Today, this is changing. Liberals now constitute roughly three in five Democrats, a share twice as large as in 1992, when we elected the first Clinton. Increasingly, liberals, or progressives, are at best ambivalent about economic growth, particularly in such blue-collar fields as fossil fuel energy, manufacturing, agribusiness and suburban homebuilding. Bill Galston, a former close advisor to Bill Clinton, notes that party platform “is truly remarkable – for example, its near-silence on economic growth.” In 2012, for example, Democrats touted the environmental and economic benefits of natural gas. This year’s party platform endorses ever-stricter regulation of the industry, while Sen. Bernie Sanders’ faction demands a quickly decarbonized economy.
Ironically, such steps will hurt precisely the blue-collar workers Sanders and his minions allegedly care most about. But the Vermont socialist’s base is not blue-collar production workers, but rather millennials, low-paid service workers and academics with few ties to tangible industries. Suspicious of broad-based economic growth’s impact on the environment, they logically favor redistribution of wealth over seriously growing the pie – in effect, contradicting nearly a half-century of mainstream Democratic thinking. The Bernie Bros and Gals think that higher taxes and more generous welfare benefits can turn America into a kind of mega-Scandinavia. They ignore the fact that, as author Nima Sanandaji has pointed out, the Nordic welfare state drew from generations of rapid growth built on small government, free markets and cultural factors, and that, in more recent years, countries such as Sweden have embraced a stronger free-market stance in order to pay for their generous welfare systems.
The Democratic Party’s embrace of racial equality in the 1960s represented an enormous step forward for both the country and the party, whose past was mired in slavery and segregation. Yet the Democrats leading the civil rights charge, like Hubert Humphrey, did not endorse the institutionalization of racial quotas. Old-line liberals preferred the notion, advanced by Martin Luther King, that discrimination on the basis of race is always wrong, and that people should instead be judged primarily on “the content of their character.”
Yet as the party has alienated its old white working- and middle-class base, racial and gender identity politics have become more important to Democrats. Older white women and minorities essentially saved Hillary’s campaign as she lost badly to Sanders among both the young and the remnants of white Democratic working- and middle-class voters. Now Hillary and the Democrats are likely to double down on racial identity politics. This can be seen in the courting of the Black Lives Matter activists and Latino nationalists and the stepping away from Bill Clinton’s embrace of tough policies on crime.
Hillary’s campaign website, as Oren Cass recently pointed out in a City Journal column, expends many more words talking about racial redress than about the economy. Clinton’s policy agenda, he notes, focuses more on “framing issues as who instead of what” in a way that divides people by gender, race, age and sexuality. This applies also to feminist politics that are intrinsic to her appeal. She has already talked about having a cabinet that is half female. Women certainly deserve more seats at the table, as they now outperform men in many areas, but chromosomes should not trump character in a democratic society.
But this kind of categorical imperative seems to have won over the Democratic Party, so much so as to render it unrecognizable to some of its old adherents. Similarly, it’s hard to see how more regulations, concessions to well-connected cronies and ever-higher taxes will revive the middle class. Since the awful alternative of Donald Trump makes the GOP even more noxious, can someone please point me to the closest dumpster fire?