Skip to main content

View Diary: Conservative liberals and the radical restorationists (117 comments)

Comment Preferences

  •  Yes! (4.00)
    The New Deal, people!

    Perhaps the most popular governmental effort in our nation's history, undertaken by the most popular president at least of the 20th century.

    I do not understand for the life of me why Democrats have not gone back to mine the 1930s and FDR in particular for pointers and advice. Here was a man who was from the Northeast elite, Harvard educated, related to a President, married a cousin. FDR was more elite than the man he replaced.

    Yet FDR truly understood what the American people needed - economic security. And he communicated this with clarity and conviction and the vast majority of Americans firmly believed he was on their side.

    Democrats took note and for 50 years held the White House, or were at least never far from it. Democrats took note and held the Congress for 60 years, or were never far from it.

    We look back and think the New Deal was radical for its time. It wasn't. Moreover, it wrapped itself in the American flag, offered a return to the true ideals of the Revolution and the 19th century, things most Americans agree with. And it worked. Holy hell did it work. It worked better than any other political movement in this country's history, with cross-regional and cross-class and cross-racial appeal. Not even today's conservatives have that appeal. If they did they'd wet themselves.

    So go back and let's study what worked and figure out how to do it again. It's all about the New Deal, and the Popular Front.

    "you may say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one" - Lennon

    by eugene on Fri Sep 03, 2004 at 09:37:39 AM PDT

    •  new deal didn't didn't come out of nowhere (4.00)
      it was the result of political and social thinking that began in the 1890s (some of dating back further) and small-scale experimention in varius urban centers. it was the culmination of movement that had both practical advocates like adams, and theoretical backers like dewey. it was also the project of an age that wasn't as anti-intellecual as our own, nor as single-mindedly demotic in its political approach. we don't have the same patience with enlightened elites we once did.

      non-resident or non-u.s. citizen? want to (legally) help defeat bush? see www.overseasvote.com

      by gracchus on Fri Sep 03, 2004 at 09:42:50 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  And a labor movement (4.00)
        That was the wonderful work of the New Deal: uniting labor activists, innovative social thinkers, artists, all in the project of making a better society.

        If the left wants to return to that level of strength, it needs to again create a COORDINATED movement of activists, thinkers, and visionaries.

        •  Even further (none)
          I would agree and say it should even go a step further; a rethinking among left-liberals of their class identification.

          It's important for people to understand that, with few exceptions, you're a "worker" no matter what you do.  Maybe you don't work with your hands, or in a factory, but you do work, and you can be shed as fast as any blue-collar man or woman.

          This kind of unity will require breaking down some class barriers.

          •  Class Divisions (none)
            The liberal view of class is not the problem ... though to build on your point, a widening of the term "worker" could re-invigorate unions in this country. White collar workers can certainly benefit from the labor movement, too, especially since the consequences of globalization have spread beyond manufacturing into other sectors. I think the problem is that real class division DO exist in the US, but liberals tend to back away from forcing the issue when Republicans start screaming about "class warfare." Who the hell decided class warfare is a bad thing for America? The Republicans and their fat executive cronies are terrified of having the class issue re-framed by the left. But to do that, progressives need to keep up a full-court press.
            •  it's amazing (none)
              the republicans have been practicing class warfare on the poor for a generation now, but if we mention this WE'RE the class warriors. more the non-logic we've come to expect of the modern republican party.

              i think the answer to this is to simply make the points over and over again and ignore the name calling. eventually it runs out of steam. it's approximately the same technique the righties have used to advance their much weaker ideas, and they've been successful.

              non-resident or non-u.s. citizen? want to (legally) help defeat bush? see www.overseasvote.com

              by gracchus on Fri Sep 03, 2004 at 11:05:40 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Exactly (4.00)
                This is a great example of how they've been able to frame the debate because of their strength. The right-wing ninnies weren't able to frame the debate this way in the 60s and 70s.

                But they learned how to get their money, their thinkers, their media hounds, and their grassroots shock troops (e.g., Christian Coalition) all on the same page, speaking the same language and moving in the same direction.

                That's what is needed on the left now.

          •  asdf (none)
            Using "worker" as an identifier isnt something picked out of a hat. Neither does it refer to people working with their hands.

