Sam Smith’s Progressive Populists

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Lisa Kramer

Lisa Kramer is a contributing contributor at The League of Ordinary Gentlemen.

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41 Responses

  1. Avatar Rufus F. says:

    I think sometimes that too much is made of liberal condescension, when really their problem is with follow through. They champion the working class and these other groups in the campaigns, while not really delivering very much for them. I remember my father once saying, “What do I care who I vote for? None of them ever do anything for people like us.” Nevertheless, he votes Republican because they hate taxes.Report

    • @Rufus F., “I think sometimes that too much is made of liberal condescension, when really their problem is with follow through. They champion the working class and these other groups in the campaigns, while not really delivering very much for them.”

      But couldn’t hat lack of follow-through be because they really don’t care about the issues facing those people?Report

      • Avatar Rufus says:

        @Mike at The Big Stick, Sure, but I guess what I meant is that they could have whatever opinions they want to about NASCAR and Wal-Mart if they came through on more of their promises.Report

      • Avatar gregiank says:

        @Mike at The Big Stick, or it could mean they really care about people but they can’t get enough of there policies past or the economy still sucks or the D party has a really big tent so they end up catering to all sorts of beliefs. But i guess mind reading is better especially when it backs up your beliefs.Report

        • @gregiank, I will agree on the really big tent – although I think the size of the tent is not actually reflective of who they are actually going to help through policies. And I don’t mean they can’t help them, I mean they have no intent to help them. Rural/farm policy, for example, has been woeful so far under Obama. Meanwhile city-friendly policies get full attention. This isn’t an accident or the result of legislative blockages. They simply aren’t even proposing anything.Report

          • Avatar Cascadian says:

            @Mike at The Big Stick, I think this is a function of playing the get elected game instead of playing the governance game. This is one result of centralization. If all of the important decisions are made on a national level and there is no real possibility of getting local interests met on that level, then cynicism about real solutions runs rampant and all that is left is partisan demagoguery.Report

          • Avatar Simon K says:

            @Mike at The Big Stick, As a matter of interest, what should the be proposing? I mean, my reflexive attitude to farm policy is that I’m against it, but I’m open to being convinced it might be useful for something…Report

          • Avatar gregiank says:

            @Mike at The Big Stick, I think there is a strong feeling among a lot people in liberal circles that cities have been disfavored over rural areas. Cities do have a lot more people after all but get less in many ways. Note i don’t follow this issue all that closely so i’m just paraphrasing what others think, at least i think thats what i’m doing. There are many, many poor people in cities so helping cities is helping, at least in theory, helping a lot of poor people. If we are take the sam smith guy as really saying, D’s don’t help rural folk, then that changes the tenor of his argument a lot.

            I think if the admin were to really try to cut all the Ag aid they would be massively slammed as hating rural/ farm folk, yet a lot people on both sides of the aisle think Ag aid is solid waste.

            Not to rehash old arguments, but HCR does help rural and poor folks.Report

            • @gregiank, There is a significant under-investment in both rural education and rural infrastructure when compared to cities. There may be less people but that doesn’t mean promises made should take a backseat. The government is big. VERY big. Surely they can handle both at once.Report

            • Avatar Cascadian says:

              @Mike at The Big Stick, Socialism at its worst. Smaller government cut services to those that can’t pay. That’s the mantra in these neighborhoods isn’t it?Report

            • @Cascadian , I don’t follow your comment – you’ll have to elaborate.Report

            • Avatar Aaron says:

              @Mike at The Big Stick, I thought we were arguing about policy at the federal level? School funding is a local issue, and usually funded by property taxes. It’s a sad state of affairs — I’m certainly familiar with it — I grew up in a small industrial city in Ohio. On one side, we had a rich suburb with high property taxes and (consequently) great schools. On the other side, we had poor farming communities with low property taxes and (consequently) incredibly poor schools. We were stuck in the middle, with the community consistently voting down school levies, and then complaining about how poor the schools were. The dynamic seemed pretty clear to me, but it didn’t have anything to do with the federal government — or even Republican/Democrat. The levies were nonpartisan. It has to do with the US’s incredible anti-tax dogma.Report

            • @gregiank, I’m not arguing about anything…

              As for federal education policy, you might want o read this:

              http://www.dailyyonder.com/whats-missing-rural-schools-obamas-blueprint/2010/04/05/2676Report

            • Avatar Aaron says:

              It’s an interesting article, but it seems to be complaining that the Obama Administration isn’t concentrating on rural schools far beyond their actual population importance. It seems to me that concentrating educational resources where they will do the most good is the essence of good governance. If people want to live in rural communities and maintain that lifestyle, that’s fine, but that doesn’t seem to me to be a reason why the federal government should subsidize that lifestyle. If they want to have good schools, they should pay for them.

