Cracks in the Liberal Order


CK MacLeod

WordPresser: Writing since ancient times, blogging, e-commercing, and site installing-designing-maintaining since 2001.

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  1. Douthat picks Trump’s policy positions very carefully, though. From the other side, Trump’s a man who has said we wasted four trillion dollars in the Middle East [1], that we should spend more on Social Security and Medicare as currently structured, that US taxes ought to be more progressive, pointed out that the rest of the world has had good experiences with single payer health care, and is okay with affirmative action.

    I’ve become more convinced about the “middle American radical” theory of Trump’s support. Douthat doesn’t dare accept that, since those people aren’t supportive of a whole lot that he thinks are important parts of conservatism in America today.

    [1] That’s bigger than the biggest estimates I recall seeing from other sources, which was three trillion and was a present value that included money we have yet to spend re-outfitting the armed forces and taking care of veterans.Report

    • @michael-cain First, on your footnote, price-tagging “the Middle East” is a foolish, always ideological game, which typically begins with one very large counterfactual fallacy – imagining an ME without further complications of interest to the US – then accumulates lesser corollaries to suit the observer’s prejudices, fueling eventual absolute self-certainty.

      It looks like you’re thinking of the 2008 Bilmes/Stiglitz estimate for the “true cost” of the Iraq War, which would be one of the most sophisticated versions of this approach. Yes, they put $3T on the price tag. Maybe Trump or someone else is adding Afghanistan and/or Libya and/or sundry post-2008 supplements or additions.

      As for the “radical middle,” I don’t think Douthat rejects the notion of its major role in the Trump phenomenon. He, Douthat, just doesn’t think that the amount of radical-middle support that Trump has gotten will be enough to win him the nomination. As for the other items on the agenda that you mention, Douthat is part of the reform conservative faction who are inclined to compromise, who stress the validity of the underlying concerns, and who have been arguing for years in favor of Republican-conservative exploitation of a supposed opportunity buried within them.

      In its popular, briefly ascendant form, it added up to “compassionate conservatism” – whose rapid rise and fall lead us right back into Trumpian schizophrenia and the counterfactual syndrome, since Trump wants all of the benefits of US ascendant power in the world, but also wants to believe or wants us to believe that he can obtain them for us on the cheap. In that way he’s more neo-con than the Neo-Cons. The latter suffer the gross disadvantage in argument of actually having had power in their grasp, more or less, meaning that they produced a set of factuals for everyone else to pretend to counter.Report

    • BTW – here is a more developed, if by now somewhat outdated, “reform conservative” take on Trump’s radical middle agenda, or what Trump’s radical middle, populist agenda – “full spectrum Trumpism,” “embracing a potent mix of right-wing and left-wing policy prescriptions” – might be if taken seriously:

  2. Avatar greginak says:

    Douthat would be wise to learn some history. I know he is sure he does know it, but the epic cracks in the liberal order are par for the course. There have always been shifts and trends in different directions and far worse enemies then ISIS. In fact you could say he does point out that the data points he shows aren’t going to add up to much, but then his column is more about adding up to a certain word count then anything else.Report

  3. Avatar Saul Degraw says:

    I think even a lot of Sanders supporters or sympathizers realize he probably will not win the nomination. I don’t know how this represents a crack in the middle order. The Sanders run is showing tensions in the Democratic Party between a bolder and angry liberal base and the more traditional DLC wing which still believes in Triangulating and is more cautious on social liberty issues. But the Democratic Party is moving to the Left and is embracing policies and positions which it would have been scared of as recently as the Bush II admin. I don’t think you can be a Drug War Democrat anymore. You don’t have to support full legalization but the Democratic Party is largely no longer in the mood for lock them up drug policies.

    I also agree with Douthat about the current campus protest movement but I would say that a lot of conservatives want to have their cake and eat it too with the campus protests. They want to use the protests to rile up their base on a “kids these days” message. Yet they also know that it is likely to fizzle out.Report

  4. Avatar Saul Degraw says:

    Here is a good article by a Former OTer on the tensions in the Democratic Party:

    But there’s a problem. The Democratic Party is still a coalition, and it’s not a coalition of liberals. Most Democrats, and people who vote for Democratic candidates, are moderates or even right-leaning. They don’t share the priorities of their liberal partners. And Democratic politicians have to represent them too, as we see in states like West Virginia and even Pennsylvania.

    What do you do, as a national party leader, when one faction supports broad programs and broad taxes, and the other likes these programs, but prefers tax cuts? Like Barack Obama—and now Hillary Clinton—you split the difference. You raise taxes on the rich, and you use that money to fund modest programs for middle- and working-class Americans, from debt-free college education to tax credits for child care. Anything beyond that, and something has to give. Either you push confiscatory taxes on the rich, or you raise taxes on everyone and compensate with more progressive policy.


    • Avatar greginak in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      Yeah that is good stuff. JB always seems to have a good handle on the different parts of the D coalition.

      It is all part of the continuing changes in coalitions. Nothing that speaks to Douthat’s silly bit about orders changing or anything like that.Report

    • Avatar Kolohe in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      Bouie reading the terrain wrongly, imo. Sanders is able to throw out pie in the sky proposals because he’s down by 25 pts and has no chance of being elected. Clinton’s preference for tax incidence is exactly the same as Obama’s, oft cited as the most liberal president since LBJ. Both Clinton and Obama understand that broad based tax increases, even modest ones, are a poltical non starter among at least 2/3 of the Democratic coalition*, to say nothing of the broader electorate.

      That was the marketing coup of Occupy, with the 99% – instead of explicitly advocating for the middle or especially, the lower one or two quintiles (which was the habit among Democrats until Reagan cured them of it)

      *labor, urban area professionals, and the black and now Hispanic populations that skew Democrats – none of these groups are going to go for a ‘grand bargain’ of having their taxes raised in exchange for some big new program. (Look, for instance of what has happened with the cadalliac tax). The intelligentsia may be for such a scheme, but that’s about it. Maybe, *maybe* public sector labor, who know they can benefit on the back end in any plan to create or expand a new government program.Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Kolohe says:

        I think being pie in the sky was always part of the Sanders campaign. He is running to put ideas out there. Yet the new heroes of the Democratic Party are on the Left. Elizabeth Warren and Sherrod Brown and De Blasio instead of corporate Dems like Rahm EmmanuelReport

    • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      Its a sign of how our national dialogue on economics has adopted the conservative framing, in the use of “confiscatory” to describe a level of taxes sufficient to fund a government which has less scope and power than during the Eisenhower administration.

      What would be a “confiscatory” tax regime look like? The pre-Reagan era? The Kennedy era? The New Deal era?

      As North and Mike noted below, the conservative platform based on the old 3 legged stool has become incoherent, as the legs moved in different directions.Report

      • Avatar Kolohe in reply to Chip Daniels says:

        Confiscatory in the sense that if people want a trillion dollars in new spending to get us closer to west & north euro government levels, and don’t want to do regressive vats and other means those people do to raise that money, they’re going to have to confiscate nearly all the trillion dollars or so the upper 1% has as a share of national income.Report

        • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to Kolohe says:

          Funny how incurring 3 or 4 or 6 trillion dollars of debt never triggered any concerns about the levels of confiscation needed to pay it off.

          Not really arguing with you here, just pointing out how bizarrely incoherent the conservative project has become.

          Spending trillions for wars that never rose to any possible claim of “defense” was greeted with a nod, but proposing a fraction of that for infrastructure or anything else is greeted with howls of “fiscal conservatism”.
          Yet again, any proposal to cut military spending to bring it in line with fiscally sustainable levels is greeted with even louder howls of hollowing out our defense.

          There isn’t any conservative on the national stage who can conjure up any semblance of a budget that isn’t lies or lunacy. Not because they themselves are incapable of making one, its more that their base has chosen to prefer magic and illusion to reality.Report

          • Avatar Kolohe in reply to Chip Daniels says:

            That’s the main reason taxes were so high in the 50s – paying off the WW2 debt (and paying for the cold war machine of that day)

            The bond market has been, somewhat inexplicably*, far more kind to US debt incurred from the most recent wars.

