Showing posts with label Liberal. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Liberal. Show all posts

November 20, 2016

Who Birthed Trump? The Left Looks Very “Guilty”

Well before Donald Trump declared he was running—to the amusement of the liberal media and Washington establishment, who didn’t stop laughing until Nov. 8—and long before Hillary Clinton dismissed half of Trump’s supporters as “deplorables,” the right had gotten used to being looked down upon by liberals. The general attitude of the left was: Disagree with us? You’re probably racist, xenophobic, sexist, bigoted or all of the above. Indeed, for many liberal Americans, these prejudices have come to be seen as inseparable from identity of the Republican Party itself. And when the GOP went all-out Trump, it only confirmed to many liberals that their ideological opponents were no longer worthy of respect.

The attitude extended way beyond election politics. Over the last few years at universities across America, for example, liberal students effectively banned Republicans from delivering commencement speeches by protesting speakers like Karl Rove, Rand Paul and Condoleezza Rice, forcing them to withdraw.

On Nov. 8, it appears, the right decided it finally had enough of this smugness. Conservative voters—including many former working-class Democrats who made the difference in key states such as Pennsylvania and Wisconsin—sent the message that they’d had enough not only of losing economically, but also of being sneered at. Trump’s rise in popularity—and ultimately his election to the presidency—should be seen as a long-building reaction to grassroots liberal activism that came to dominate the cultural landscape and claim victory after victory in the social arena, whether the issue was abortion or gay marriage or transgender rights, always accompanied by that same disdain for right-wing views as worthy of the stone age. Trump’s rise to power evolved out of this frustration, as Clinton’s campaign increasingly became an extension of liberal America’s smug-style of debate—an attitude that no longer disputed on grounds of policy or intellectual differences, but on the issue of the integrity of the right altogether.

By writing off right-wing Americans as deleterious to the ethical integrity of the country, left-wing Americans increasingly demonstrated that they hardly saw a place for the Republican Party in 21st century America at all. The ragtag nature of Trump’s campaign—delivering him to the forefront of the Republican Party while simultaneously dismantling it—only validated liberals’ righteousness. Recall that right up to election, the popular meme in the media was the conservative movement was in a state of collapse, and the liberals were dominant.

“The Left has done very well in the cultural wars in the last couple of decades” says Dalton Conley, an American sociologist and professor at Princeton University, “but there's often a backlash.”


Now the reckoning comes. While there is a clear need to rectify the indisputable disadvantages faced by America’s marginalized peoples—from the LGBTQ community, to Muslims, and people of color—Trump’s victory seems to indicate that unmitigated social activism can have unintended consequences. 
Conley compares this to “the backlash after the Civil Rights movement in the form of Nixon.”

Nowhere was this tension more apparent than America’s college and university campuses where students’ pursuit of social justice left many people feeling that their free speech was under attack. Expectations for teachers to reshape their lessons around the phenomena of “micro-aggressions” and “triggers” led many faculty members across the country to question their ability to educate students at all, without fear of offending them. Last year, Yale’s Erika Christakis was forced to resign following student backlash to a seemingly innocuous email that attempted to engage students with respectful discourse about cultural appropriation—following which, one student wrote in the Yale Herald "I don’t want to debate. I want to talk about my pain.”

Herein lies the problem with the left’s “by any means necessary” style of social activism: When any challenge to the prevailing liberal doctrine, cast under the wrong light, can forever cast one as a “racist,” those with dissenting opinions are left with only two options: concede, or retaliate.

Trump appealed to the latter by forming the populist right-wing counterpart to the left’s stubborn ethos.

Through this lens, Clinton’s candidacy can be seen as the political counterpart of liberal university students asserting that discussion is now off the table, where anything less than concession is morally suspect.

To many Trump supporters, Clinton—who’s own record is far from spotless—was merely another “PC” liberal griping about “micro-aggressions” and “triggering” language. To many white-working-class Democrats, she had simply failed to address their increasingly pressing concerns.