            In america there have always been three classes. The upper class, the managerial class, and the working class. Since the seventies we've added the technical class in a serious way. The technical class consists of people who usually have four year degrees or more.

            The upper and managerial classes have from the beginning of the nation been the beneficiaries of the capitalist system. It was designed to do just that. And their class interests did and do conflict with the interests of the working class. At first as we added in the technical class they at first they were part of the managerial class. They had many of the same powers, perks and responsibilities and often served in the same roles. But as information and technology continue to explode their functions become more and more easily integrated into the working class. You no longer need an mit educated engineer to build a CNC machine. You no longer need someone with a doctorate in computer science to program or maintain a database. So the technical class slips to somewhere slightly above the working class.

            And so a four class system is born. With the managerial and technical classes often united over similar interests. And thus the current "move to the right".

            Democrats came into power by appealing to the majority. And the majority are not the people who own the corporations. They are not the people who will ever in their lives buy a new Lexus. They are not the people who wear suits to work.. or even own suits.

            We have to get back to appealing to the true majority. And all that takes is to once again return to the ideals of the libertarian left. The ideals put forth by people like Jefferson, King, Roosevelt.

            In other words.. when our party stops trying to be Faux country club republicans we will take back this country in a Storm.  

            "I trust God speaks through me. Without that, I couldn't do my job." - pRresident Bush | My other Drunken ravings

            by cdreid on Fri Sep 03, 2004 at 10:31:22 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

    •  Demise of the New Deal's intellectual base (4.00)
      When I see and read about the heirs of the New Deal (to say nothing of the heirs of Prairie Populism)wanting to return us to the Gilded Age, one thing that is often missing is a discussion of how 40 years of Republican bad-mouthing government, coupled with abysmal civics and economic education, has poisoned younger (under 45's in particular) people against government and obscured the role that government played in the creation of the middle class.

      In the Post WWII world we had programs like the GI Bill, FHA and Veterans' loans, the Highway program, Space Program, ramped up science and math education etc.  these built on earlier programs like the WPA that had put people to work (and the war itself) and the Wagner Act that helped create good union jobs.

      Granted, there were excesses in LBJ's War on Poverty and Great Society.  But they, too, helped expand the middle class to include many minorities.  

      But now people take all that for granted.  They think capitalism did it allk, when it was really a government-provate sector partnership that funnelled money into socially productive enterprises that were then mostly provately built.  The resulting social capital weas enormous.

      Now, what we have is government directing huge contracts and subsidies for an ill-conceived and badly run war, or just plain shovelling the money in the form of stringless subsidies to HMOs and Big Pharma, plus tax cuts that ensure the really wealthy will not have to pay for much of this, and the middle class shrinks, we have deteriorating social capital, no sense of community, a huge population of low skilled, jobless workers as well as skilled people who are working below their potential.  And we are seeing a return to the worst of the '50's, the stultifying conformity and paranoia that made those prosperous years less pleasant for us non-conformists.  

      This truly is a Great Leap Backward, and yet so many of the very people who are being screwed the most seem to be cheering it on the loudest.  

      If you're going in the wrong direction and you stay the course, where, exactly, do you wind up?

      by Mimikatz on Fri Sep 03, 2004 at 10:04:32 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Liberalism and the Red Scare (4.00)
        I think the Liberal establishment's acquiescene to commie-baiting has a tremendous amount to do with this.  We should all remember that, even though it's basically been illegal to be an open Communist or Anarchist in the US for, I dunno, 125 years or so, many leftist radicals played key roles in all of these social movements, from the labor movement to the anti-war movement to the civil rights movement.  When Labor lent its influence to attacking "commies" and "fellow travellers" many, many talented and committed people were lost to our side.  Think this is in the past?  I used to work for the AFT, and as of 2001 they still included their "proud history of opposing communism" (i.e. redbaiting union brothers and sisters who were communists and ruining their lives) during the Cold War in their official history of the union.

        More than that, collectively losing the threat of genuine radicalism gave Capital a huge break.  Much of the New Deal was passed as a compromise between Capital and radicals, or a bulwark against revolution, which was a genuine concern in the early 30s.  If the bosses hadn't been so worried about their workers seizing factories and stringing up the capitalists from the rafters, they wouldn't have acquisced to the Wagner Act.  

