Media Blog

A New FDR Party?

Michael Lind, writing in Salon, is worth reading today. His thesis creeps me out on Liberal Fascism grounds but also has the feel of truth about it: Enough voters want Big Government that welfare-statist politicians will probably be successful for a long time:

Note that almost all of the policy proposals that excite the American public are exactly the sort of old-fashioned, “paleoliberal” spending programs or systems of government regulation that are supposed to be obsolete in this era of privatization, deregulation and free-market globalization, according to neoliberals and libertarians. Bill Clinton to the contrary, the public clearly does not think that “the era of big government is over.” Nor does the public show any interest in the laundry lists of teeny-weeny tax credits for this and that that neoliberals love to propose, to appear compassionate without spending real money. The public wants the middle-class welfare state to be rounded out by a few major additions — chiefly, healthcare and childcare — and the public also wants the government to grow the economy by investing in public works and favoring companies that locate their production facilities inside the U.S. There, in a sentence, is a program for a neo-Rooseveltian party that could effect an epochal realignment in American politics.
…What’s the alternative? The Cato Institute’s Brink Lindsey has mused about a “liberaltarian” coalition uniting social-issue liberals with free-market anti-statists. Down with drug and sodomy laws — and welfare and Social Security, too! The problem with this as a Democratic strategy is that Mike Huckabee conservatives who might be attracted to a Newer Deal greatly outnumber Ron Paul libertarians in the electorate, if not on college campuses and in editorial offices.

The piece is head-and-shoulders above Lind’s and Salon’s usual level of argument. And he’s probably right that the odd man out in the new coalition is probably going to be the libertarians, who are increasingly estranged from the conservative coalition — and will be increasingly so if the GOP continues down the big-government path — but cannot form a real alliance with the Left, who hate capitalism, seek to regulate speech and thought, and are deeply antagonistic toward the classical liberal foundations of the American order. (Those who want America to be more like Europe are reliably illiberal, because modern political liberty is an American invention, cf. the Bismarckian ambitions of Barack Obama.)
Is there a ray of hope for the Republicans in all this? Maybe:

If Democrats don’t create a new Roosevelt Party, the Republicans over time just might. In their recent insightful manifesto “Grand New Party,” Reihan Salam and Ross Douthat call for the GOP to adopt activist government on behalf of the working class, while remaining a socially traditional party. That formula — more Gaullist than Thatcherite — has worked recently in Germany, France and Italy. It might work here, unless Democrats forestall the possibility by reaching out to Sam’s Club Republicans.

… Unfortunately, the upper-middle-class left, with its unerring instinct for political suicide, is probably incapable of seizing the moment and bringing more Baptists and Catholics into the Democratic Party, because it has developed an almost superstitious distaste for religious conservatives.

So the defining question for Lind, then, will be whether the Left hates Christians more than the Right hates socialism, which seems a fair question. (There is evidence that prejudice against Christian is stronger than many other prejudices in American life.) But the bottom line is that the ascendancy of a new FDR party, either under the Democrat brand or the Republican brand, will be a loss for liberty.

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