              Besides, federal funding for public schools only makes up 8.3% of their operating budget. If rural communities wanted to have decent schools, they could raise taxes and invest in them.Report

            • @gregiank, If federal funding is so un-important then why does the fed hold so much power over school systems? No Child Left Behind was a voluntary program.Report

            • Avatar Aaron says:

              Simple: because local communities are unwilling to spend money on their children and depend on the federal government to make up the difference. Low taxes FTW.Report

          • Avatar Aaron says:

            @Mike at The Big Stick, Maybe that has something to do with the fact that 79% of the US population lives in urban areas.Report

            • @Aaron, Actually most of the population lives in suburban areas, which are effectively the mid-point between urban and rural. I don’t really even see a lot of suburb-friendly policies.Report

            • Avatar Aaron says:

              Well, according to the 2000 census, 58% of the population live in urban areas of 200,000 people or more. I suppose that could include some “suburban” areas, but I would argue that it mostly includes what I would call “cities.” Beyond that, you don’t see the massive investment in highway infrastructure/zoning laws/aversion to gas taxes as “suburb-friendly” legislation and regulation? I would argue that the government overvalues suburban and rural constituencies over urban ones.Report

            • @Aaron, The suburbs are about a lot more than easy commutes.Report

            • Avatar Aaron says:

              Such as? Non-walkable communities? Foolishly allocated resources? Getting away from black people?Report

            • @Aaron, ‘Getting away from black people?’ Really? What a stupid comment. Is there a law that says blacks can’t move to the suburbs? My last neighborhood, in the suburbs, was 50% black.Report

            • Avatar Aaron says:

              You’ve seriously never heard of “white flight”? I’m not trying to be (totally) snide, but that was one of the major drivers of the development of suburbs in the United States. But you still haven’t mentioned the wonderful and unique characteristics of the suburbs that should give them such a privileged place in our politics.Report

    • Avatar JosephFM says:

      Well, here’s what I don’t get. What would they want liberals who actually are concerned with their well-being to carry through on? If they’re voting Republican because they hate taxes, the signal they are sending is “nothing”…so it’s mutually reinforcing.
      Of course, (to be condescending myself for a bit) the apparent fact that most people can’t tell actual principled progressives from trustafarian idiots or corrupt machine Democrats (or, for that matter, principled conservatives from paranoid, racist nutjobs) doesn’t help anyone much.Report

      • Avatar Rufus says:

        @JosephFM, I think this has to do with most people not being very ideological. Here’s an example: I know a number of people in my father’s immediate circle, all middle-aged and very working class (mostly lobstermen) and generally Republican voters, who are all struggling because their health insurance bills have more than doubled in the past decade. So, when health care reform was proposed, all of them wanted it to happen and actually every one I knew, including my father, wanted as he put it “what you guys have in Canada for working people here”. The Democrats, however, pussed out, dropped the ball, failed, etc. and the final result was these people still pay too much for their health insurance, their rates will just keep rising, and if they drop their insurance, they’ll get fined.

        My sense is, had the Democrats fought tooth and nail to deliver a single payer system, that fight would have won them voters, even if they’d lost in the end. Instead, you’ve got two parties that both consistently do nothing for the working poor (majority), and one of them that says they’d really, really like to someday. Since neither of them deliver, people instead cast their votes based on things like religion or taxes or who hunts and fishes. I think those things would recede in importance if people felt their votes had a tangible result in their own lives.Report

        • Avatar gregiank says:

          @Rufus, You do realize their were not the votes in the senate for single payer….having voters like it is nice but its nothing if the congress won’t vote for it.

          People complain about congress or dem’s or repubs a lot. But what are they complaining about? People love to say “congress didn’t do X” but when you look at it, one party voted for X but couldn’t overcome the filibuster threat of a minority. So how is it reasonable to say “congress wouldn’t do X” In one simple way, not having anything to do with the actual reasons it is true. But it ignores what and why things happened. When people or the MSM say
          ” congress this” or ” congress that” they are usually avoiding the story of which party is trying to do something and which party is obstructing. It is a diffusion of responsibility and lazy.If the people you are talking about wanted what you have in Canada were they on the phone to their reps screaming for it. Was this in Maine? Were they screaming at Snowe and Collins to stop jerking around and work with D’s on moving HCR forward. Because it is at the margins of congress, the blue dog D’s and few remaining moderate R’s, where the tipping points are.