        This is the price we pay for not having a genuine Left in American politics -- that is, a party or movement that explicitly opposes Capitalism as an organizing principle for our society.  And this is the reason why the DLC has enabled the lurch rightward in American politics.  When the worst case scenario for Capital is a DLC Democrat, Capital has little reason to compromise.

        •  A bit of history about the "communists" (none)
          While there were in fact good "ground troops" communists involved in the unionization struggle and the anti-racism struggles of the 1920s-40s, the unfortunate fact that American Communism was distorted into Stalinism and became an extension of Soviet foreign policy made it possible for the right to attack them as they did.  The Stalinists, the left nazis, were as bad as the right Nazis.  You cannot understand the failure of the American left without understanding the anti-progressive role of the Communist Party on the American left of that period.  The same problem happened in the 1960s with the socialite-socialists of the "revolutionary communist" wing of the not-so-New Left.

          And you don't have to be a Republican to be an anti-Communist.  Those of us who knew the bastards first-hand hate them the most because they did what they did to us.

          William Goldman was right when he said the three rules of Hollywierd are "1) Nobody, 2) knows, 3) anything." Works in the real world, too.

          by HollywierdLiberal on Fri Sep 03, 2004 at 01:59:26 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  one item forgotten (4.00)
        An otherwise-excellent analysis, but there is one thing too many people forget was the real underpinning of the success of the New Deal:

        We won the Second World War.

        In 1945, the United States directly controlled 80 percent of the functional industrial capacity of the planet, since the industrial bases of the other industrial powers had been bombed into rubble (much of it by us!).  The rest of the world spent the next 20 years recovering from the effects of the destruction of the war.  In 1945, the United States was responsible for about 65% of the World Gross Product.  As late as 1964, we were still responsible for close to 50%.  It was only in the late 1960s and on into the 70s that Germany and Japan became the world economic powers they are now, having recovered from the destruction, while Britain fell into increasing irrelevance, living on dreams of imperial glory and a sentimental attachment by the United States to Churchill's view of "The English-Speaking Peoples."

        So, in 1945, it was possible for the United States to finance the G.I. Bill and revolutionize American society with a middle-class existence of home ownership and higher education.

        It was an unsustainable bubble, though, and our problem today is that no one will seriously face up to the fact that the American Dream as defined in 1945 is no longer sustainable.  Just here in Southern California, you can look at the neighborhoods where the fathers of todays middle class family heads had their GI Bill homes and went to work at the unionized factories (that no longer exist - both Lockheed Aircraft and General Motors being turned into Walmart-malls with Walmart wages) making enough money that their wives could take care of their children and they could get home in time to be part of their families. Today, their children live in the Santa Clarita Valley, or east of Los Angeles, and spend a good 4-5 hours a day commuting to jobs so demanding (and insecure) that when they get home to the housing projects that are not communities (i.e., gatherings of society with things for the people who live there to do together - other than drive to the mall to shop), they fall asleep so they can get up the next morning and do it again. They wonder why their kids are out of control, why nothing works the way it used to, and know somewhere deep in their souls that the American Dream has become a nightmare.  But nobody wants to mention that, because it might mean "changing the way we think about things."  

        So instead both parties promise to take us back to a world that never really existed the way we remember them (since our "memories" are actually sitcoms), and no one wants to look at the Elephant in the living room - which is that you cannot live on this planet the way my family could 50 years ago.

        Sorry, all I can do is define the problem - I wish to hell I had a solution, but I do know some "science fiction thinking" is going to be necessary to dig ourselves out of this pit.

        William Goldman was right when he said the three rules of Hollywierd are "1) Nobody, 2) knows, 3) anything." Works in the real world, too.

        by HollywierdLiberal on Fri Sep 03, 2004 at 01:54:35 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  a fact that cannot be ignored (none)
          I forgot to say in the above that there is a fact that cannot be ignored, and cannot be sustained. That is:

          5% of the world's population cannot continue to utilize 25% of the world's resources.

          Not with a rising economic power like China - where they are trying to replicate our 1945-standard "American Dream" for a small middle class (compared to the total population) that is going to soon be bigger than the entire population of the United States.

          Well, you can do it if you're willing to be a hard-headed Republican and utilize your Barbadian Pirate idology and take it.  With a permanent war of us against the rest of the world.

