Monday, December 6, 2010

Who's screwing up progress?

Any push for progress and reform against powerful opposition requires competent leadership and a broad base of support among the working and middle classes. The standard bearers for such progress in the US, self-proclaimed liberals and progressives and the Democratic party, have failed miserably.

Recently, outgoing Ohio governor Ted Strickland made this point clear, and he is spot on in his analysis, 'Democrats suffer from an "intellectual elitism" that prevents them from adopting the type of populist tone to relate to voters, he said. And while President Obama had made a series of monumental legislative advancements -- any one of which would have been "historic" in its own right -- he fails to recognize that he is being "slapped in the face" by his Republican critics."I think there is a hesitancy to talk using populist language," the Ohio Democrat said in a sit-down interview with The Huffington Post. "I think it has to do with a sort of intellectual elitism that considers that kind of talk is somehow lacking in sophistication. I'm not sure where it comes from. But I think it's there. There's an unwillingness to draw a line in the sand." ' Ironically. many of those who commented on the article didn't get it, seeing "intellectually elite" as a political spectrum issue (i.e centrist = elite) rather than issue of attitude and tone. More on that later.

Next, take a gander at this little tale and the comments following it.  In short, we have college-level classes where the students act like unruly 8th graders, talking and texting and otherwise disrupting the class. The professors' solution, walking out on the class, may not be the best  but compared to what most of the commentators say it at least shows some backbone. In fact, most commenting propose "solutions" that can be be fairly described as desperate attempts to accommodate assholes in the hope said assholes discover the error of their ways and magically become engaged, polite Rhodes scholars. There is also a fair amount of blame being leveled at the professors for not be entertaining enough to keep the spoiled brats in their classes happy. Simply put, most faculty commentating on this story apparently capitulate simply to avoid standing up for themselves and showing some leadership and responsibility!

Hmmm, so we see the same behavior in both the world of  "official" progressive politics and academia. Which is no surprise, since both are dominated by upper-middle class whites who have led very sheltered lives. Oh, they may be well educated and informed about "issues" on national and global levers, but they are sorely lacking in experiences with ordinary working people and in making tough decisions. When confronted by a gritty world of personalities, competing motivations and ambitions they lack the ability to move past analysis and take action. Thus they become paralyzed. What they call compromise is not true comprise but acquiescence to bullying and as a further consequence they are easily co-opted by ambitious bureaucrats and money-men who will make those tough decisions for them.

IMHO the problem lays with rise of the "New Left" in the 1960s, which saw students and affluent highly educated people as their base, rather than labor. Their support for working people is not due to a belief in the dignity of the worker, but rather pity for those who actually do jobs and leave lives that these "Progressives" cannot imagine.The commentators on the Strickland article cannot comprehend how they can be self-described  "flaming liberals" believing in things that help the average person, yet still come off as arrogant snobs. My experiences with academic liberals, particularly the west-coast variety, was that they believed in things that were good for the middle and working class, but at the same time held working class people in contempt. They believed that the average plumber, cop, fireman, office worker etc. were too stupid to look out for their own good and needed to be told what was best for them.  That, my friends is intellectual elitism in all its glory. Let's be honest, all strata of society, including upper middle-class academics, include people who believe in things not in their best interest.And all strata of society have people who are informed, rational and interested in the common good, even janitors with just a high school education. The latter are turned off by the progressive/liberal leadership not because they are warped by Fox or NASCAR, but because they have been disrespected.

Furthermore, the intellectually elite progressives still see the political paradigm as defined by the conflicts of the 60's and "left"and "right", rather than the emerging one of a narcissism-authoritarian alliance against rationality and the common good.

It appears to be time to move beyond Democrats and old school "liberals" and "progressives" on order to fight this battle.

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