          I am more then ready to knock D’s for many things but this is lame. They push through as much as they can against massive resistance. Then who gets the blame, not the people who were screaming death panels but the people who scraped and clawed to do as much as they could. If the people in your father’s circle don’t like what we got from HCR blame the people who refused to work at it, lied, smeared and refused to allow votes. If they want single payer then there is only one party that has any support for that idea.Report

          • Avatar Rufus says:

            @gregiank, Yeah, I realize- trust me, you’re not saying anything I haven’t said during a holiday meal. But really all I’m saying is that, for all I’ve heard about the condescending attitude of liberals (usually from liberals actually), the working people I know who vote Republican aren’t sitting around griping about what Obama thinks about guns or NASCAR.Report

            • Avatar gregiank says:

              @Rufus, oh great, i get to take part in a holiday meal discussion but i don’t get any turkey or sweet potatoes…..thanks a lot.

              Usually when somebody starts talking about the condescending attitude of liberals i start a mental countdown for that person to talk about Real America and how libs drive the wrong cars, drink the wrong coffee and how libs just aren’t good enough Americans. which you know isn’t at all condescending.Report

            • Avatar Rufus says:

              @Rufus, Well, since I’m only judging based on my family, I’d say the members of my family who actually care about whether liberals take a dim view of NASCAR and pickup trucks or not are both die hard Republicans and fairly wealthy.Report

  2. Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto says:

    I find it extremely difficult to reconcile the list of policy preferences on economic issues above with this notion of decentralization.

    Almost all of that is crying out for some sort of centralized, federal system of regulation and implementation rather than piece-meal federalism.

    Am I missing something?Report

  3. Avatar Jonathan says:

    I find it interesting that he (or perhaps it’s just these particular quotes) are rather backwards looking. Does he want to go back to the 1930s, 1980s or 19th century?Report

  4. Avatar Aaron says:

    You know, it’s interesting that no one is saying, “Conservatives might be able to win some people to their positions if they stopped calling everyone who lives in a city purple-haired homosexuals trying to set up Al Qaeda splinter cells.” This kind of thing goes both ways, and I think a lot of progressives feel actively repulsed by the kind of country club, fake tan gladhanders like John Boehner. This kind of image-based politics is just about wholly unhelpful.

    That said, I would like to endorse everything proposed in the “economic issues” section. I don’t particularly care if people like NASCAR, and I certainly don’t waste time making fun of them, and if they don’t care if I like avant garde music, black turtlenecks and lattes, the world would be a better place.Report

    • Avatar Simon K says:

      @Aaron, For the record, I’m an latte sipping, urban, liberaltarian European immigrant, and I think NASCAR is awesome. Its never made any sense to be that its considered a cultural signifier (come to think of it the latte thing doesn’t make much sense either). Its motor racing. With crashes. Whats not to like?Report

      • Avatar Rufus says:

        @Simon K, I married into a family of well-to-do liberal Canadians who have gone to NASCAR events since my wife was a child. She said that even when she was about eight years old, merchants there would give her free samples of chewing tobacco, which amused the whole family.Report

  5. @Aaron, I’m well aware of what white flight is but you’ll notice that you’re talking about something that happened 50 years ago. I thought we were talking about contemporary politics? People don’t move to the suburbs today to avoid black people. Most people live there because they’ve always lived there. The only push/pull dynamic is that blacks are now leaving the cities as well.

    The majority of the growth in our economy occurs in suburban areas. Read anything by Joel Kotkin in the last 2 years and he mentions the phenomenon over and over. With the increase in telecommuting, information-based businesses and the decline of manufacturing there is little need for a centralized economy. More spending to support this trend would be wise. Additionally, there is a growing and important economic and cultural relationship between rural communities and their suburban neighbors. Farmer’s markets, mixed-use development zones, co-ops… these should be supported.

    The fact is, cities in this country are becoming more and more stratified in income. You have your folks at the top who work in finance or some other high-paying white collar profession and you have the lower class, often minorities and/or immigrants, who serve them. NYC has one of the largest income gaps in the country. If you want to see income equality and equal opportunity, head to the suburbs or beyond.

