In the months since John Kerry's defeat last November, asking "What's wrong with liberals?" has become something of an obsession for pundits across America. Did they lose because they were crushed by the right-wing attack machine, because of those ever-nebulous moral values, because they were soft on national security, or because they hadn't bashed corporations enough? Some of these? All of these?
In Return of the "L" Word: A Liberal Vision for the New Century, Douglas Massey takes a long, hard look at these questions and comes up with some surprising answers. His book reminds us of just how much liberalism has accomplished over the 20th century, of why it eventually declined, and what liberals need to do to usher in a new realignment in politics, one that wrestles the country back from the now-dominant right.
Part of the answer, Massey contends, is to create a new market-based vision for liberalism, one that avoids the pitfalls of both conservative free-market dogma and the leftist ideologies of old.
"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has." -Margaret Mead
Fred Mitouer offers a powerful quote from James Dale Davidson and Lord William Rees-Mogg in The Sovereign Individual (1997) that seems to be talking about the “confidence” aspect of modernism.
"In short, the future is likely to confound the expectations of those who have absorbed the civic myths of 20th century industrial society. Among them are the illusions of social democracy that once thrilled and motivated the most gifted minds. They presuppose that societies evolve in whatever way governments wished them to - preferably in response to opinion polls of scrupulously counted votes. This was never as true as it seemed 50 years ago.
Now it is an anachronism, as much an artifact of industrialism as a rusting smokestack. The civic myths reflect not only a mindset that sees society's problems as susceptible to engineering solutions; they also reflect a false confidence that resources and individuals will remain as vulnerable to political compulsion to the future as they have been in the 20th century. We doubt it. Market forces, not political majorities, will compel societies to reconfigure themselves in ways that public opinion will neither comprehend nor welcome. "
And now, moving toward the esoteric:
RELIGION AND SECRECY IN THE BUSH ADMINISTRATION: The Gentleman, the Prince, and the Simulacrum, BY Hugh Urban Ohio State University ()
“In this article... I will suggest that we look at the Bush administration through the lenses of three controversial theorists who have had much to say about secrecy in both its religious and political dimensions: the German-born political philosopher, Leo Strauss, the Florentine philosopher, Niccolò Machiavelli, and the French postmodern theorist, Jean Baudrillard. I have chosen these three, seemingly disparate, theorists because they correspond to and help make sense of three of the most important forces at work in the Bush administration, namely:
1) the Neoconservative movement, which is heavily indebted to Strauss' thought and has a powerful presence in the Bush administration through figures like Paul Wolfowitz (a student of Strauss) and the Project for a New American Century;
2) the manipulations of Bush's pious public i
mage by advisors like Karl Rove (a reader of Machiavelli) and Vice-President Dick Cheney (often compared to Machiavelli), who have used the President's connections with the Christian Right for political advantage;  and
3) an astonishingly uncritical mainstream media, whose celebration of Bush's image as a virtuous man of faith and general silence about his less admirable activities is truly "hyperreal," in Baudrillard's sense of the term.”
Finally, here’s a choice rant I spotted:
I'd love for some rich liberal to make a huge spashy advertised dare to red-staters. "You claim your approach is better at raising moral offspring than our humanist ways. Then test it! First, let's agree on criteria. And to prove that we really aren't morally all that much different from you, , let's agree in advance that the following things generally range from undesirable, to bad, to downright evil:
dropping out of high school
children born outside a stable marriage
addiction to drugs or alcohol
adults imposing sex upon children under sixteen
Of course we could argue endlessly over which of these is worse that others, either truly evil or tolerable-if regrettable. But let’s agree that each and every of these things are clear markers of something gone wrong. You claim that you have a better handle on how people ought to live. Then stand up and prove it by showing that you are doing better than us, in all these measurable ways.
We, with all our urban problems, ghettos, and huge influx of immigrants, as well as our so-called loose urban moral values, ought to fare worse in all these categories than folk who are salt-of-the-earth, rural, bible-quoting red-staters, with the Ten Commandments posted in the courthouse and Intelligent Design taught in schools. Right?
Wrong. By every one of the measures listed above, blue-staters are doing not only better, but FAR better.
Just one recent example. The number of methamphetamine labs that law enforcement agencies seized in the urban states of Maryland, Massachusetts, Vermont and New Hampshire in 2004 was 5. The number seized in Missouri, Tennessee and Arkansas? 2,546.
Perhaps it’s time to stop dismissing each other and start listening for a change. We’ll start by recalling that religious folk once played a huge role in promoting liberal causes. Combatting poverty and segregation and unjust wars. If people of deep faith no longer feel a connection with progressive liberalism, maybe we played a part in breaking that old link. We blue-staters could learn a little humility, too. We don’t always know everything.
Red-staters, on the other hand, need to stop fearing tomorrow. Most children make good choices when you let them see and sample from the world. Isolating them and relentlessly preaching at them clearly does not work.
Oh, one more thing. We in blue states took all the damage from terrorism and pay most of the taxes in fighting it. Dismissing us as immoral “others” won’t help America to be strong. It’s the opposite of “united we stand.”
Still, if you insist on a “culture war” we can comply, as our forefathers did in fighting to end slavery. Dismiss the ‘decadent’ urban North and you may be in for more than you bargained for.”
Yeesh. This guy has been eating too much chile. Reminds me of the ongoing proposal to change the “red-blue” formalism to “blue-gray”! Now let’s join him in a round of The Battle Hymn of the Republic....
Mine eyes have seen the Glory of the coming of the Lord.
He has trampled all the vineyards where the grapes of wrath are stored...
There’s got to be a better way.