Thursday, June 14, 2007

The Effectiveness of Liberalism

As I noted before, Adbusters has published an article from frequent Rolling Stone contributor Matt Taibbi about his aversion to using the term "liberal" to define himself. He explains that he sees the constant failures of liberals as being connected with the actual working class and its lack of a backbone as important reasons not to be aligned with the name.

Considering the pullout of Democratic leadership from a bill that would allow military women to get emergency contraception from their formulary, the following quote from Taibbi becomes more salient:

At a time when someone should be organizing forcefully against the war in Iraq and engaging middle America on the alarming issue of big-business occupation of the Washington power process, the American left has turned into a skittish, hysterical old lady, one who defiantly insists on living in the past, is easily mesmerized by half-baked pseudo-intellectual nonsense, and quick to run from anything like real conflict or responsibility.

And, this is true of the current political structure. The military women being denied the right to Plan B is only another in a series of ongoing unwillingness to actually take a stand and fight against anything. The current political season is another good example of that. The only candidates whose positions are any modicum of clear are those of Chris Dodd and Mike Gravel, but they have a snowball's chance in hell of winning the bid. The bid will go to Edwards, Clinton, or Obama: a double-talking, generic, all sizzle no fizzle liberal*.

Taibbi goes on to slam the economic make-up of the liberal movement, as one that is pretty much well-off, hyper-educated, and interested in things outside of bread-and-butter issues such as getting food on the table and keeping a roof over their head, the concerns of most working class people. Such issues include environmentalism and women's rights. While no one argues against the necessity of these things, they are not pressing to most of the people that are being represented by the left, as noted above.

Along with the disconnect, Taibbi argues that liberal college students, the source of so much anger in the 1960s, have nothing really to complain about anymore. They are, usually, from good backgrounds, have a lot of money behind them, and are unwilling to use their advantages to actually solve the problem. Instead, these students protest and march around, making no difference at all.

Because of a confluence of all of these issues, Taibbi no longer sees himself as a liberal, but as a progressive. Taibbi feels that the term progressive is more neutral, avoidant of the class and aesthetic connotations that come along with being a liberal.

In considering this article, I have to agree with most of what Taibbi said. A lot of the commenters on the website were not so compliant with his article, but Taibbi spoke to a lot of the problems that I've had as someone on the left with the operation of the liberals in Washington and in other locales across America. The whole movement has become overridden with monetary interests, interests that are in the disinterest of the target audience: the middle of America.

Also, there is a large tendency of liberals to slam the Midwest. I never understood this. They are the core of American society, what makes this country run. They might not be sophisticated like high-minded East Coasters (of which I am one, and I would never call myself high-minded. I'd probably ask them where the racetrack was, so we could go drink some high life and talk about cars), but they are way more important to this country than the ones who frou-frou them. Additionally, I like the Midwest because it isn't caught up in all of the liberal backpatting. I actually really, really like the Midwest; it's quite a lot of fun when they aren't trying to kill me for being Black.

Taibbi also opines about the liberal tradition of slamming Bush at every opportunity. On this point:
Then there’s the tone problem. A hell of a lot of what the left does these days is tediously lecture middle America about how wrong it is, loudly snorting at a stubbornly unchanging litany of Republican villains. There’s a weirdly indulgent tone to all of this Bush-bashing that goes on in lefty media, a tone that’s not only annoyingly predictable in its pervasiveness, but a turnoff to people who might have tuned in to that channel in search of something else.

As this very blog stated a while ago, primarily when I changed format, we all know Bush is a moron. I don't need to remind you, the reader, of that all the time. I also don't need elected officials to remind me of this all the time either. It is completely unnecessary and comes across as it usually does: like a lot of noise. When someone makes a lot of noise, that usually means that they don't stand for anything or have something substantive to say. I agree with them on Bush, and I'm saying this. That should be a statement within itself.

In sum, I think that Taibbi's article serves as a wake-up call to the sleeping Liberal giant. Although it was published in the anti-corporate, Marxist Adbusters, it is a reminder for the progressive/anarchist/culture jamming movement of what it is fighting against. The left's fight is not against the conservatives anymore; the left's fight is now against the left. We have a lot of resources available to us, as we don't have a real issue to fight for anymore+. The progressive movement needs to use its resources to organize and fight once again.

*I've endorsed Edwards on this blog before. I have to say that I don't particularly like the mainstream of liberal politics, but I know that a Green/Socialist candidate will not be elected this time around. I have to hedge my bets and go with the lesser of all possible evils.

+I still have issues to fight for like not getting followed in stores by security or harassed by cops or unfairly discriminated against by cops and government or getting a fair shake in loans. There are many things that I have to work on as a Black man. Also, unlike in the 1960s, whitey, you can't help. And, seriously, please don't try to say you're down. Black people really don't appreciate that.