“Having served in the ’92 Clinton campaign, and having been part of the economic dialogue with the Midwest in the industrial heartland in 1992 when we did very well, it’s hard for me to understand how Hillary’s campaign didn't really see the centrality of her leading with economic issues.” Says Simon Rosenberg, founder of the New Democratic Network and veteran strategist for the Democratic Party.

A Gallup poll assessing what Americans perceived as the “most important problem facing this country today” helps to explain the disillusionment of this once-faithful constituency: “Economic problems” consistently took the number one spot, while issues like “lack of respect for each other” and “unifying the country” appeared at the bottom of the list.

Trump’s campaign rhetoric and slogans were aimed directly at the former, while Clinton (“stronger together”) chose the latter. Rosenberg says Clinton’s misjudgement of voters’ concerns is his greatest criticism of her campaign.

While Clinton travelled the country insisting that “America is great, because America is good,” Trump was busy cultivating a vision of economic prosperity—“make America great again”—with the promise of “beautiful” and “tremendous” and “big-league” change.

Nowhere was the backlash from this act of liberal smugness more deeply felt than the Rust Belt states, in which counties like Kenosha, Wisconsin broke more than 40 years of Democratic support in favor of Trump.

“The Democratic Party abandoned the economic issues that had locked that constituency into the party, so that the political contest became an almost purely ideological and cultural one,” says Dylan John Riley, a professor of sociology at the University of California, Berkeley.

And by waging a war against right-wing ethics, the Democratic Party, supported by the elite media, underestimated the true extent of Trump’s support—perhaps because most were too embarrassed to admit their allegiance—while playing right into the hands of Trump’s anti “PC” rhetoric.

For Trump supporters, the media was seen as an extension of the Democratic elite—and they weren’t entirely incorrect. The brazen media bias—not just against Trump, but more pertinently against Sanders—and the Democratic Party’s undermining of Sanders only validated the frustration of the right, and Trump’s narrative of a corrupt, elite Democratic chokehold on American politics.

As Vivek Chibber, a sociologist at New York University, tells me, “The media is responsible not just for hyping Clinton over Sanders, but also for bringing Trump up in a way that only hyped him even more—lampooning and dismissing him instead of taking seriously the way in which he was speaking to disaffected voters.”

Regardless of the thuggish, misguided and inflammatory reaction of Trump supporters to media bias that has encouraged the donning of T-shirts reading “Tree. Rope. Journalist. (Some assembly required),” it’s not hard to empathize with their growing scorn for the media elite.

To many on the right and left, media had become an extension of the Democratic Party’s already stacked effort—through superdelegates and plotting to undermine Sanders—to thwart the political upheaval that promised to follow a Sanders, or Trump, presidency.

While superdelegates were ultimately not the deciding factor—Clinton led in votes, states and pledged delegates—the undemocratic tone of the Democratic Party’s push for Clinton only further exacerbated Americans’ desperation for political reform. White-working-class Democrats who showed significant support for Sanders during the primaries fled the party in droves following Clinton’s nomination, as the arrogance of the Democratic Party promptly bent the political spectrum into a horseshoe.

Ironically, while liberal America flouted the authoritarian undertones of Trump’s campaign, their own Party demonstrated a lack of interest in public opinion, foisting their chosen candidate on Americans as if to say: we will decide what’s best for you. The result was more fuel to the growing fire of frustration among Americans for political elites and the status quo—power structures that a Trump presidency promised to topple.

By the end of the primaries—in which Clinton was often referred to as the “presumptive nominee” before being prematurely declared the nominee—the arrogance of the Democratic Party superseded itself once more by assuming Clinton’s presidency inevitable.

During the Clinton-Trump debates, liberals everywhere rolled their eyes at the embarrassment of a seasoned politician like Clinton needing to debate such an obviously ham-fisted opponent. Vox’s Emily Crockett put her finger on it with an article entitled “Clinton's debate performance spoke to every woman who has had to humor an incompetent man”.

But it wasn’t only women who felt that Trump, and his Republican constituents, were being humoured. Media pundits highlighted a general consensus that a Trump victory would be absurd and virtually impossible.

