Why do so many so-called liberal politicians in our time openly embrace cultural liberalism — i.e., equal rights for blacks, women, gays and other groups — while running like hell from the sort of economic liberalism that made the New Deal possible?
Writing in the Sunday NYT, Eric Alterman argued that the problem stems from a failure of vision, over the past half-century, on the part of those who should have been encouraging a stronger coalition of poor and middle-class constituencies:
… Many liberals chose to focus, rather perversely, on a “rights” agenda and the internecine fights it engendered within their increasingly fractured coalition. They lost sight of the essential element that had made the coalition possible in the first place: the sense that liberalism stood with the common man and woman in their struggle against economic forces too large and powerful to be faced by individuals on their own.
Liberals must find a way to combine their cultural successes with new approaches to achieving economic equality. But they must do so unambiguously and unequivocally…
This is not happening under the party headed by Barack Obama, who will, as the presidential election approaches, make more and more noble noises about the importance of economic equality, but without taking any actions that would indicate he stands in opposition to the interests of the crooked investment bankers and the corporations that send our jobs overseas — i.e., the forces that bolster economic inequality.
Bottom line: Call me a progressive, even if you think it’s an insult. Just don’t call me a liberal. These days, the word summons feelings of guilt by association.