Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.

What's Wrong with the Left and What to Do About it

by Bernard Chazelle Thu Apr 3rd, 2008 at 12:50:32 AM EST

These are my thoughts about the American left.
Not sure what any of this has to do with Europe, but I thought some people might find it interesting.

 
SAVING THE AMERICAN LEFT: THE CASE FOR A NEW PROGRESSIVE CREED


Display:
To apply to Europe, you have to take out the Patriotism factor. Otherwise there is useful comment in your article. Yes, patriotism exists in Europe, but it is an occcasional swell of pride reserved in the main for taking sides at sports events.

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Thu Apr 3rd, 2008 at 04:02:28 AM EST
It's not patriotism you're thinking of in America.  It's a never-ending cynical parade of faux-patriotism.  We're not going to get anywhere in America on matters of framing if we continuously accept the premise that what we see is patriotism.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.
by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Thu Apr 3rd, 2008 at 09:34:48 AM EST
[ Parent ]
That is an important point of view. I was skimming the surface in my comment. For instance, I think that partiotism in the US could be synonomous with insularity - that it is a description of an extremely limited vision, that allows consumption of outrageous amounts of energy per capita, because there is no understanding of the world outisde the limits defined by patriotism.

Patriotism is basically about wearing blinkers. It is hard to wear blinkers in Europe - for me anyway at the age of 64.

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Thu Apr 3rd, 2008 at 05:55:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
American patriotism is not about insularity, it's about religion.

Metaphorically, America is God, the Constitution is Scripture, the President is the High Priest, and Civics classes in school are Catechism.

It'd be nice if the battle were only against the right wingers, not half of the left on top of that — François in Paris

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Apr 4th, 2008 at 03:13:10 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Metaphorically, America is God

A pantheist one to boot.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Fri Apr 4th, 2008 at 03:50:06 AM EST
[ Parent ]
To go on a medieval analogy, they are the cleric class to the businessmen warrior class. The job of American patriotism, as that of religion in the past, is to give legitimacy to the Way Things Are, and to hold apparent power, when the real one sits in the business/warrior class. As the pope in 1096, most of the power of the president lies in the ability to order far away wars of choice.

Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misères
by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Fri Apr 4th, 2008 at 05:38:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't know why this
To make its case, the left must redefine that most exalted form of self-interest, patriotism, as pride in a society that grants all of its members the means to belong.
would not apply to European Patriotism.

The fact is that too many European countries have unsavoury pasts for European progressives to want to be patriots. Maybe the European left can make the EU the object of patriotism as pride in an inclusive society.

It'd be nice if the battle were only against the right wingers, not half of the left on top of that — François in Paris

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Apr 3rd, 2008 at 02:53:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]
What we need is a new definition of patriotism: as you say - inclusive, but also a celebration of the ability of social structures to move on, to forgive, and to realise that only by working together can we make this little bit of the world that we know about, a better place for the future.

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Thu Apr 3rd, 2008 at 06:00:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]
What we need is a new definition of patriotism

I'm obliged to declare that I'd rather dump it altogether :-)

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Fri Apr 4th, 2008 at 03:07:52 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Hear, hear!

It'd be nice if the battle were only against the right wingers, not half of the left on top of that — François in Paris
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Apr 4th, 2008 at 03:10:15 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Isn't Europe's past itself a bit too unsavoury for progressives to promote EU patriotism ?

Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misères
by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Fri Apr 4th, 2008 at 05:39:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
We can tell ourselves all that died in WWII and we're building a brave new continent.

When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Apr 11th, 2008 at 01:48:05 AM EST
[ Parent ]
That's not a recent enough cut off to forget colonialism...

Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misères
by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Fri Apr 11th, 2008 at 04:58:54 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, but I'm willing to attach that burden to the National identities and claim the EU is new and clean. Especially since the EU doesn's exist until the 1990's (before it's the European Communities - essentially the single market).

When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Apr 11th, 2008 at 05:16:32 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I thought long and hard before using the word 'patriotism' because the word tends to end discussions rather than start them. But I couldn't find a better word to express this notion of collective self-respect that, in my view, plays a crucial role in policymaking.

But, indeed, the US and Yurp diverge on that point.  To me, the reaction to Katrina would have been unthinkable in Europe. I am not even talking about the incompetence of the government here. Several members of Congress suggested seriously that we turned New Orleans into a theme park.  That New Orleans happens to be one of the historical crown jewels of the US didn't matter. New Orleans had two opera houses before New York had any. It's also the birthplace of jazz and culinary heaven. But never mind all that.

This would be like having Paris being taken over by EuroDisney after a hurricane. (Sarko would like that, I know, but I suspect that 60,000,000 people minus one might object.)