            *not really, it’s the cliche about not being faster than the bear, just then person next to you.Report

          • Avatar North in reply to Chip Daniels says:

            A minor quibble, the money spent on the WoT was very purposefully hidden off the books, so conservatives were not even upfront about what they were spending.Report

      • Avatar Richard Hershberger in reply to Chip Daniels says:

        I have a similar reaction when I read about “far-left antics at Amherst and Oberlin…” Really? Those crazy kids at Amherst are advocating the collective ownership of the means of production? Oh, heck: let’s go all in with soviets of workers. When I read in a piece like this about the “far-left” I know that this is not a serious piece. Of course in this case the byline already tells me that.Report

      • Avatar miguel cervantes in reply to Chip Daniels says:

        no, because they won’t allow for loopholes, this time around, few paid 90% actually,Report

  5. Avatar Jaybird says:

    The main thing the republicans have going in their favor right now is that they are not democrats.

    Ironically, that’s a mirror image of the main thing that the democrats have going on for them too.Report

    • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Jaybird says:

      I don’t think it’s a mirror image, myself, at least on quite a few important issues. Dems present a more-or-less coherent but more importantly intelligible set of domestic and international policies, which is light-years ahead of what the GOP is doing. One of the things we’re seeing amongst conservatism, tho, seems to me, is that a large faction is not only rabidly anti-Democrat, they’re increasingly anti-GOP as well. Hence, Trumpism.Report

      • Avatar North in reply to Stillwater says:

        Yeah that’s kindof the tiger beneath the baggage. The GOP has been increasingly relying on flat out demagoguery for years now, they cynically doubled down on it after 2008 and then rode it into power but it’s made them flat out incoherent on policy. Now Trump has shown up and he’s better at pure demagoguery than they are and when they reach for realism and prudence to counter him they’re discovering that those elements in the party base have atrophied and are not as effective as they could otherwise be.Report

      • The GOP’s platform is intelligible: cut taxes, get rid of Obamacare and replace it with something magical, cut taxes, end terrorism by not being afraid to say “Islamic extremism!”, cut taxes, increase military spending, cut taxes, defeat ISIS without using any troops, cut taxes, end deficits, and cut taxes, make sure every American that dislikes gay marriage never has to see or hear about one, and cut taxes.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Stillwater says:

        I don’t know. There are cracks in the base of the democrats that seem to indicate some deep problems that “where else you gonna go?” has been the answer to for some time.

        #blacklivesmatter represents a deep disconnect between (part of) the base and the establishment players. Chicago, Baltimore, and other urban centers that haven’t seen a Republican in office for decades have some serious problems.


        But I am saying that there are serious disconnects between the establishment players and the base in both parties and it seems to be coming to a head all at the same time.Report

        • Avatar Marchmaine in reply to Jaybird says:

          Good observation.

          My counter-intuitive thought for the day is that Trump is actually exposing cracks in the Democratic coalition. How, you ask incredulously? By starting to expose that the Liberal Order is in collusion. Everyone expects this of the Republicans, but as it dawns on Democratic constituencies, there is opportunity there. Now, I don’t think that Trump is actually keen enough to capitalize on it (nor, even if he perceived it, could he be the person who could capitalize on it) – but I think after this election cycle we might see some maneuvering towards a different sort of populism. It is possible that it might derail into white identity politics – but it won’t of necessity go that way.

          My second counter-intuitive thought for the day is that it won’t be the expected leftist classism a’la Warren or her ilk, but something or someone closer to thisReport

        • Avatar greginak in reply to Jaybird says:

          There has been a real tension between the liberal wing and DLC wing of the D”s for a long time. It was around in the 90’s when Clintion was prez and wing was winning. It was around in 2000 when some of the liberal wing went for Nadermentum out of frustration with the Clintionesqe policies of Gore. It certaily led to Hills losing to O in 2008 since many D’s wanted something other then old fashioned centrism and hawky D’s.Report

          • Avatar Jaybird in reply to greginak says:

            In the same way that there has been tension between “the Conservatives” and “the Republican base” for a good long time (I believe it was Kohole who pointed out Buchanan’s strength in 1992).

            That said, Trump seems to indicate that there’s been some kind of tipping point.

            (Whether it be due to Trump himself or due to the lack of discipline between the Party and the Party Establishment that they didn’t say “you two, duke it out against Trump, everybody else, get in line for 2020” to the two strongest/most boring candidates back around October.)

            In that same way, #blacklivesmatter indicates a tipping point.

            Would a Sista Soulja Moment be possible in 2016?

            If not, something has changed.

            I submit that a Sista Soulja Moment would not be possible in 2016.Report

            • Avatar Kolohe in reply to Jaybird says:

              I’ve long held that Clinton needs and will perform ‘reverse Sistah Soulja’ moments to overcome her legacy of being the centrist establishment brand name, but I didn’t realize she could do such an act on the explicit issue of race in America.Report

            • Avatar greginak in reply to Jaybird says:

              Well that is sort of my point. Intra party stress is normal and always there. Prez elections are infrequent so it’s hard to predict based on past experience. Small N samples can always have odd outliers. How different this cycle will be will be interesting. We could still end up with two establishment candidates. With cultural changes things are always going to be a bit mixed though, so we should be expecting some surprises every election.

              I certainly hope Hills figures out BLM is the side to pick over centrist triangulation.Report

            • Avatar Kim in reply to Jaybird says:

              Black Lives Matter is simply the ConservaDems saying “WE ARE UPSET ENOUGH TO DO SOMETHING!” The DLC man on the street? They vote, they’re generally people of color, and right now they’re organizing.

              People ought to take note, and that includes Republicans.Report

  6. Avatar North says:

    Douthat is correct in pointing out the stress lines but strikes me as mostly chicken littling on the bigger picture. Few to none of the factors he’s pointing out have much potential to shatter the outstanding status quos per say and the glaring obvious fact remains that the existing liberal order, a palatable to voters mishmash of market liberalism, democracy and safety nets, still stands without any attractive alternatives waiting in the wings. Neither Putin’s naked kleptocratic robber state nor the Chinese’s jury rigged authoritarian technocrat state offer much in the way of appeal.Report

    • Avatar Kolohe in reply to North says:

      Douthat’s mistake is (duh) not incorporating any left wing criticisms of The System* and their potential to spin up to existential threats.

      If we accept the left wing critique that we’re in a second gilded age, the then liberal/neo-liberal international project that has been more or less steadily on the march since 1989 -perhaps even since 1945 – maybe reaching the limits of its efficacy (and/or its sustainabilty). When that happened last time, the cataclysmic battle wasn’t between two or more belief systems, but among several poltical blocs where each in turn felt themselves under existential threat.

      So the potential isn’t of Russia or PRC being ‘superior’ systems – but of them being actually slightly or substantially inferior, but one day lashing out for grievances real and imagined against the superior systems. In short WW4 becomes WW1 rebooted.

      But there’s also pressures well short of war that are set against the internationalist liberal project, and many of them are from the left. (I.e. how Clinton has backtracked on TPP)

      *his pov is made transparent by calling the period since 1989 a Pax Americana. Hello? Southwest Asia? More like a Pox Americana amirite?Report

      • Avatar CK MacLeod in reply to Kolohe says:

        Though the term “Pax Americana” has a longer history, Douthat employs it in the standard way, specifically referring to the international system after WW2: “[B]y playing power politics in his near abroad and the Middle East, Putin has helped make the Pax Americana look more fragile than at any point since 1989.” 1989 is, of course, the year of the fall of America’s last “peer competitor.” Otherwise, like several other commenters you point to disagreements that I think Douthat would likely disagree were disagreements.

