Everything that liberals built is broken. The economy is a mess; health care is a mess; the universities are broken; K-12 education is wrecked; welfare is out of control; the Middle East has been torched. And liberals did it.On the right, the wreckage is the consequence of a political and cultural hegemony that ignores or marginalizes the voice of reason.
Then there is the wife of my 60ish friend who’s wondering about all that women’s liberation of which she’d heard tell back when she was young. Or the college women screaming for safe spaces, not from the so-called “rape culture” but really from the anti-woman squalor of the hook-up culture. Or the “mismatched” African American college students protesting on campus in a rage of disappointed hope.
Instead, the liberal municipal template of generous government pensions, lavish subsidies and welfare, unionized workforces, identity politics, lots of regulations, and high taxes apparently has ensured permanent underclasses of Democratic voters in the inner city. And for some reason, they are now furious at Democratic city halls, the police, and city administrators.There must be some way for some kind of opposition to pry the disaffected voters away from the Democrats. (It may be no accident, dear reader, that the Democratic debates are on football Saturdays. That's perfect for gentry liberals.) Surely, the policy preferences of Our President and the gentry liberals, as Jim Geraghty notes, have done nothing for municipal workers, or anyone else who relies on a paycheck twice a month.
The progressive Left used to claim it was acting on behalf of working people, those blue-collar men. Now it is primarily a cultural party that evaluates those working-class men by the color of their skin or whether they’re members of a union. Under Obama, the Democratic party has become focused on the far-off threat of climate change, much more openly enthusiastic about an Australian-style national mandatory gun confiscation . . . it’s attuned to the concerns of activists angry at the police, college students angry that they have to pay back loans, angry at anybody who drives an SUV (except their own lawmakers) and anybody who has a private jet, except self-proclaimed environmentalist celebrities . . .To Our President's left, David Morris concurs. "Given that under your watch your party lost the country, in retrospect what would you have done differently?" In Mr Morris's eyes, the missed opportunity is different.
Obama might well have stunted the emergence of a rightwing populist movement if he had pursued an aggressive populist strategy of his own, one that demonstrated government could effectively challenge giant corporations and unbridled private greed on behalf of small business and the average family.Thus, rather than whatever blend of protecting the gentry and giving lip service to disaffected minorities, Our President left the rent-seekers with plenty of maneuvering room.
Obama certainly had the opportunity. The economy was in free fall. Millions faced the prospect of losing their homes. Millions more were losing their jobs. After freeing itself of most government restrictions and oversight the financial sector had become dysfunctional. Even stalwart defenders of laissez faire capitalism were confessing the error of their deregulatory ways.
The failure of Obama to either rhetorically or operationally adopt a truly populist strategy has, I firmly believe, given rise to the Bernie Sanders phenomenon. His message is resonating because he is clearly saying that will bring real change by restructuring the system and redistributing and democratizing power and resources. It may be one reason he labels himself a socialist.The elasticity of the term "populist," however, is evident in the current popularity of a rent-seeker using populist tropes in the Republican primaries.