I didn't much explore the link between "belonging" and collective self-respect but it is, I believe, an essential aspect of the story.

by Bernard Chazelle (Bernard Chazelle) on Fri Apr 4th, 2008 at 10:40:14 AM EST
[ Parent ]
but it is an occasional swell of pride

I don't agree with that. I think Canada is the only country without either a superiority or inferiority complex.

you are the media you consume.

by MillMan (millguy at gmail) on Fri Apr 4th, 2008 at 01:26:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You've never watched coach's corner on HNIC.

Check out Don Cherry on youtube. Here's a classic:



The Hun is always either at your throat or at your feet. Winston Churchill

by r------ on Fri Apr 4th, 2008 at 06:30:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
ha!

If that's Canadian jingoism, I'll take it.

you are the media you consume.

by MillMan (millguy at gmail) on Fri Apr 4th, 2008 at 08:47:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Welcome back, Bernard!

I look very much forward to reading what you say here when I've a spare moment. Your past criticisms on this subject are, imho, the best i've read anywhere, ever.

The Hun is always either at your throat or at your feet. Winston Churchill

by r------ on Thu Apr 3rd, 2008 at 09:00:37 AM EST
i'm dead impressed by this. thanks bernard.

it goes from just brilliant to genius level with phrases like

Free markets have rules and constraints, but so does piano composition, and the range from Chopin to Monk is hardly suggestive of a straitjacket.

your deconstruction of bill clinton was extremely apt, i winced at the memory of how much he was appreciated after reagan, how natural it was to feel hope rise at the sight of such an able, competent, charming man-of-the-left with his hand on the wheel.

inverse proportion kicked in as usual, and left me and so many others ruefully shaking our heads at how easy it was to be fooled, projecting away...

followed by tony blair....idem, ditto....

seeing bush and berlusconi getting voted in is painful enough, but at least you don't have any illusions to shatter, they are obvious, cartoon villains from central casting.

but it's the factory that sends us cameron, for example, so mediated, so smoothly acceptable, that is truly hitchcockian.

at least in america you have a presidential candidate who's getting young people inspired to commit to political awareness.

here in yurp, not so much.

i could, with a little imagination, and the growing drama of the Long Emergency as backdrop, imagine barack speechifying everything you've said here, heck, his pastor wouldn't have any trouble with it!

it's a very good synthesis you've written, a clear view of what's ailing america, and how it feels to want to use that clarity to inspire others to wake up. you present your thoughts skillfully and in a style that combines dropdead serious substance with a dash of irony and easy familiarity.

you write like a blogger, iow!

i hope many people read and spread this, great job.

a bit of an anticlimax, no credo at the bottom, is that pt 2?

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Thu Apr 3rd, 2008 at 09:58:55 AM EST
exactly as i expected, absolutely brilliant, and well written too.

really, nothing else to say, other than marxism isn't quite as dead and buried as you suggest imho. we may end up needing to call it by another name, but as an analytical framework through which to interpret history and the political economy, there's still a lot of there there. I suspect this isn't obvious though to a lot of observers, especially of contemporary events limited to those in the EU and (especially) the US.

The Hun is always either at your throat or at your feet. Winston Churchill

by r------ on Thu Apr 3rd, 2008 at 11:51:24 AM EST
Another thought I had on this, while out riding for lunch...

Clinton didn't start the decline, he only confirmed it and mastered the art of using it to his own personal and political advantage, not unlike Tony Blair. You make a real good comparison of Nixon to Clinton, it's one I have made often times with my Democratic party friends. And it's true, objectively speaking, that Nixon's policies were far more progressive than Clinton's. 70% top marginal tax rate under the despised Nixon, mid thirties under hero Cliton. And as you problably know, very little pisses off an old-guard Democrat than pointing this out.

But push the ball back even further. Go back to the 1950's. Under another "conservative," Republican Dwight D Eisenhower, the top marginal rate was 90%. Sounds like something Georges Marchais would be pushing for, huh? But it's true, that was the United States in the 1950's, which American conservatives love to point to as a time when men were men, women were housewives and life was simple, moral and good.

And who got the ball rolling in America on making the tax code revert back to pre-new deal regressivity? None other than the boomer's generation's great American hero, John F Kennedy.

The rot started there.

To be sure, JFK's tax cuts weren't as regressive in effect as Bill Clinton's, later, or Dubyas, even worse, thereafter. But in the grand game of ideology, the shift to neo-liberalism, away from the collective, began not under a GOP President, but under not just any Democratic President, but a Demoratic hero.

Remember,

"ask not what your country can do for you..."

would sound just as natural comping out of George w Bush's mouth as it does JFK (who Dubya occasionally cites, perhaps not so unsurprisingly).

