22.4.16

THE WAGES OF SMUG IS TRUMP.

Thus does Emmett Rensin argue in Vox.  His argument is rambling, often repetitive, overlong.  But he calls out the gentry liberals on their tone.
Finding comfort in the notion that their former allies were disdainful, hapless rubes, smug liberals created a culture animated by that contempt. The rubes noticed and replied in kind. The result is a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Financial incentive compounded this tendency — there is money, after all, in reassuring the bitter. Over 20 years, an industry arose to cater to the smug style. It began in humor, and culminated for a time in The Daily Show, a program that more than any other thing advanced the idea that liberal orthodoxy was a kind of educated savvy and that its opponents were, before anything else, stupid. The smug liberal found relief in ridiculing them.
To some extent, the Smug can get away with it because the people who are in a position to recognize forty or fifty years of failures of the fatal conceit and offer substantive correctives are not often prepared to offer a succinct way out.  Thus, when a libertarian-inclined politician announces for high office, you can count on some media type asking "How can you be against government and run for president?"  Simple answer: better to seek the consent of the governed in rolling back the failures of government in constitutionally structured ways, than to bring out the pitchforks and torches.  Or the militias.

Substantively, when the poverty rate has not budged in the fifty years since the war on poverty, and the economic stimulus failed to stimulate, and the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is two lies for the price of one, there's plenty to back up that claim.  Mr Rensin suggests a reason current Republican and libertarian voters get it.  The challenge, however, is in prying the people rendered helpless by Democrat policies away from Democrats who take their helplessness, and their votes, for granted.
Republicans score higher in susceptibility to persuasion. They are willing to change their minds more often.

The Republican coalition tends toward the center: educated enough, smart enough, informed enough.

The Democratic coalition in the 21st century is bifurcated: It has the postgraduates, but it has the disenfranchised urban poor as well, a group better defined by race and immigration status than by class. There are more Americans without high school diplomas than in possession of doctoral degrees. The math proceeds from there.

The smug style takes this as a defense. Elite liberalism, and the Democratic Party by extension, cannot hate poor people, they say. We aren't smug! Just look at our coalition. These aren't rubes. Just look at our embrace of their issues.
Embrace? More like drunken baby smothering.  But explaining the ways in which the Democrats keep the poor poor requires both careful analysis, and the proper marketing strategy.  "That's going to take something more substantive than "We're governed by losers." But perhaps naming the losers is a first step."   A subsequent step, perhaps the second step, is to rethink, with a view toward ending, the cult of the presidency.  In a response to Mr Rensin, Fredrik DeBoer looks in that direction.
It’s hard to get liberals to take problems seriously because Democrats currently hold the presidency, which always instills liberals with overconfidence. But the Democratic party has major structural problems. State legislatures do more to determine the day-to-day life of average Americans than the federal government, and Democrats have lost 900 state legislature seats since 2010. It’s a crisis happening under the nose of the liberal intelligentsia, but as long as the White House stays blue, they’re unlikely to notice.
Particularly because the palace guard media and the court intellectuals in the academy and the talking heads can blame all the failures of the Obama administration on the empty candy store they inherited from President Bush or Republican obstruction in the House and Senate or those retrograde governors and legislators.  It's possible to call B.S. on all of those claims.  But the calling of B.S. must be backed up by substance.  "It may take the failure of one or more of the New Deal or Great Society or Hope and Change constructions to trigger the emergence." The pond is well stocked with fish, but the opposition must bring working tackle all the same.

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