Posts Tagged ‘Silicon Valley Liberalism’

What’s the matter with the Democrats?

May 21, 2016

This was originally published on March 28, 2016

I looked forward to reading Thomas Frank’s LISTEN, LIBERAL -or- What Ever Happened to the Party of the People?  I finished reading it over the weekend, and it’s as good as I thought it would be.

It is an explanation of how the Democratic Party ceased to be an advocate for the interests of working people and organized labor, and instead became the party of the credentialed professional class, as exemplified by Bill Clinton, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.

Thomas Frank is best known for his book, What’s the Matter With Kansas? which is about how a once-radical state became a stronghold of the right wing.  In this book, he explains how the party of the New Deal became the party of bank bailouts and pro-corporate international trade deals.

Thomas Frank

Thomas Frank

The change began with the split between college-educated idealists and blue collar union workers in the late 1960s.  Young radicals thought that the New Deal was yesterday’s news and that labor leaders such as the AFL-CIO’s George Meany were obstacles to peace in Vietnam and justice for minorities and women.

The young radicals triumphed in 1972 when they nominated George McGovern for President, under convention rules written so as to guarantee representation  for minorities, women and youth, but not for union members.

When McGovern went down in humiliating defeat, the party leaders rewrote the rules so as to prevent another McGovern from arising again.  They did not, however, return to their New Deal roots.  Instead they started to bid against the Republicans for support of the business class.

These two factions of the Democratic Party – social liberals and the business conservatives – eventually came together.

Their common ground was belief that the world should be run by an elite of smart people.  Their liberalism consisted of belief that there should be equal opportunity to enter this class based on educational credentials and professional achievement.

The idea was not to raise the material standard of living poor people and the working class in general, as in New Deal days.  It was to give everybody, through access to education, an equal chance to be part of the elite, regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation or social or economic class.

Then, if you still couldn’t succeed, it would be your own fault.  Maybe you didn’t study hard enough in the fifth grade.

This is not to say that Democrats became the same as Republicans.

Republican leaders wanted to be governed by an elite of tough, successful competitors.  Democratic leaders want to be governed by an elite of enlightened thinkers.

Republican leaders embrace economic inequality because they believe the laws of the free market are moral values.  Democratic leaders accept economic inequality because they believe the laws of the free market are scientific laws.  Republicans despise losers.  Democrats sympathize with losers, but do not think it is feasible to help them.

Republicans govern in the interests of the top 1 percent of income earners.  Democrats, as Frank wrote, govern in the interests of the top 10 percent.  [1]

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Political correctness and repressive tolerance 2

April 7, 2014

quote-i-disapprove-of-what-you-say-but-will-defend-to-the-death-your-right-to-say-it-voltaire-334856

I once wrote a post in defense of political correctness.  In it I argued that the phrase “political correctness” was used by people who wanted to immunize themselves from criticism for saying things that were insulting, vulgar and bigoted.   I am politically correct in that sense.  I believe in treating people with courtesy and respect, and part of that is avoiding language they consider insulting

I think there are certain opinions of which I have a moral obligation not to allow to go uncontradicted.

I think there is such a thing as “murder language” — epithets used by Cossacks conducting pogroms against Jews, by lynch mobs stringing up black people, by homophobes who beat gay people to death — and I don’t think such language is socially acceptable

But these considerations don’t apply in the resignation of Brendan Eich, the Mozilla CEO who was unmasked as having contributed to supporters of Proposition 8, the California referendum against gay marriage, and who refused to back down from his belief that marriage is only between men and women. 

I haven’t heard any allegation that he was unfair to gay employees of Mozilla.  In fact, nobody would have known about his opinions if somebody hadn’t taken the trouble to dig it out.

I am a paleo-liberal, who came of age during the Joe McCarthy period, and I see a parallel between what happened to Brenden Eich and the blacklisting of the great Hollywood scriptwriter Dalton Trumbo for his support of Communist causes.  

Of course Eich is in a better position to retire on his millions than Trumbo had of earning a living when he was banned from working in Hollywood.  On the other hand I think Trumbo’s illusions about the Soviet Union were a much more serious mistake (to put it mildly) than Eich’s failure to keep up with received opinion about gay rights.

One thing they have in common is that they are being punished not just for their past political record, but for refusing to back down from their convictions.   Both Eich and Trumbo could have saved their careers if they had recanted, even if nobody believed their recantation was sincere.

Proposition 8 was supported by a majority of Californians.  That is a lot of people to declare ineligible for executive positions in high tech companies in Silicon Valley. 

At the time Proposition 8 was on the ballot, Barack Obama declared his belief that marriage was only between a man and a woman.  I don’t recall anybody who thought this made him ineligible for public office.  (more…)

Political correctness and repressive tolerance

April 4, 2014

cakvin&hobbes

I’ve long thought that “political correctness” was a minor problem, mainly affecting English departments in liberal arts colleges rather than the general public.  Evidently not.

http://www.theamericanconservative.com/dreher/if-brendan-eich-isnt-safe/

The inventor of JavaScript has resigned as CEO of his Silicon Valley company because of protests about him donating money to an anti-gay marriage group.

