of a narrow audience of affluent, college educated professionals who live in large metropolitan areas and their wealthy suburbs back East or out on the West Coast, which is why ratings continue to plunge. The New York Times and ACLU, which used to be bastions of liberalism, have gone woke like the Ivy League, FBI and CIA, Hollywood and Corporate America. The result of this has been hyper aggressive social liberalism combined with delusional fantasies that Joe Biden is the second coming of FDR. Joe Biden doesn’t even have the same level of appeal to working class voters as Bill Clinton or Barack Obama. It is people like Robin DiAngelo and Ibram X. Kendi who have been empowered in our “new progressive era.” We live in an age when Jeff Bezos is buying a superyacht while Blue’s Clues is featuring cartoons of beavers with top surgery to celebrate Pride Month.
The Democratic Party is becoming more socially liberal and more fiscally conservative. It is still willing to spend, but less willing to tax. It is further and further removed from the New Deal coalition with each passing year. It has more in common with Keir Starmer’s Labour Party than FDR.