          William Goldman was right when he said the three rules of Hollywierd are "1) Nobody, 2) knows, 3) anything." Works in the real world, too.

          by HollywierdLiberal on Fri Sep 03, 2004 at 02:08:21 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  Thanks for the additions (none)
          to our collective historical memory.

          I suspect you are right about that way of life being unsustainable.  But it seems to me that if we had a steeper graduated income tax and used some of the money to fund public sector jobs like teachers, cops, emergency health workers, other first responders, construction/reonstruction of infrastructure, we could get some of that back.  

          I remember the shock when I used to go to New York for meetings of an national organization in the '80s of seeing the incredible income disparity between the limosine class and the street people. We had plenty of homeless here in the Bay Area, but nothing like the disparity of wealth I saw there, which has now spread to enclaves of the overclass in many-places in this country.  

          People need to understand how corrosive this level of income disparity is.  As Kevin Phillips wrote in Wealth and Democracy, the two are basically incompatible.

          If you're going in the wrong direction and you stay the course, where, exactly, do you wind up?

          by Mimikatz on Fri Sep 03, 2004 at 06:24:57 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Do you have (none)
            some sort of evidence that "that way of life is unsustainable"? You dont. In fact all of the evidence is to the contrary. This "unsustainable" myth is the creation of the supply siders and country club republicans to explain away the effects of shifting our national wealth to the upper upper class.

            Consider that the upper class owns something like 95% of the nations wealth and an even higher percentage of its income. That leaves the rest of the nation to fight like rabid dogs over the remaining scraps.

            As productivity increases wealth increases. Where that wealth goes is the problem. We produce things infinitely more efficiently than we did in the fifties. And yet our standard of living is going down? The math doesnt add up.

            Of course.. we wouldnt want to let science and fact interfere with political lies put out by the enemies of the common people.

            "I trust God speaks through me. Without that, I couldn't do my job." - pRresident Bush | My other Drunken ravings

            by cdreid on Fri Sep 03, 2004 at 10:12:49 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Did you read my posts? (none)
              I am, and have consistently been, arguing for greater income equality.  I have consistently argued for a stronger public sector, funded by taxes on the rich.  I was responding to Hollywierd Liberal's comment on how from the end of WWII until the mid '60s the US had a huge share of the gross world product and industrial base.  Notwithstanding that observation, which is obviously historically correct, I do think that greater income equality is not only possible in this country, but mandatory, if democracy is to survive.

              If you're going in the wrong direction and you stay the course, where, exactly, do you wind up?

              by Mimikatz on Sat Sep 04, 2004 at 12:55:19 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

        •  Not exactly true (none)
          What you are talkign about is actually the thing that put the right in power.

           The New Deal combined with multiple effects of world war two resulted in the creation of what we now call "the middle class". And those people moved right. Dont forget it was those very people who rabidly opposed Martin Luther King. Who supported Viet Nam. Who hated the war protestors. A situation not unlike the present.

          The "new deal" in fact was a radical departure from even the democratic party. It was pure populism and leftism at its best. The ideas behind it are simply empowering the lower and working classes (Note: working class is NOT the same thing as middle class). This was done across multiple fronts. Radical deficit spending targetted not at the corporate class but rather at the working class and poor. Jobs programs. Large contracts for extremely manpower intensive industries. (Like Damns, bridges et al). In other words.. simple old fashioned consumer economics. Which, despite modern groupthink, is the only economic theory that has ever succeeded. The economic theory is simply to put the wealth of the nation into the hands of the poor and middle class... and the rest flows from there. And it works. The only time our economic systems fail is when we abandon it. Like we are now. Like we have since Reagan came into office.

          All we have to do to take back america is become Democrats again. To gold back to the Principles and IDEALS of the democratic party. Individual liberty. Fighting for the underdog. Protecting the poor and working classes.

          This "issue shopping" and abandonment of our core principles is what cost us the trust of the american people.. not what gained it. Principle matters. We abandoned ours. Now we suckle on bitter grapes.

          "I trust God speaks through me. Without that, I couldn't do my job." - pRresident Bush | My other Drunken ravings

          by cdreid on Fri Sep 03, 2004 at 10:07:16 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  Brilliantly accurate (none)
        nuf said.