    Is that enough of a case for you?Report

    • Avatar Aaron says:

      @Mike at The Big Stick, No, it’s really not — in the first place, white flight hardly ended in 1960. My point is, suburbanization and sprawl are conscious choices made by the government to favor policies that encourage them. Suburbs are not the natural state of our communities any more than Manhattan is, or farms are. Suburbs are made possible by decisions that restrict how dense development can be, how many people can live in any given dwelling, an emphasis on highway construction at the expense of mass transit and the prioritizing of keeping gas taxes as low as possible. These are choices that are made, and I think they’re foolish choices. It costs more to provide services to people in a spread out area than it does in the city. It costs more for our society for everyone to own and use automobiles. I don’t believe that this is a wise use of resources, especially when almost 60% of the population can’t make use of it.

      As for farmer’s markets, co-ops and mixed use developments, I’m in favor of all of those — but they’re hardly exclusive to suburban settings. In fact, suburbs are practically defined by their lack of mixed use development. I live in Jersey City, just across the Hudson from New York City, and I walk through a farmer’s market every Wednesday and Friday to and from the train station I take into Manhattan for work. I think that’s a much more sustainable model for development.

      As for Kotkin, I haven’t read him, but wikipedia says this about him: “Kotkin argues that the model of urban development as exemplified by pre-automobile cities such as New York City and Paris is outdated in many cases. Kotkin believes in a “back to basics” approach which stresses nurturing the middle class and families with traditional suburban development. He states that the current trend of growth of suburbs will be the dominant pattern around the world. As a result, he believes rail transit is not always ideal for modern cities and suburbs.” Not having read him, I can’t speak to the specifics of his argument, but I think it’s pretty clear that we’re not on a sustainable path as far as automobile usage is concerned. For too long, we’ve privileged the number of automobiles over the number of commuters, and I think we need a drastic reordering of those priorities.

      I’ve lived in both cities and suburbs, and while my preference is for cities, suburbs have their charms. But in a country where more people live in urban areas, it doesn’t make sense to allocate so many resources to maintaining the (government regulated) status quo. Except, of course, that suburbs are full of old white people.Report

      • @Aaron, You can argue that cities are more resource friendly, etc but you’re fighting a losing battle. Americans chose to head outward at Jamestown and haven’t really looked back. There will always be a desire to sprawl.

        Mixed use is common in ther suburbs of Louisville. Maybe NJ just doesn’t do it right? There’s a big difference between suburbs in the midwest and the northeast.Report

        • Avatar Aaron says:

          @Mike at The Big Stick, that’s teleological nonsense. There’s no reason why Americans cannot become reinured to living in cities: most of them already do! My point is that right now those urban dwellers are subsidizing suburb and rural living, and I think that’s absurd. If you want to live in a suburban setting, that’s fine — but you should expect to pay the full cost of it, and not depend on the federal government to sweep in and make your preferred living situation affordable, when it’s not.

          Your “desire to sprawl” is a post-WWII desire whose conditions have since expired. It’s time that the lifestyle expires with them.

          And, as a side note, I’m from Ohio, so I know where from I speak on midwestern suburbs, and I have yet to see one that is in anyway mixed use. From my parent’s house you would have to walk an hour to get to any grocery store worth the name.

          And finally, if Americans were so excited to live in suburbs, why is land there so cheap and so expensive in urban cores?Report

          • @Aaron,

            “There’s no reason why Americans cannot become reinured to living in cities: most of them already do!”

            We already covered this. Most Americans do live in ‘cities’ but they do not live in urban areas. They live in suburbs outside of city centers but still within the city limits. So there is no ‘urban subsidization’ of suburban life. To the contrary most suburbs subsidize urban renewal projects that are used by a minority of the citizenry on a day-to-day basis.

            “And, as a side note, I’m from Ohio, so I know where from I speak on midwestern suburbs, and I have yet to see one that is in anyway mixed use. From my parent’s house you would have to walk an hour to get to any grocery store worth the name.”

            I think you need to broaden your horizons a bit Aaron. Come to Louisville sometime and I’ll be happy to give you a tour. I live on the very edge of city about 30 seconds from the county line. Right across the street from me is a huge soybean field and next to that is a horse farm. But I can also hop in my car and there is all the retail I could want less than 2 minutes away. It’s like that all over my town. Seems maybe you’ve just been living in the wrong places.Report