        (And I’m guessing he’d probably put the liberal project as on the march since the 18th Century or longer – depending on definitions of terms, as always…)Report

        • Avatar North in reply to CK MacLeod says:

          Peer competitor and the only functional ideological competitor. America stands economically and militarily dominant in the world but capitalist liberalism strikes me as even more ideologically dominant and yes I do find the Fukushima “End of History” line plausible.Report

          • Avatar Kolohe in reply to North says:

            I do too, but the future still has its enemies. Maybe it’s because y’all here have got me reading a lot more left wing stuff than I ever did before (e.g. jacobin, loomis, deboer) but if anyone has a shot of cracking the Fukuyama pardigm, it’s the leftist skeptics of modern classical liberalism. (Which again may be history rhyming – first we defeat the reactionary forces of then fascists and now trumpists, then we defeat the authoritarian bureaucrats of then soviets and now ???)Report

            • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Kolohe says:

              Leftists critiques of modern classical liberalism have a really big problem though. They don’t have an actual proposed solution. Marxism in its various forms has remained discredited since 1991. Even staunch anti-capitalists basically argue that Marx was right in his diagnosis but wrong in his prescription about the ills of capitalism. The remaining alternatives to modern classical liberalism either come off as wildly Ivory Tower and impractical or are deeply problematic because they go against core leftist values like Islamic theocracy or Neo-Reactionary thought. A big reason why identity politics has become so important to modern leftists is that they remain an area where they could operate without having to come up with a complete replacement for the system.Report

              • Avatar North in reply to LeeEsq says:

                Yeah seriously. For instance: read Freddie. The man is a brilliant thinker and an incredible writer. He can go on a -tear- about capitalism and neoliberalism and market liberalism and then he basically says “there has to be a better way!” and then… you can hear the wheels come off and he flat out says he doesn’t know what it is. On the days when he actually lays out ideas it’s basically GBI and market liberalism.Report

              • Avatar Zac in reply to North says:

                I’m not sure that’s totally accurate. I think if you pressed Freddie on it, he’d say the solution looks essentially like a scaled-up version of Scandanavian social democracy. How we get there is where I think he’s less sure.Report

              • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Zac says:


                I think this is where Boie nails it though. Freddie De Boer represents a tiny minority in American political discourse. Even a lot of his allies find him off-putting. Erik Loomis at LGM is no fan of Capitalism, business-friendly policies, or neo-liberalism. He is still going to vote HRC if she is the Democratic nominee in November 2016. Loomis and the rest of LGM (who are largely to my left) show no patience for holier than thou brogressives who see politics as being a way of stating personal purity.

                I am probably more in the Sanders camp than the HRC camp but I acknowledge that a lot of his positions are non-starters. I do like that he is bringing back New Deal liberalism and the idea that necessitous people are not free people.Report

              • Loomis and the rest of LGM (who are largely to my left) show no patience for holier than thou brogressives who see politics as being a way of stating personal purity.

                Unless, of course, they’re the ones being holier than though brogressives.Report

              • Avatar Zac in reply to gabriel conroy says:

                Can somebody explain to me exactly what a “brogressive” is? I get the feeling from the way it’s being used that it’s a term as vacuous as “hipster”.Report

              • Avatar Kim in reply to Zac says:

                Hipster’s a well-defined group of people, and a well-defined term.
                When you can effectively troll a group of people, it’s a decent term.

                “So you completely forged a 1950’s movie poster, and then sold it to a hipster who couldn’t bear to admit he’d never heard of the movie before?” (because the movie didn’t exist in the first place).
                “yeah, good times!”

                (Yes, I know that guy.)Report

              • Avatar gabriel conroy in reply to Zac says:

                I’m not sure what it means. But I used it.Report

              • Avatar North in reply to Zac says:

                This is a guess but as I have seen it deployed a “brogressive” is an agressively PC white man who’s younger than 40. Basically an agressively liberal guy who doesn’t have any skin in the game so to speak. But my understanding of the term is very limited.Report

              • Avatar Zac in reply to North says:

                That’s absurd. We live in a society. Everyone has skin in the game. Some have significantly more than others, sure, but no man is an island. This term stinks of the sort of liberals who want liberalism to be an exclusive social club rather than a victorious mass movement.Report

              • Avatar North in reply to Zac says:

                I couldn’t agree more and Freddie talks about just that when he takes the further left to task for their self destructive indulgences.

                That said, googling the term might get you a more precise definition.Report

              • Avatar greginak in reply to North says:

                Holy Carp, i did a little brogresive googling since i didn’t know the term either….facepalm. It is what others have said pretty much, a liberal type guy who is clueless or against racial/social justice issues.

                The making up labels for odd groups is one thing and common on the web. Still sort of high school though. Actually very high school. But the pieces i scrolled through were insulting and demeaning even given that i don’t agree with the general “brogresive” view of social justice.Report

              • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to greginak says:

                There have been more than a few people who noted elements of high school cliques in modern politics. The Internet makes things worse because it allows to sit at the lunch table with people who agree with you until election time. Ordinary Times is a much more ideologically integrated blog than most others. Trying to break orthodoxy at other sites is a risky proposition.Report

              • Avatar Zac in reply to LeeEsq says:

                That’s a pretty good description of why I treasure this place so much. Most other places are high school lunch tables; this place is the Algonquin Round Table.Report

              • Avatar Zac in reply to North says:

                If it’s not already apparent, I’m a huge fan of Freddie, and I consider myself part of the left-wing reform movement he identifies in this post.

                I could give a damn about petty infighting over symbolism and the like. I want real, material change for people. I want to win.Report

              • Avatar North in reply to Zac says:

                I’m not as left as Freddie is but I think his writing is aces.Report

              • Avatar Don Zeko in reply to North says:

                I’ve mostly seen it deployed against the type of progressive that A) is male and B) thinks that we should prioritize class & poverty related issues over race & gender related ones and/or supports Bernie Sanders over Hillary Clinton. I don’t think I’ve seen it used in any contexts that don’t amount to poisonous, pointless internecine squabbling.Report

              • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Zac says:

                A brogressive is a derogatory term to describe white male liberals and progressives that dissent for the social justice movement and argue for a more universal based liberalism.Report

              • Avatar Zac in reply to LeeEsq says:

                So…guys like me, basically?Report

              • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Zac says:

                Kind of. As Saul notes, it also involves some sort of purity politics like not wanting to vote for a moderate Democratic candidate. The not any skin in the game comes from the fact that white men will suffer least from GOP control of government.Report

              • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Zac says:


                The term does seem to apply as North said to a young, white, heterosexual male with left-wing politics but not necessarily any skin in the game. The term is also used to guys who think that there policies should come before all.

                For example, “How can you vote for Diane Feinstein? She is so horrible on National Security and privacy issues.” Maybe so but she is better than the available competition on all other issues.

                LGM is rather aggressive on people who think voting D does not make a lick of difference.Report

              • Avatar Zac in reply to Saul Degraw says:

                I certainly prefer Ds to Rs given the choice, but I also don’t subscribe to “lesser-evil-ism”; you can’t drag the Overton window back to the left if all a Democrat has to do to get your vote is be slightly less terrible than their counterpart across the aisle. In my lifetime, the Democrats have gone from being a center-left party to a center-right one, and that happened because guys like Erik Loomis insisted that people vote for Democrats no matter what policies they brought to the table. If you actually want a viable left-ish party in this country again, you have to make them work for your vote.Report

              • Avatar North in reply to Zac says:

                Zac: AND you have to HAVE enough votes to be worth seeking. AKA you have to convince lots of people to agree with you.Report

              • Avatar Zac in reply to North says:

                I agree. And for what it’s worth, I do try to do my part. I’ve moved a great many people in my family and social circles to the left over the years; it’s tough but that’s the kind of hard work folks need to do on the ground if we want broader societal changes to happen. As always, the politicians and institutions will be the last to come around. First, you have to convince everyone else (or at least a majority of them).Report

              • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Zac says:

                The Democratic Party suffered serious electoral losses when they ran as a New Deal/Great Society party during the 1970s and 1980s. The years from 1968 to 1992 where not kind for the Democratic Party and they adjusted accordingly.