But then the impossible happened: Trump won, securing both the presidency and Congress for Republicans—so that, in the same year, The Atlantic went from asking, “Will the Republican Party Survive the 2016 Election?” to now “Does the Democratic Party Have a Future?”


Following Trump’s victory, many see the protests staged across the country as an extension of liberal America’s unwillingness—still!—to bend to their Republican counterparts. While the outcome of this election was upsetting for many—Trump’s presidency is not simply terrifying for immigrants and minorities, but could have irreversible environmental consequences—liberals are seemingly yet to grasp why they lost this election.

While of course the Democratic Party has a future, Trump’s presidency will require liberals to reassess a flawed, righteous identity that all but forced Right-wing America’s—so desperate for change—hands to the stove, to elect the only candidate who demonstrated the potential for reform.

Yet that reckoning has yet to happen.

In the years to come, when we look back on Trump’s victory, this is why it will be remembered less as a win for Republicans than as a failure for the Democrats—the result of liberal America’s unwillingness to compromise, or even show magnanimity in face of all its victories on social issues.


July 25, 2016

Timothy Kaine As Liberal as They Come?

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For those who know Sen. Timothy M. Kaine well in his home state of Virginia, there is rich irony to the blowback from liberal advocacy groups upset that Hillary Clinton did not pick someone more progressive to be her Democratic running mate.

“Throughout his time in politics here, there has always been this question about whether Tim Kaine was too liberal for Virginia,” said Bob Holsworth, a longtime political analyst. “No one has ever suggested this was a moderate who couldn’t be counted on to support liberal values.”

Before entering politics, Kaine worked as a civil rights lawyer, focusing on housing discrimination affecting African American families and representing inmates on death row. He began his political career in 1994 by winning a seat on Richmond’s City Council, whose majority-black members selected him as mayor four years later.

In the two decades that followed, Kaine rose through the political ranks to serve as Virginia’s lieutenant governor, governor and U.S. senator.

In those positions, he successfully pushed a smoking ban in restaurants in a state where tobacco giant Philip Morris is a major employer. He advocated gun control in a state where the National Rifle Association has its headquarters. He spoke out against the death penalty in a leading state for executions. And he’s remained a close ally of labor groups in a state that prides itself on its right-to-work status.

“I don’t understand it,” said Mo Elleithee, a friend and longtime Democratic operative who once worked for Kaine. “My sense is most of the progressives who’ve been concerned don’t know him and have another candidate they would have preferred.”

The critique in recent days from national progressive groups — some with ties to Sen. Bernie Sanders (Vt.), the runner-up in the Democratic primaries — has focused on a handful of issues, related primarily to trade and banking. And some liberal activists have expressed dismay that Clinton passed over Sen. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.), a darling of the party’s left wing whom Clinton had dangled as a possible pick.

On Sunday, Sanders said during an appearance on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that he would have preferred Warren. Sanders said Kaine is more conservative than him but praised his Senate colleague for being smart and “a very nice guy.”

Winnie Wong, an Occupy Wall Street veteran who founded the group People for Bernie, said Clinton’s pick of Kaine showed “a woeful disregard to the progressives who fought so hard this year to create conditions for transformational change this country desperately needs.”

Norman Solomon, the coordinator of a group billing itself as the Bernie Delegates Network, called Kaine “a loyal servant of oligarchy.”

“If Clinton has reached out to Bernie supporters, it appears that she has done so to stick triangulating thumbs in their eyes,” said Solomon, whose organization claims to represent hundreds of Sanders delegates attending the convention in Philadelphia but is not coordinating with the campaign.

Kaine’s stance on trade has been at odds with progressive groups, particularly over the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a pending trade pact being championed by President Obama but opposed by most liberal interest groups and most liberal Democrats in Congress, including Sanders.

Kaine was one of 13 Senate Democrats who voted in June 2015 to grant Obama “fast-track” authority to push the deal through Congress.

“Why would I not give to this president the same tools to negotiate a trade deal that other presidents had?” Kaine told reporters Thursday, the day before he was picked to be Clinton’s running mate. Speaking of the deal itself, Kaine also said, “I see much in it to like.”