The interesting thing for me about the above article by the self-identified conservative Rod Dreher is that I can remember when his view would have represented the extreme civil libertarian position.

http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2014/04/mozillas-gay-marriage-litmus-test-violates-liberal-values/360156/

All this is a reminder that “liberal” and “left,” while they may overlap, don’t mean the same thing.

http://fredrikdeboer.com/2014/03/24/is-the-social-justice-left-really-abandoning-free-speech/

The liberal position is, “I may disagree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”

http://www.thenation.com/blog/179160/cancelcolbert-and-return-anti-liberal-left#

Okay, there are worse things. 

http://cluborlov.blogspot.com/2014/04/in-us-democracy-is-now-sham.html

But, as my mother frequently said to me when I was a child, two wrongs don’t make a right.

More diversity, less equality: why the tradeoff?

May 24, 2013

During the past 30 or 40 years ago, the United States has come closer than ever before to equal opportunity, not only for African-Americans and women, but also GLBT folks and the physically handicapped.

At the same time a huge gap has developed between a tiny elite, who gather a greater share of American wealth and income year by year, and the vast majority of Americans, who are either falling behind or struggling as hard as they can to keep even.

Samuel Goldman, writing in The American Conservative recently, said this is no paradox.  He wrote that the tradeoff between diversity and equality is a result of a tacit grand bargain between the New Left of the 1960s and 1970s and corporate America.

inequality… The stories of greater social equality and economic inequality are far from “unrelated”.  Rather, social inclusion has been used to legitimize economic inequality by means of familiar arguments about meritocracy.   According to this view, it’s fine that the road from Harvard Yard to Wall Street is paved with gold, so long a few representatives of every religion, color, and sexual permutation manage to complete the journey.  Superficial diversity at the top thus provides an moral alibi for the gap between the one percent and the rest.

via The Spiritual Crisis of the Bourgeois Bohemians.

Rod Dreher, also writing in The American Conservative, put it this way.

economic_inequalityFrom a contemporary progressivist point of view, non-rich social conservatives who vote Republican do so out of false consciousness, or mindless bigotry.  But how many liberals would vote for a politician who proposed to stick it to the banks and the oligarchs, and who endorsed a broadly progressive economic agenda, but who openly opposed gay marriage and abortion, and endorsed religious piety?  (Basically, your pre-1970s Catholic Democrat).  Very few, I would imagine.

The culture war is in some ways class war by another name. Whenever you see some middle or upper class person gabbing on about the importance of diversity, you shouldn’t expect that they mean actual diversity — because then they would be eager to include, say, white working-class Republican Pentecostals — but rather diversity as what Goldman calls a “moral alibi,” which entails one’s ability to conceal one’s own real motivations from oneself.

via Culture (War) Is Everything.

I think there is a lot of truth in this, and it explains a lot.

It explains how Silicon Valley billionaires can avoid taxes, export jobs to some low-wage Third World country and shrug off the problems of middle-class and working-class Americans, and still be considered liberals and good friends of President Obama.

And it explains how President Obama can still be considered a liberal as he tries to undermine Social Security, attack teachers unions and negotiate trade treaties that lock in the corporate agenda.

When I worked for Gannett, CEO Al Neuharth ostentatiously promoted the advancement of African-Americans, women and gay people, which made him bullet-proof against criticism for offering sub-standard pay and benefits and crushing labor unions.

Our “diversity training” sessions always seemed to me to be part of a policy of divide-and-rule. I remember that at one session, a gay white man got up and said that gays, African-Americans and women in the newsroom should unite against the straight white men—not a view that would improve morale or teamwork.   He was not rebuked, and was later promoted.

The tipoff as to management’s aims was in the fact that they refused to agree to a clause in the union contract calling for non-discrimination based on sexual orientation.  The company wanted GLBT people, as well as African-Americans and women, to look to management, not to fellow workers, for their rights.

Of course acceptance of diversity is a good thing, not a bad thing.  It is a good thing that Ursula Burns, a black woman, can become CEO of Xerox, but not everybody can be a CEO or wants to be one.   Some people are content with an honest day’s pay for an honest day’s work, and what’s wrong with that?

Nor is there any logical reason why diversity and equality should be tradeoffs.  The U.S. labor union movement has long ceased to be a movement primarily of native-born white men.   Trade unions recognize that they can’t win unless they stand together, regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation or anything else.

§§§

[AFTERTHOUGHT 5/25/13]

As I see it, one link between social liberalism and economic inequality is a widespread meme that sees society as an arena of competition and social justice as a guarantee of fair rules and a level playing field.

If you see society in this way, rather than as a means for people to co-operate for mutual benefit, then justice demands that you do your best to assure equal opportunity for everyone, regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, immigration status, physical handicap or anything else that isn’t under control of the individual.   But these meme does not give the wealthy any obligation toward the non-wealthy.  It would be like demanding that the winner of a high-stakes poker game return some of his winnings to the loser.

 

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