                Its also debatable whether the Democratic Party is more conservative now. They don’t have a bunch of reactionary racists in office anymore or as a substantial part of their membership.Report

              • Avatar Zac in reply to LeeEsq says:

                The Democratic Party suffered serious electoral losses when they ran as a New Deal/Great Society party during the 1970s and 1980s. The years from 1968 to 1992 were not kind for the Democratic Party and they adjusted accordingly.

                Yes, but that was arguably due to the reaction to their ending of the apartheid state. I’d say they’ve dramatically over-learned that lesson, and that the rise of figures like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren show that there is a real hunger for a return to true liberalism among a significant portion of the base. Obviously, yes, they will have to compromise with the more numerous moderate elements in the party, but there is significant territory to their left that they could occupy without substantially harming their electoral prospects, at least in my view.

                Its also debatable whether the Democratic Party is more conservative now. They don’t have a bunch of reactionary racists in office anymore or as a substantial part of their membership.

                The current administration passed the health care plan of the GOP from twenty years ago and on national security is to the left of the previous administration only in the barest, most technical sense of the term. The previous D administration brought us welfare “reform”, the repeal of Glass-Steagall, extraordinary rendition, DOMA and DADT, to name just a few. In exchange for, what? A few years of bubble-propped economic growth that eventually messily shit its pants and which we are still muddling through the aftermath of?

                “At least we aren’t actively insane, we’re just willing to compromise with the folks who are” is not a very good affirmative slogan. Maybe I’m being overly optimistic, but I think we can do better than that.Report

              • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Zac says:

                Except that center-left parties in countries without America’s racial issues needed to move right to. The Labour Party suffered even worse than the Democratic in many ways.Report

              • Avatar Zac in reply to LeeEsq says:

                Heh. If you don’t think Europe has deep racial issues, you must not have paid very close attention to European politics. Where do you think we inherited ours from? The Navajo? 😉

                And it’s funny that you mention the Labour party. You tell me: how’s the Labour party doing these days? Seems to me that, much like the Democrats here, they sold their souls in exchange for short-term victory. And what do they have to show for it?Report

              • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Zac says:

                The United Kingdom and the rest of Europe were much more homogenous when Labour went through its long decline from 1979 to the 1990s. British people might have been relatively uneasy about the growing number British people of color but it wasn’t like the centuries of pure racism that existed in the United States.

                A lot of the electorate simply did not buy what Labour was selling anymore. Thatcher’s policies were more attractive to the average British person. Labour did not win until Blair and his fellow moderates took over. Right now, the faithful of the Labour left are in control with Corbyn. It looks like Cameron is going to trouce them in the general.Report

              • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Zac says:

                The GOP never really seriously considered passing something like the ACA. They just needed something to look like they had an alternative to Clinton’s plan in 1992 even if they had no intent on implementing it.Report

              • Avatar Zac in reply to LeeEsq says:

                Oh, I’m well aware of that; in a way, that somehow makes the fact that that was what the Democrats finally passed nearly two decades later even sadder.Report

              • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Zac says:

                For better or for worse, the Democratic Party did need to move center-right to win elections in many parts of the U.S. I think it depends on the election and where you live. Sitting out a city council election in the Bay Area or Seattle is okay. Sitting out a governor’s election in KY, not so much.Report

              • Avatar Zac in reply to Saul Degraw says:

                I agree, you have to be tactical about it. You’re not going to elect a socialist in Kansas City, for example.Report

              • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to gabriel conroy says:

                Can you give an example of when they are being holier than thou brogressives? I get that you are far apart from LGM on many policy issues but rigorous dissent does not always equal holier than thou.

                What do you want from people who strongly disagree with you on policy issues? I don’t question your sincerity on your policy choices but I do often strongly disagree with them.Report

              • I don’t really have any recent examples, since I haven’t been over there in quite a while. And to be true to your point, I might just be put off by their tone than by their policy positions.

                In short, that’s a fair question, but I don’t have an answer.Report

              • Avatar Don Zeko in reply to gabriel conroy says:

                I certainly find that the LGM tone is the sticking point.Report

              • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Zac says:

                I’m not sure whether a scaled up version of Scandinavian social democracy is even possible. As far as I can tell, it only happened in the Scandinavian countries and that’s it. A lot of the proponents of Scandinavian social democracy scaled up do not want to admit that the high level of social cohesion and the low population levels contribute a lot to it. In more autonomous and populous countries, social democracy is either less extensive like in the rest of Europe or doesn’t exist at all.Report

              • Avatar Zac in reply to LeeEsq says:

                Maybe it isn’t possible. But it will certainly remain impossible as long as we decide a priori that it is so, without ever having even attempted to implement it. And I think there’s value in pushing things in that direction; even if we don’t end up with exactly the systems they’ve got, something halfway between that and the status quo is still a vast improvement on the status quo. Better to go for the whole loaf and get half than to reject the idea that bread is even viable food, if that makes any sense.Report

              • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Zac says:

                I have a different idea of what going for the whole loaf and going for half a loaf means. To me going for the whole loaf and getting half a loaf is basically what the ACA means. Rather than try for single payer or NHS, Obama’s administration created the healthcare system that could give healthcare to the greatest number of Americans and could pass through Congress. To me going for the whole loaf and getting half is determining what can get through American political institutions and implementing them.Report

              • Avatar Zac in reply to LeeEsq says:

                I actually agree with you here. I see the ACA as both an (imperfect!) improvement on the status quo ante and an important stepping stone toward single-payer health care. I don’t see the two as mutually exclusive. Mind you, I think it would have been a considerably larger step forward had the public option been a part of it, but as the great philosopher Mick Jagger said, you can’t always get what you want. On the other hand, if you try sometimes, you can get what you need. 😉Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to LeeEsq says:

                High trust, high collaboration/cooperation is possible. See, for example, Scandinavian countries!

                Therefore we should have similar institutions in our middling-trust, middling collaboration/cooperation society.Report

              • Avatar Zac in reply to Jaybird says:

                A proportionally middling welfare state would still be considerably more robust that what we have at the moment.

                Not only that, but I don’t accept the implicit proposition that nothing can ever be done to move the needle on those measures. Major cultural shifts can and do happen. They don’t happen overnight, and they take a lot of hard work and struggle, but they are endeavors worth undertaking.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Zac says:

                Oh, we can move the needle. We can move the ever-living shit out of it.

                But if you set up these institutions before you set up the higher trust/higher cooperation, you’re going to end up lowering trust/lowering cooperation despite having these institutions in place and these institutions work because of the levels of trust/cooperation and not because they are institutions.Report

              • Avatar Zac in reply to Jaybird says:

                Yes, I agree with you completely here. I think the trick is to both slowly move the needle and incrementally build the institutions, side by side. That’s really, it would seem, the only viable way to do it in a country of this size (both geographically and population-wise).Report

              • Avatar North in reply to Zac says:

                Yes Zac but Scandanavian Social Democracy is comfortably within the existing liberal order; market capitalism paired with religious pluralism and government regulation and provision of safety nets; it is the extant liberal order in a nutshell.Report

              • Avatar Zac in reply to North says:

                Could you clarify what you’re getting at there? I mean, everything in that statement sounds right to me, but it sounds from your phrasing like you meant that as a corrective, so I don’t think I understood the thrust of your point.Report

              • Avatar North in reply to Zac says:

                So at the heart of this comment thread is Douthat’s assertion in his article that an assortment of political phenomena are representing cracks in the liberal order. In this context the Liberal order he’s referring to is secular democratic market capitalism with government restraining the free market though varying degrees of regulation and providing redistribution to soften the sharp edges while remaining silent on religious issues. In that context nearly the entire developed world falls within this umbrella running a gamut from less generous government interventionist (Hong Kong, the US) to more generous government interventionist (the various European nations with the Scandinavian Social Democracies as the most successful exemplars). Rival world orders would be Communist Command Economies whether Democratic or not (all currently discredited and defunct); semi to non-democratic market kleptocracies (Putin’s Russia for example); Non-democratic market technocratic states (Chine for instance), or Theocracies (Daesh being the big exemplar).