During her tenure as secretary of state, Clinton called the pending pact the “gold standard” of multinational trade, but she has since announced her opposition, and Kaine is expected to fall into line, citing some of the same reservations.

Kaine also drew fire from liberal groups for signing a bipartisan letter last week urging the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to “carefully tailor its rulemaking” regarding community banks and credit unions so as not to “unduly burden” the institutions with regulations aimed at commercial banks.

Kaine said that the letter merely reflected the differing environments under which different kinds of financial institutions operate, but the activist network Democracy for America, which backed Sanders in the primaries, said his action should be “disqualifying” for any potential Democratic vice-presidential pick, calling it an attempt to “help banks dodge consumer protection standards.”

Holsworth, the longtime Virginia political analyst, said that part of the friction between Kaine and these groups can be attributed to an evolving definition of what it means to be a progressive.

Kaine’s progressivism is rooted in a civil rights and social justice tradition, Holsworth said.

But now “there’s a growing emphasis on more adversarial relationships with large institutions,” including Wall Street firms and large corporations, he said. “That’s not the kind of tradition Tim Kaine comes out of.”

Most governors, Holsworth argued, tend to be more sympathetic to businesses, because part of their job is attracting them to their state. And in the case of Virginia, which is home to one of the nation’s larger deep-water ports, it’s also important to understand the benefits of trade.

“There are particular issue areas where Kaine can be vulnerable to the progressive critique, but when you look at his entire career, it’s hard to say he isn’t closer to them than the Blue Dogs or other more moderate factions,” he said.

Kaine is also considered well to the left of Virginia’s senior senator, Mark R. Warner, a venture capitalist and one of the Senate’s wealthiest members. The political distance between the two is often overlooked, given that Kaine served as lieutenant governor during Warner’s tenure as governor, and some cast Kaine’s 2005 bid for governor as an extension of Warner’s service.

Neil Sroka, communications director for Democracy for America, one of the liberal groups that have been critical of Kaine, said there’s much to like about him.

“His record on civil rights and guns is unquestionable,” Sroka said, but he argued that doesn’t erase his group’s concerns. “A willingness to take on the corporate establishment is essential to this election,” he said.

Kaine’s boosters say they’ve been puzzled by the progressive groups that have spoken out against his being chosen.

Since winning his Senate seat in 2012, Kaine has won perfect or near-perfect scores from an array of liberal interest groups, reflecting a record that is in line with their positions on abortion rights, gun control, gay rights and labor interests.

In 2013, Kaine also made history with a floor speech entirely in Spanish, an address in support of an immigration law overhaul.

During her introduction of Kaine to a national audience Saturday at a rally in Miami, Clinton repeatedly called Kaine “a progressive who likes to get things done.”

Elleithee and others point to several defining moments in Kaine’s career that speak to his progressive values.

In his race for governor, for example, Kaine was hit hard by his Republican opponent, Jerry W. Kilgore, for his personal opposition to the death penalty. Kilgore ran television ads that featured family members of murdered Virginians denouncing Kaine.

Kaine countered with an ad in which he stared straight into the camera and declared his position a matter of faith — but pledged to carry out the law. As governor, he did allow executions to continue but vetoed bills seeking to expand the application of the death penalty. 

Kaine also clashed with Republican legislators early in his term when he sought to appoint an old friend and longtime labor leader to be secretary of the commonwealth, a position responsible for making thousands of appointments to state boards and commissions.

In a rare move, the House of Delegates voted down the nomination of former AFL-CIO state director Daniel G. LeBlanc, citing concerns about his long-standing opposition to “right to work” labor laws.

In an interview, LeBlanc described himself as “one of those guys who was pushing for the Democrats to be more progressive in Virginia” and praised Kaine for what he did next: appoint him to another Cabinet-level position that didn’t require confirmation by the legislature.

In that position, which LeBlanc described as a workforce development “czar,” he was able to work in areas closer to his expertise.

Kaine’s national politics also have showed a progressive bent. During the 2008 presidential cycle, he was the first governor outside of Illinois to endorse Barack Obama.

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