The End of the Left

Steve Sailer argues that American politics is a battle of the fringe against the core with the Democrats as the party of the fringe. They have built a coalition of blacks, Hispanics, homosexuals, single white women and weirdos. That’s their base of support. The math says they get to about 40% support with that collection of voters. The fact that Obama’s support has never dropped far below 40% supports the argument, at least the maths of the argument. Sailer’s latest stab at this is here.

This is not exactly new.  The first flowering of the Progressive faith was in the 19th century following the Civil War and Reconstruction. As the nation industrialized, Progressive ideas gained steam. Labor unions, temperance movements, efficiency movements and, of course, European socialism crept into the minds of those in charge, as well as those who wanted to be in charge. By the 20th century, we had guys like Teddy Roosevelt running around babbling about the “Square Deal” and sounding a lot like Elizabeth Warren.

The First Progressive Era “ended” with Woodrow Wilson and World War I. If you look at the coalition that supported the Progressives a century ago, you see the same fringe versus core dynamic. It was more explicitly populist because the country was mono-cultural. Blacks had few voting rights and women had limited voting rights. The fringe, therefore, was immigrants, Catholics and the newly emerging working class, versus the WASP core. Whipping up votes amongst the Irish in Boston was easier if you took aim at the Brahman in charge.

I put “ended” in quotes in the previous paragraph because it is simply false to say the Progressive Era ended with Wilson. The Return to Normalcy certainly put an end to Wilson’s reign of terror, but the ruling class was still firmly in the grip of the Progressive faith. Harding and Coolidge were restrained in their politics, but Hoover was a Progressive and FDR was obviously a true believer. The One True Faith never really dies. It just goes into hibernation after periods of activity and  dis-confirmation. The atrocities of the Wilson era made “Progressive” a dirty word, but the crisis of 1929 opened the door for a newly minted version of the old time religion.

The New Deal coalition was built on the Wilson coalition of fringe groups, but those fringes were quickly becoming the majority. In the northeast, Catholics were dominating city politics and beginning to control state politics. The New Deal was also a vehicle for Jews to rise to power in politics and finance. Henry Morgenthau made it to ambassador under Wilson, his son was Secretary of the Treasury under FDR. During the Depression, that was the second most important job in America. This iteration of the Progressive coalition was the most stable owing to the fact it was based on stable, sensible people. It’s why it hung together for so long.

Sailer, I suspect, is looking at current events and thinking back to events of his youth. Steve is 55, so he was a kid when the Civil Right movement exploded into riots in the late 60’s. He was a teenager when the LAPD raided a house in his neighborhood looking for Patty Hearst. By the time he was noticing events, the weirdos, lunatics and insane had taken over the New Left and taken over the news coverage. To a man his age, the Ferguson riots and the explosion of crazy in the culture probably looks like a replay of forty years ago.

That’s not unreasonable, but I’m not entirely on-board with it. The New Deal coalition largely collapsed as a result of a resurgence of liberalism in the 1960’s. If you read any of the books by David Horowitz, the thing that’s important is the New Left explicitly rejected the Old Left as well as the New Deal. They thought the old commies from the previous generation were hopelessly lost, with their focus on organizing whites into a universal proletarian state. Similarly, they looked at the New Deal as a bourgeois compromise with the capitalists. The New Left that emerged in the 60’s and 70’s was about identity and culture, not money and property.

Things don’t move quickly in real time. Reading about the transition of the Roman Republic to the Roman Empire, the time between Sulla and Augustus, can be done in an evening, maybe two. In real time it took three generations. The average man alive in the time of the Social War could not possibly know what was coming over the horizon. People know what has happened in their lives and what they inherited from those who came before them. They act on it and build off it. Historians like to create narratives to tie it all together, but the people living it have no knowledge of that narrative.

The New Left in the 60’s and 70’s was simply reacting to the world they inherited. The young radicals that came along after World War II entered a world that was looking pretty good from an American perspective. In order to find the great dispossessed, you had to look beyond the quiet neighborhoods of Eisenhower’s America. You had to go to the black ghettos of northern cities and into the Old Confederacy to find people not happy with the status quo.

It’s not an accident that the current Left looks like a wrinkled, liver-spotted version of the New Left of 40 years ago. The people running the Left these days are mostly people who came of age in the 60’s and 70’s. It’s why this flowering of the old time religion looks so much like the last flowering. It’s also why it is so fragile and combustible. A coalition has to have more in common than an enemy. The members of that coalition are going to want their people in charge. Otherwise, the whole thing unravels with the first bit of adversity.

Those are the parallels Steve is observing, but there are differences as well. The New Left came along when both parties were ruled by men who had no interest in radical politics. The New Left was fighting the cops on the street while the party bosses sat inside. Today, the radicals are the party bosses, at least of one party. Similarly, radicals have command of all the high places in the culture. It’s not an accident that Obama uses a word like “shellacked” and we see a million occurrences of it in the press the following week. This story from the fall shows how insulated and monolithic the press is and that’s because they are all from the same cult.

That’s the fundamental difference between now and forty years ago. Back then the radicals were building a coalition in order to take control of the Democratic Party and then the country. Today, they run the country. The reason Washington looks like a high school cafeteria is because it is an adult version of what these people experienced as kids. The cool kids were the ones smoking weed and freaking out the squares, while the dorks publicly resented the fact they couldn’t join them, but privately wish they could. Those kids grew up and became Democrats and Republicans, respectively.

It’s why liberal hectoring sounds suicidal. The people in charge are railing about the people in charge. The people in charge are raising a mob from the dispossessed to assault the people in charge. The radicals of forty years ago at least had a rational aim in mind. Today it is an aging street fighter looking for a fight when there’s no one left to fight. It is both irrational and ridiculous.

It’s also why this may be the end of the Left and radical politics in America. It has burned itself out like we have seen with every Marxist-Leninist state. It’s ironic that Obama is normalizing relations with Cuba. Just as the American Radicals who were inspired by Castro are heading into an absurd decline, the end of the Castro brothers will be Walmart selling Che t-shirts in Havana.

7 thoughts on “The End of the Left

  1. Pingback: » Quote of the week

  2. BY far right I mean the ‘we are doomed’ crowd who believe the collapse of civilization is eminent. It’s delusional to think the dollar is worthless when all the evidence says otherwise.

  3. We are focked. Does anyone think Christie, Rubio, Clinton, Warren give a shot about the citizens? Left, right, both will take all they can and give only what they have to. Power corrupts……

  4. Far-right, greyenlightenment? Speaking of delusions, what is your idea of what is far-right? Nazis? UKip? Z-man? Dark-enlightenment? Whatever enlightenment is, it is not grey.

  5. that’s a long post . I can see why you get frustrated at the Republican inc. consultant class because they see the world in an oversimplified manner, when there are many subtleties and gradations that they miss. These moneyed lnc. Republicans with their useless degrees, venality and lack of knowledge and in-depth perspectives are just as bad as the Democrats. While the Monopoly Man and Mr. Rogers Republicans who inhabit a sterile, insular world and have never even seen a ghetto are useless, so too are those on the far-right with their conspiracy theories and other delusions.

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