                Movements advocating to make the US more like a Scandinavian state aren’t a threat to the existing order; it’s just moving the levers around on the scale a bit.Report

              • Avatar Zac in reply to North says:

                Ah, okay, so if I’m reading you right, you did not intend your previous comment as a rebuke. I agree completely with what you’re saying here, then. I have no desire to overthrow the existing order; I just want to move the levers a bit from the “less generous” end of things to the “more generous” end. Or at least closer to it than we are now.Report

              • Avatar North in reply to Zac says:

                Definitly, I’m sympathetic to those ends myself.Report

              • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to North says:

                It depends on how you define the liberal order. The Scandinavian model requires much more taxation to pay for the services provided by the government than would be tolerated in other countries. From what I’ve read this creates a vigorous black market in Denmark at least because of the high taxes.

                There is a lot more government interference with people’s private lives than would be tolerated in other countries to. Sweden requires transgender people who want to officially change their genders to be sterilized even though the European Court of Human Rights said know on this issue. The Swedish government also strongly discourages mothers from staying at home with their children or being housewives to promote gender equality. There is a lot more social engineering that goes on in Scandinavian countries than in other Western countries.Report

              • Avatar North in reply to LeeEsq says:

                Sure Lee but that’s mainly just window dressing. The US lets anyone and their dog buy an automatic weapon and shoot up the mall. Canada enforces a government monopoly on the sale of alchohol. Every country has their own quirks but that’s like different colored hair at the family gathering, they’re still all of the same family.Report

              • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to North says:

                Seeing the differences as differences in flavor understates things. Scandinavian and other European welfare states provide much more economic security to the average person than the United States does and many more benefits in terms of housing, healthcare, and guaranteed time off.Report

              • Avatar North in reply to LeeEsq says:

                Sure, but they are both still liberal capitalist democracies.Report

      • Avatar North in reply to Kolohe says:

        Yes, if we accept that there’s a second gilded age then much follows. Nuclear warfare, modern ideologies and advanced technology in communication and governance suggest that the clusterfish of World War I simply cannot easily occur. In addition the current insane disparity of power and the interconnected nature of economics now makes the motivations for a world war mainly obsolete. China does not need territory; it needs open trade lanes.
        So yeah we could have a war but it’d be unlikely and would presumably be nasty and short.

        Definitely there’s all kinds of possibilities short of war. The first world masses could decide that the subtle benefits of free trade are outweighed by the very obvious costs and revolt. Protectionism could re surge, and I admit I have no idea what would happen then; not likely anything good. I’d expect, much like with conservatives in Kansas, that the protectionists would eventually see their dogma shattered on the anvil of reality as well.

        I wouldn’t, however, put much stock in Clinton’s backtracking on the TPP. Obama maumaued NAFTA in 2008 but never even tried to lay a finger on it once in office.Report

        • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to North says:

          It seems to me that when people as a mass have to choose between a system with subtle benefits and obvious costs or obvious benefits and subtle costs than the latter system is always going to win at the ballot box if given the chance.Report

          • Avatar North in reply to LeeEsq says:

            Probably, the only twist is that the subtle benefits en toto are significantly vaster than the obvious costs. I assume that’s why the issue is a tossup right now instead of a route.Report

            • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to North says:

              My guess is that the real reason why the issue is a tossup is that elite opinion favors free markets in their neoliberal or ultra form. The issue that divides elites is whether or not the free markets will be blunted by social security measures like universal healthcare or pensions or will people be left to their own devices.Report

              • Avatar North in reply to LeeEsq says:

                Mayhaps, though that’s not much of a contest since the liberal safety net-market position enjoys the absolute majority of non-elite support while the strict libertarian position scrapes by with lip service support from a plurality of the non-elites with true support being almost non-existant.Report

    • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to North says:

      I wonder if more of the tension in the Democratic Party is on social issues. There are still a lot of tough on crime and not very socially liberal Dems.

      HRC said marijuana legalization is a non-starter. There was that Democratic City Councilor in LA who wanted to send nasty letters to men who drive to areas where prostitution occurs.

      Other tension areas are “school reform” and privatization of city services.Report

      • Avatar North in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        I think it’s safe to say that HRC would likely stand pat on the drug war in isolation though with her calls for prison reform she could likely be walked into drawing the drug war down as part of broader reform. But yeah, if you assume she’ll avoid fraught interests that’s a pretty safe bet. I think it’d also be a safe bet that you wouldn’t see her cracking down on the drug war. Obama’s general benevolent passivity has done him good service in that area.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        Trying to figure out what Hillary Clinton really believes is a frustrating task but most Democratic baby-boomer politicians that are even remotely associated with the Counter Culture like Clinton probably feel that they have to downplay that a lot. Hillary Clinton might see coming out for drug reform will do her a lot more political harm than good. Many other Democrats might feel the same. They still remember how they got bashed for being soft on crime from Nixon to Clinton. They might have over-learned their lesson but they are sticking to it.Report

    • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to North says:


      Maybe not China but there is always Singapore. I just got back from a week in Singapore and largely the government would seem to be a technocrat’s dream come to true. @kolohe once described Singapore as being “Not quite democratic and not quite authoritarian.” This seems to be largely right. The opposition has been rigged into a permanent minority status. The PAP government seems to do what they want without risking popular anger. So single-family houses* can’t be constructed anymore and the government does not care if your view is blocked by a high-rise. The government wants more people to use public transport so it is very hard to get a license. You have to go through a regulated driving instructor and put down a lot of hours before you can take the test. You can’t just have mom and dad teach you. You can’t even go practice driving with mom and dad.

      These are all way too anti-Democratic to pass muster in the United States. I want more public transportation use but I think that the Singaporean restrictions are way too paternalistic.

      Yet many Singaporeans seem to accept this level of technocratic control in ways that would cause most liberals to be up in arms about**. My girlfriend thinks that America’s commitment to Free Speech*** is way too much and encourages irresponsibility. She said that people need to prove that they are wise and mature enough to handle a wide variety of free speech. I simply said to her “Who gets to decide who is wise and mature and why should we trust them to make a neutral decision instead of one that fits their own interests?”

      *Singapore will do things like have laws that prevent foreigners from purchasing single-family homes though to keep prices lower. This is more liberal than the old policy which I believe forbid foreigners from purchasing condos as well.

      **Perhaps there is something to the idea that the United States is filled with people whose ancestors did not play well with others.

      ***The government does seem to be getting more liberal or at least craftier in their speech policies. The Contemporary Art wing of the National Gallery did contain art but former dissident artists who were jailed for their attacks on the social order. One plaque mentioned that the artist was jailed and charged for indecency for a pro-gay piece of performance art. Male homosexual sex is still illegal in Singapore. Younger generations seem to realize that this is fairly ridiculous but don’t seem to do much activism to challenge it. The book stores also contained the memoirs of a guy who was jailed a lot in the 1980s and 90s for political dissent.

      • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        Even in the most democratic countries like Taiwan or South Korea or in ones with really big LGBT scenes like Thailand or Japan in Asia, LGBT advocacy seems fairly low key. I can’t quite place my finger on why but my guess is that it has to do with a lack of a sense of urgency for some reason and a non-tradition of what can be called rights agitation politics, where different groups fight for their rights passionately in the general body politic. Most Western politics are based on this to an extent. Even what the Tea Party does can be seen as a variety of rights agitation.Report

        • Avatar Kolohe in reply to LeeEsq says:

          To be fair to the LGBT activists of the world, LGBT activism only became politically acceptable in the US about 5 or 6 years ago.Report

          • Avatar North in reply to Kolohe says:

            Yes and Asian culture gently downplay individuality in a manner that Western cultures don’t which also impedes the whole shebang.Report

          • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Kolohe says:


            Is this really true? I am not so sure. What is your proof? I do think there was a strong swing on the issue of SSM but I think the groundwork for that swing was laid over the course of decades.