        "I trust God speaks through me. Without that, I couldn't do my job." - pRresident Bush | My other Drunken ravings

        by cdreid on Fri Sep 03, 2004 at 10:14:05 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Historical contingency (4.00)
      I very much sympathize with what you've said here, but I would argue that FDR was aided, in a sense, by two significant crises:  the Great Depression and World War II.

      FDR's hand was freed to do what he did because Americans were faced with a situation they hadn't faced before (and he was further helped by Hoover's ineffective response).  I don't think FDR could have done what he did in another historical context.

      And that's the problem, I think, in replicating the New Deal.  Until Americans see themselves as being in a similar situation - and they don't right now - it's going to be much harder to capture the spirit of the New Deal that is increasingly fading from American collective memory.

    •  See my comments below (none)
      The New Deal was only possible because of a broad, well-organized labor movement.

      FDR was the first to admit that he was only able to be as progressive as the Democratic base forced him to be.

      Social movements determine what is possible in any given period of history. A New Deal isn't possible now, unless progressive forces significantly improve their level of organizational strength and savvy.

      Can't wait around for enlightened leaders. We need to lead.

      •  agree (none)
        which is why the occasional bit of middle-class hostility to labor unions on kos amazes me. unions were once a great counterbalance to the power of the ownership class, and could be again. that some people who consider themselves liberal have absorbed the anti-union rhetoric of the right, often without much tought, always strikes me as very stupid.

        yes, by all means fight for democratic, open and honest unionism, but rejecting all unions as mob-controlled and evil strikes me as nutty, especially in the current political circumstances.

        this post obviously not directed at you, pops.

        non-resident or non-u.s. citizen? want to (legally) help defeat bush? see www.overseasvote.com

        by gracchus on Fri Sep 03, 2004 at 10:41:28 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Agreed (none)
          I try an articulate something similar above.

          Any human institution, be it a company, government, union, church, etc. is going to be imperfect because it's created by imperfect people.  But let's not confuse imperfect functioning with poor principle.

        •  Unions (none)
          Democratic, open, and honest unionism doesn't make the news. Officials who rob the employees blind, obscure their finances, and intimidate members at election time do.

          For the general public to see unions in a positive light, the unions need to play the same PR game that corporations play, and show reporters their view of the world.  This hasn't been done effectively for many years, and won't happen until members insist on it.

    •  I don't know the answer - but... (none)
      I suspect that the problem is that the discipline of economics has gotten so powerful that it dominate all political thought. Keynes' 1936 book has given us a new way of viewing the world, one that is still working its' way through society.

      You have both the mathematizing (is that a legal word?) of the discipline and the great success of free markets in creating a perpetually growing gros national product.

      This leads to the ~political~ assmuption that the problems in society will be covered by the growth of the economy and that income does not need to be redistributed to fix those problems. In fact, the fear is that such redistributions of income will somehow damage the magic of the free market.

      Keynes' theory of economics essentially converted the discipline of econonics from a philosophical pursuit into an engineering discipline. There has been no comparable development in Political Science or Sociology, so the normal human decision-making process of focusing on what can be quantified and ignoring the qualitative factors in decision-making is applied in politics.

      The New Deal was a set of political and social changes that grew from the economic of the 19th century. But it was based on the qualitiative factors of human life, not on the mathematical manipulations of economics.

      It is really hard to sell qualitative benefits over economic ones in the first place. Then the media operates on "sound-bytes" that look for quick, clear and easily explained answers and does not cater to more complicated ones.

      The effect is that it is much easier to sell the economic free market than it is good public schools and mass medical care.

      As I say, I don't know that this is the answer, but I suspect it is in  the right direction.

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

  • Recommended (124)
  • Community (62)
  • Bernie Sanders (42)
  • Elections (39)
  • 2016 (36)
  • Climate Change (32)
  • Environment (31)
  • Culture (29)
  • Hillary Clinton (28)
  • Republicans (25)
  • Science (25)
  • Barack Obama (24)
  • Media (24)
  • Civil Rights (23)
  • Education (20)
  • Law (20)
  • Trans-Pacific Partnership (19)
  • Economy (18)
  • Congress (16)
  • Labor (16)
  • Click here for the mobile view of the site