That's why it'll be years before our interests get proper representation in Washington. That's why a centrist in any reasonable political spectrum like Kucinich is treated with derision not just by the plutocrats who own the GOP outright, but also by the catamites who work on their behalf in the Democratic party.

That's my two cents anyhow.

The Hun is always either at your throat or at your feet. Winston Churchill

by r------ on Thu Apr 3rd, 2008 at 02:49:26 PM EST
Well, you could even go back to scared-of-McCarthy Harry S. Truman, or even FDR himself, who let Hoover act free, crushed socialistic movements at the same time he implemented the New Deal, and established the military-industrial complex.

Or one could say that we not having socialism now means no one was perfect in the past, but while FDR, Eisenhower, Kennedy, LBJ and Nixon all did oth good and bad things, starting with Reagan no President had significant redeeming actions.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Fri Apr 4th, 2008 at 03:04:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]
In a typical narrow-focused fashion, here is an NRO take on the good sources in the 1950s. How wonderful was the 1948 Revenue Act?

Enacted 60 years ago today, when an allegedly "do-nothing" Republican Congress overrode President Harry Truman's veto, the legislation helped usher in the Fabulous Fifties, an era when both the economy and the American family flourished.

The 1948 act was not the largest tax cut of the century. But unlike the tax cuts of the Kennedy, Reagan, and Bush eras, the measure nursed near-record levels of industrial growth and economic expansion without sacrificing family size, moving nearly half of all married mothers into the full-time labor market, or reducing the relative earnings of married men. Nor did the good times coincide with the unraveling of the family, another plus that puts the economic performance of the past generation in perspective. [...Analyses] by social historian Allan Carlson and the late Georgetown economist Leslie Whittington reveal that the marriage and baby booms of the postwar era would not have happened without the "family" provisions of the Revenue Act of 1948...

[Building] upon the family orientation of the New Deal, the 1948 tax cut introduced universal income splitting, allowing all married couples to split their income in half when calculating their tax rates. In effect, a married couple would pay the same percentage as would a single filer with half the income...

[Further] reinforcing marriage, the legislation boosted the personal exemption from $500 to $600, a jump from 15 percent to 18 percent of the median income of married-couple families at the time. Although the mortgage-interest deduction also introduced in 1948 would help, the personal exemption played the much larger role in reducing the taxable income of a median-income family with three children to zero.

Had Congress indexed the exemption to inflation, it would today be worth $5,000; had the exemption remained the same percentage of median married-couple family income, it would be worth $12,000 in 2005...

[Beginning] with the Kennedy cuts of 1964, most subsequent tax legislation served to undo the 1948 achievement, in effect raising taxes on marriage and children. Not only has this contributed to the angst the public vents even when the GDP and stock market rise -- it may also help explain why "tax cuts" seem to have less electoral traction than they once did.

It won't be a wonder if a couple of simple measures would save many families and the country after this Bush recession. What stopped the "ingenious" conservatives like Reagan and the Bushes to be sensible?

Democrats, on the other hand, were loosing their soul and mind very fast with any taste of power.

by das monde on Fri Apr 4th, 2008 at 06:25:06 AM EST
[ Parent ]
would be a better title.
Even more general, would be: What's wrong with Very Large and Rich Countries? (yours being the only case - today)

Let's suppose that suddenly the EU becomes a single country.
It would be huge and very powerful.
How nice for my European(-centric) ego...
However, from that very day on, one would forget that some parts are not that well and, far importantly, the politics which insure that misery is restrained would begun to lose relevance.
Had we the chance (power), pretty soon we would be dropping our charity to other less fortunate areas of the world from a gun point; tough love. (the UK already does this in middle-east, while France does it in Africa; but it is marginal play)

Our societies of spectacle (Guy Debord's is the greatest decoder), are opposite to John Rawls metric of success: the power of a country's image is defined by its greatest achievements, while the degree of fairness in society must be measured by how much helped are the less fortunate.
The larger and richer the country, the greater the spectacle.

Concentration of power is the true enemy.

by findmeaDoorIntoSummer on Thu Apr 3rd, 2008 at 06:41:20 PM EST
how much helped are the less fortunate given, using typically the least sophisticated means. (although knowledge would be amazingly helpful).
by findmeaDoorIntoSummer on Thu Apr 3rd, 2008 at 07:06:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Thank you for this sorely needed and excellent writing.

you are the media you consume.

by MillMan (millguy at gmail) on Thu Apr 3rd, 2008 at 07:25:48 PM EST


Display:
Go to: [ European Tribune Homepage : Top of page : Top of comments ]

Top Diaries