            Interestingly MTV was always radical when it came to gay rights. I think a lot of people in my age cohort were influenced by openly gay people on the Real World especially in the Los Angeles and San Francisco seasons (1992 and1993). There was a proto gay marriage commitment ceremony in the San Francisco season of the Real World as well and scenes of quiet domestic bliss for the couple.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        Some commentators, can’t remember who, have called Singapore the last Confucian state based on how it is run. They entire political idea of Confucianism is that people are naturally good but need guidance by a paternalistic Emperor and his team of enlightened civil servants. Lee Kuan Yew never crowned himself but his successor as Prime Minister is his son and he did rule like a monarch in many ways. The technocratic paternalism of the PAP seems reminiscent to what Confucius would have approved of.Report

        • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to LeeEsq says:


          Lee Kwan Yew’s son is the third prime minister, there was someone in between the two.

          LKY did manage to raise standards of living for a lot of people very quickly and Singapore did transform from a underdeveloped country to a first world nation very quickly.Report

          • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Saul Degraw says:

            I am not doubting that Lee Kwan Yew did well for the people of Singapore or even that he lacked democratic legitimacy. I’m just providing some commentary on how some analysis interpret Singapore’s politics.Report

          • Avatar North in reply to Saul Degraw says:

            Look Lee Kwan Yew was a titan and he left his nation incredibly better off than he found it. That’s an assertion few can so unambiguously claim and I expect history shall be kind to him. But it is a kind of new Confucianism.Report

            • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to North says:

              Singapore was a cosmopolitan trading city under the British just like Hong Kong. The British never implemented a full democracy in Hong Kong but you never had the paternalistic technocratic rule either. Based on it’s geographic position, Singapore could have been well off by continuing it’s role as a commercial city.Report

              • Avatar North in reply to LeeEsq says:

                Yes, it could also have fallen to any of the myraid forms of bad government or petty conflicts that devoured so many potentially prosperous states in the further east as well.Report

              • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to North says:

                This is hindsight but the chances of that seem low for Singapore. It was an immigrant society and most Singaporeans came there to make money or were the children of people who came there to make money. It had a tradition of good but top down government from the the British and the population leaned towards the more conservative end of anti-colonial politics. They wanted independence but were not utopian communists. Most were well aware that Singapore could only thrive as an independent entreport or as part of a larger nation, which is why it briefly became a state of Malaysia, who also had a market friendly government.Report

              • Avatar North in reply to LeeEsq says:

                Yes, we’re in counterfactual waters now and were Lee Kwan Yew had done what he did now in 2015 then he’d be considered merely a capable and admirable technocratic steward of his nation (no small praise there in truth). But Lee Kwan Yew accomplished what he did with Singapore in the mid 1900’s when matters economic, political and geopolitical were considerably more murky (though, granted, Singapore didn’t have a terrible cultural starting hand either). That is what elevates his accomplisments in my eyes.Report

      • Avatar North in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        Saul, it seems to me that Singapore will either continue to liberalize or else stagnate. Their system is unambiguously admirable but in the long term I don’t see it as a challenge to the liberal order. Many of our liberal democracies (almost all) started off illiberal.Report

  7. Avatar Aaron David says:

    The problem with Doubthat’s piece and indeed all the the critics of it in this thread, is that it and they are partisan babble. Derp, if you will.

    The R’s aren’t crazy.

    The D’s don’t want to destroy America.

    Both sides just want the policies they prefer put in place. They have a view of what the world should look like, and how to get there. But we aren’t going to owtlaw abortion or guns. We can’t pay for all the goodies on the backs of the 1%, nor will we put gay marriage back in the box of history. On the other hand, both parties will tell themselves about how aweful the other party is, how crazy and destructive they are.

    They aren’t. They just have a different view of whould work.Report

    • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Aaron David says:


      The problem with Doubthat’s piece and indeed all the the critics of it in this thread, is that it and they are partisan babble. Derp, if you will.

      seems inconsistent with

      They just have a different view of whould work.

      If people genuinely think a certain set of policies is better than an alternative then they aren’t engaging in partisan babble.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to Stillwater says:

        And we are significantly closer to outlawing abortion than we are to any non-trivial level of gun control. Hell, there are parts of this country where it is effectively impossible to get an abortion, and fewer and fewer where it is a simple matter of a medical procedure. There are very few restrictions on gun ownership, and if anything, things are moving in the direction of there being even fewer.

        I’m not sure how to describe the lumping of these two things together, then, than as partisan babble. The “they’re going to take our guns” folks simply have less of a factual basis for their fears than the “abortion rights are under serious attack” folks. Derp.Report

        • Avatar Chris in reply to Chris says:

          I’d add that this is an example of why the American left is largely disenchanted with American centrist liberals (like the bulk of the Democratic Party): they’re not just losing, badly in most places, on abortion and guns, but are losing the rhetorical battle on both so badly that folks can equate delusional talk of them winning on guns with real talk of them losing on abortion and think they’re being balanced, in fact, think they’re demonstrating how above the fray they are.Report

          • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Chris says:


            The fact that centrist liberals are losing the battle might just be a sign that there is still a fair deal of social conservatism in the United States.

            Morat20 or Greginak mentioned this on my Trumpism thread but people contain multitudes and abortion is a serious dividing issue. Someone can be very pro-LGBT and have moral and ethical objections to abortion. Gun culture has been proven to be very deeply tribal and geographical. The bulk of opposition seems to be largely among upper-middle class urban(ish) liberals with few connections to rural life. They are not even recreational shooters. I’m not even sure that gun control is a big issue for Latin or African-American democrats.

            My girlfriend’s dad is probably a pretty conservative guy when it comes to welfare spending and taxes but he thinks Americans are nuts about guns. So lots of politics are local. There is something about American culture that makes a large part of the population, strongly pro-gun. America and Americans also have a commitment to free speech that is unique to the rest of the world for the most part. As I mentioned above, my Singaporean girlfriend does like life in the United States but she does not quite get the radical nature of the First Amendment. Many non-Americans don’t. My girlfriend’s father would also not have much in common with a Jerry Falwell style Moralism but he can complain about the younger generations quite well (“They just want to be entertained. They don’t want to think or work.”)

            So some parts of conservatism and liberalism are universal and others are country or culture specific. American culture on guns seems unique and deeply embedded in large parts of the American psyche. I am not sure why or how to change this.Report

            • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Saul Degraw says:

              This goes back several decades in the past and it deal with the United Kingdom rather than the United States but it might be a good idea to look at the process of liberalization behind the Permissive Society. During the 1960s, the United Kingdom parliament passed several pieces of legislation that liberalized the laws regarding abortion, censorship, homosexuality and abolished the death penalty. Since Harold Wilson was in charge, popular history sees this as Progressive Labor going against Conservative Tories in politics.

              The historian Dominic Sandbrook in his book White Heat: A History of Britain in the Swinging Sixties, pages 336-342, shows that the actual situation on the ground was a lot different. The three big figures in the Wilson cabinet; Wilson, George Brown, and Jim Callaghan were basically Evangelical Protestants in terms of religious devotion and personal morality. They had very little appetite for these laws. (Page 338) All of the Permissive Society bills were what the British call private member bills, mainly that they were based on the initiatives of private members of Parliament rather than a political party or the Cabinet. They were supported and opposed by members of both parties. Two of the most prominent conservatives MPs, Margaret Thatcher and Enoch Powell, tended to vote for rather than against Permissive Society bills. This is why some people see Thatcher as a classical liberal rather than a conservative.

