« The New Independent Voter | Main | Revolt of the Middle? »

Liberals Clueless on Class?

Thomas "What's the Matter With Kansas?" Frank has an interesting article on liberal-bashing in the current issue of the New York Review of Books. In "What's the Matter With Liberals?" Frank illuminates the ways Republicans set liberals up and liberals eagerly cooperate to reveal their cluelessness on class, thereby alienating millions of working people. For example, notes Frank:

Conservatives generally regard class as an unacceptable topic when the subject is economics—trade, deregulation, shifting the tax burden, expressing worshipful awe for the microchip, etc. But define politics as culture, and class instantly becomes for them the very blood and bone of public discourse. Indeed, from George Wallace to George W. Bush, a class-based backlash against the perceived arrogance of liberalism has been one of their most powerful weapons. Workerist in its rhetoric but royalist in its economic effects, this backlash is in no way embarrassed by its contradictions. It understands itself as an uprising of the little people even when its leaders, in control of all three branches of government, cut taxes on stock dividends and turn the screws on the bankrupt. It mobilizes angry voters by the millions, despite the patent unwinnability of many of its crusades. And from the busing riots of the Seventies to the culture wars of our own time, the backlash has been ignored, downplayed, or misunderstood by liberals.

Frank mines this vein better than anyone, and the article is well-worth a read, particularly for Democratic candidates and campaign workers. He doesn't discuss solutions, though, and the piece ends up as sort of a lamentation. Also it should be said that there are millions of self-identified liberals who don't hang out in Starbucks or generally act the fool about social class. Finally, to put it all in perspective, Kerry lost to a wartime incumbent by less than 2.5 percent, hardly cause for despair about the Dems' future, especially considering Bush's dismal poll numbers of late and current legislative prospects.