              More importantly, most of the British population were against the Permissive Society Bills regardless of their age, socio-economics, and politics. According to a New Society poll conducted in November 1969, only five percent of the British population said that Permissive Society reforms were their favorite political development while ten percent said the increase in state pensions were their favorite. Only 18% supported the abolition of the death penalty and it took until the late 1980s for the amount in favor of restoring the death penalty to fall bellow 60%. (Pages 340-341).

              The point being is that liberalization of social mores can be and is often a top down affair. Its why the idea of minority rights is extraordinarily important for things like reproductive rights or LGBT rights. Its a way to get around traditional morality and majority feelings fast. If you weighted for people’s actual viewpoints to change, you will be waiting for a very long time.Report

              • Avatar miguel cervantes in reply to LeeEsq says:

                yes, if you told them the truth, they’d rebel, so you have to lie, a generation later, the criminals are running rampant, the citizens are disarmed, and a whole new people has been imported to prevent any reversal, there’s an irony to that line in Pink Floyd’s ‘the Wall’ , all you get now in ‘thought control’ that’s what Common Core is about,Report

              • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to miguel cervantes says:

                I have no idea what this has to do with what I wrote above and it doesn’t make sense. The Permissive Society legislation might not have polled well but it wasn’t implemented in the secret dark of the night by the British Parliament anymore than other unpopular legislation was. If you read the portion of White Heat I made notes about, you will learn that many MPs did tell the truth to their electorate and explain why they were voting for it. The British people who paid attention to politics knew what was happening even if they didn’t like it. They did not rebel.

                The importing a whole new people doesn’t make sense either. White people still make the overwhelming majority of the United Kingdom and most of the immigrants come from even more socially conservative cultures. There hasn’t been enough immigration to import an entirely new people and most of the immigrants were unlikely to support the Permissive Society anyway.Report

        • Avatar j r in reply to Chris says:

          There are very few restrictions on gun ownership, and if anything, things are moving in the direction of there being even fewer.

          I am not sure that this is true. As someone who lived for the last decade in either New York or Washington, DC, it certainly has not been true for me. According to the Census Bureau, 80% of the U.S. population lives in an urban area, which means that most Americans most likely live in a jurisdiction that places lots of restrictions on gun ownership.Report

          • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to j r says:

            With a few exceptions, the first thing that happened after Sandy Hook was several legislatures passing laws to make it easier to carry guns. This happens frequently after a mass shooting incident.Report

          • Avatar Chris in reply to j r says:

            NYC is somewhat restrictive, in that all gun types require permits. That’s still not very restrictive, though, and it’s not necessarily the norm, even for urban areas in that state.

            New York State has an assault weapons ban. That’s about as restrictive as it gets in the U.S.Report

            • Avatar j r in reply to Chris says:

              NYC is somewhat restrictive, in that all gun types require permits. That’s still not very restrictive, though, and it’s not necessarily the norm,

              That is not really the case. I don’t know the entirety of New York’s gun regulations, but the relevant characteristic is that New York is a “may issue” state as opposed to “shall issue.” The difference being that, whatever the permitting requirements are in a particular place, the relevant authority in a “may issue” state has the discretion to issue permits as it sees fit. In New York City, and most of the surrounding metropolitan area, it is effectively impossible to get a gun permit unless you are in some way politically connected or have enough money to help grease the wheels.

              Even in Washington, DC after the Heller ruling, the specific licensing rules meant that it was effectively impossible to get a handgun permit. At the time, the rules were that you could have a revolver, but not a semi-automatic and that only a licensed dealer could bring the weapon into the District. And there was only one licensed dealer. Legally, you could posses a handgun, but effectively it was close to impossible to do so within the confines of the law.

              And in both cities, I’m not talking about concealed carry permits. I am talking about just the permit to keep a firearm in your house and transport it to a range in a locked case. The idea that America is just one big jurisdiction with no gun regulations is empirically false.Report

              • Avatar Chris in reply to j r says:

                Washington may be the toughest place to get a gun in the U.S., and it’s still relatively easy. NYC is, from what I can tell (and I know a couple gun owners in NYC), not all that tough, though there are hoops. The “you have to know someone” thing is certainly an exaggeration, ’cause the gun owners I know certainly don’t.Report

              • Avatar Robert Greer in reply to Chris says:

                I suspect you’re right that it’s an exaggeration to say “you have to know someone” to get a gun in NYC. But the fact remains that it’s harder to get a gun in NYC than most other places, and gun crime is relatively low there for an American city.

                The American cities with the highest gun crime rates are all either 1) in the South, where it’s uncontroversially trivial to get a gun, or 2) Chicago, where a “guns for everybody” state, Indiana, is a 20-minute drive from the most violent parts of the city, or 3) Detroit, which is in a surprisingly gun-permissive state, and again is not far from the firearms free-for-all that is Indiana and Ohio.

                There are decent arguments for why the government shouldn’t confiscate guns. But the idea that civilians with guns makes places safer is contradicted by the evidence.Report

              • Avatar Chris in reply to Robert Greer says:

                Two things: (1) I mean to suggest that it’s a bad thing that New York is what we consider restrictive, (2) at what god awful hour in the middle of the night can you get to Indiana from anywhere but the outskirts of Chicago in 20 minutes?Report

              • Avatar Robert Greer in reply to Chris says:

                1) Yeah, I was slingshotting from your point into a broader one against people wish for a vigilante society. Bad form, I admit.

                2) The godawful hour when people are likely to be participating in gang activity! Also, lots of the South Side (where most of the gun violence is taking place) is about 20 minutes from Indiana even at rush hour.,-87.5146142/41.7538209,-87.6016224/@41.6528381,-87.515825,11z/data=!4m2!4m1!3e0Report

          • Avatar Kim in reply to j r says:

            I’m in an open carry state. There are private citizens who have formed some sort of armed and uniformed militia not more than a Mile from where I’m sitting. Within city limits.Report

        • Avatar miguel cervantes in reply to Chris says:

          it’s called Federalism, and it’s not a simple medical procedure, maybe in forty or fifty years there will be a return to the status quo, like china with it’s revocation of one child
          limit, by then it’s too late,Report

      • Avatar Aaron David in reply to Stillwater says:

        The discrepancy betweent the two is that one (the first bit) is just partisan name calling. The second is that yes, there are diferences between the two groups.

        It is one thing to have a difference of opinion, another to call anyone who disagrees with you the devil.Report

  8. Avatar miguel cervantes says:

    Trump’s brand of conservatism is more Nixonian then Reaganite, recall he was not averse to Keynesian, which I think is a greater handicap then that kerfluffle, re a certain Washington Hotel, he even entertained certain progressive notions, on domestic policy, via Moynihan, that didn’t save him in the end,

    What exactly are Douthat’s credentials to judge any of this, on this side of the pond or the other,Report

    • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to miguel cervantes says:


      Douthat basically found a way to get paid well by concern trolling Democratic Party supporters in the NY Times. Specifically he concern trolls the professional/upper-middle class liberal wing of the Democratic Party.Report

  9. Avatar miguel cervantes says:

    Well the left wing of the Dems, has the media, academia, has sympathies by a large portion of the judiciary,
    why Sanders would likely give Hillary a run for her money, seven years ago, she posed as the moderate candidate, and did fairly well, but the party gave it to Obama anyways,Report

    • Avatar Don Zeko in reply to miguel cervantes says:

      Eight years ago Clinton barely lost, Obama was a much more moderate and charismatic candidate than Sanders is now, and Clinton’s Iraq vote was much more recent and more salient.Report

      • Avatar North in reply to Don Zeko says:

        The vibe I get in my own circles is that a lot of rank and file Democrats feel that Hillary “paid the price” for Iraq etc by losing in 2008 and accepting it gracefully.Report

        • Avatar Don Zeko in reply to North says:

          Yeah, I think that’s a pretty widespread sentiment. I’m not sure that I buy it, though. I think that Clinton simply has a more hawkish outlook than Obama. Had she won in 2008, I suspect we would now be more deeply involved in Syria than we are. If there were another attractive candidate without this flaw or greater potential ones running this year, I’d probably prefer that candidate to Clinton.Report

          • Avatar North in reply to Don Zeko says:

            I wouldn’t say it’s very dispotive on an intellectual level but on an emotional level she earned a bit of warmth for being a team player on the matter.
            I agree entirely on her hawkishness which is my own primary complaint about her.Report

  10. Avatar j r says:

    I do not understand some of the reactions to the article. Douthat is writing about the challenges to liberal democracy and not the challenges to political liberalism in the U.S. usage or challenges to the Democratic Party.

    Douthat may be on to something in that this may be the first time in a long time that you might want to hedge your bets on liberal democracy. Ultimately, however, the most significant challenges to the liberal democracy won’t be coming from Sanders or Trump or Le Pen or Putin, but from things like this (which really is straight out of Black Mirror):

    • Avatar miguel cervantes in reply to j r says:

      Well Putin has organized a coalition of antiWestern forces, that includes China and Iran, the common element between the first two really is power over principle, the heads of the power ministries back in the 80s, now head the Siloviki and the PLA executive committees,Report

    • Avatar CK MacLeod in reply to j r says:

      j r: I do not understand some of the reactions to the article. Douthat is writing about the challenges to liberal democracy and not the challenges to political liberalism in the U.S. usage or challenges to the Democratic Party.

      I also wonder whether some of the reactions are from people who do not understand that “the liberal order” stands for an order Douthat mostly supports, perhaps with reservations, rather than for “the political order dominated by ‘liberals.'” Part of the confusion may be that to a large extent the liberal order that Douthat does mean to talk about is dominated by the “liberalism” he does not mean to talk about – or that the contemporary “liberal order” still embraces the values and aspirations of the old “liberal order,” but was constructed under the acceptance of in the strict sense “illiberal” or non-liberal corrections for the sake of its own survival.

      There may also be additional overlapping set of confusions and confusions of confusions, and unconscious reactions, going on – among them a fierce determination to correct Douthat’s unforgivable impudence in writing as though it were possible to be thoughtful but not a liberal Democrat.Report

      • I agree, mostly, with that CK.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to CK MacLeod says:

        One would have thought the time periods discussed would give it away.Report

      • Thoughtful would be great. All I see is a list of this year’s bugaboos presented as if they were unique in the history of postwar America, with no attempt to compare them to anything previous, e.g. Donald Trump, who has not yet gotten a single vote vs. George Wallace, who carried five states in the general election, or the specter of Europe without the EU, compared to 1990, which combined the absence of the EU with liberal democracy in most of Europe. On the other hand, the fact that civil wars are creating refugees is of course unique in the history of humanity.Report

        • Mike Schilling: All I see is a list of this year’s bugaboos presented as if they were unique in the history of postwar America

          Well, if you bothered to click through, or simply to read reasonably charitably, he doesn’t claim that the “bugaboos” were “unique in the history of postwar America.” In the excerpt quoted, he refers to “a long time,” and in the article as a whole he mentions 1989 (Fall of the Soviet East European Empire, beginning of the end of the USSR itself), though specifically in relation to Pax Americana, which is not quite the same as the “liberal order.” George Wallace falls well. outside the that period. 1990 was a year of upheaval or transition following 1989.

          During the subsequent decade, the notion that the “liberal order” had won and, now unopposed, ought to overrun the rest of the world, beginning with the former Soviet Bloc and propelled by new, liberating technologies, was widespread, even if it didn’t, of course, snuff out all dissatisfaction.

          I think where Douthat is mostly wrong in his general assessment – whose bottom line is, after all, that this all is very much NOT the end of the world as we know it – is that 2008 was more the moment when bet-hedging really started looking sensible, and that, rather than “a long time ago,” it was, at furthest, just yesterday historically, or, to switch metaphors, we’re still under its shadow. I’d say that the turn of the Millennium also deserves consideration on this scale: Tech Crash + Bush v Gore + 9/11 also had a similar configuration, and ’08 in more ways than one was a follow-on.

          Yet here we are, still truckin, last I checked.Report

      • I think the problem for Douthat is that the liberalism he doesn’t like is an unavoidable consequence of the liberalism he does like.

        Douthat wants a regime in which property rights are guaranteed nationally (or in his more Fukuyama-ish moments, even globally), and in which capital can move freely and predictably from region to region. This requires a relatively large and centralized state to systematize property rights over large areas, and a large bureaucratic apparatus to enforce those laws. What’s more, these powerful states end up doing a lot of violence to systems of local control (which are systems Douthat normally likes), because the norms of ownership enforced are not those that evolved locally in response to homegrown civic concerns, but are instead imposed from central authorities who often have wildly different (i.e., more cosmopolitan) cultural attitudes.

        High capitalism or traditionalism: conservatives can’t have both.Report

        • Robert Greer: High capitalism or traditionalism: conservatives can’t have both.

          Setting aside my uncertainty over what exactly you mean by “high capitalism”: Sure they can, along with everybody else, but only in mixed and frequently contradictory forms, since the pure states never exist, and since efforts to attain the pure states are destructive. Even the term “liberal order” is somewhat oxymoronic, or refers to a mixed order, or a mixture of the non-ordered and the ordered (and in practical terms of a never more than partially orderable order of orders). More than most popular columnists, and perplexingly for many ideologues, Douthat tends to write with substantial awareness of the contradictions, and from a position of negotiating them rather than in an expectation of eliminating them. So, for example, I think he’s fully aware that Catholicism and pure free market classical liberalism are finally irreconcilable, and that they contradict each other not just in theory but very practically in the daily lives of American Catholics. Like everyone else, he agrees with Marx and Engels – who were by no means the first to recognize the problem – that the impetus of capitalism is toward uprooting of “traditional” values and ways of life, and that the tendency under capitalism or within the “Bourgeois Epoch” is for “all that is solid [to] melt into the air” and for “all that is holy [to be] profaned.” A key difference between a revolutionary or fanatic and a temperamental or Burkean conservative, or moderate, is that the latter seeks to hold fast to or defend or restore the solid and the holy, and not let the perfect anything become the enemy of whatever possible good. The difference between him and a Rod Dreher (or, say, a John Gray) will tend to be in their assessment of just how far the process has gone, or how irretrievably or intolerably, and over what if anything a responsible person or thinker ought to say or do about it.Report

          • I agree with you to a large extent here, but I maintain that even as relatively capacious as Douthat’s thinking tends to be, he’s still falling into an irreconcilable contradiction.

            I guess I see his article as more “the barbarians are closing in on the city gates!” than “these alternative ideologies that are not fundamentally different from my preferred political mode have more traction than before”. I think there’s substantial support for my reading: Douthat contradistinguishes alternatives to his favored order as “radical and reactionary”. He also does not allow for a possibility of mixed order, deeming even minor capitulations to be slippery steps to “suicide”.

            There are ways to extol liberal capitalism while treating its skeptics with flexibility and broad-mindedness. But I don’t think Douthat’s article here is it.Report

  11. Avatar miguel cervantes says:

    Seriously, what real objections has she made to Obama’s policies, not feints, dodges but real ones, slim and none, as I explained to McLeod, years ago, 2012, was more an Occupy election, than 2010 ever belonged to the Tea Party, the bulk of that element is with Sanders not Hillary, the Dems still rely on big money, though, that’s how they beat Romney 2-1, last time, Grand Master Skreli gave 60 K to the Dems, that’s how he got his piece of the action, the SuperPACS worked more in Obama’s favor then the GOP, Freeman Maher, Abrams, you know the ordinary folk, all chipped in, even Mitt’s firm, gave more to Obama, then to their former boss,Report

  12. I think it’s harder to distinguish between “capitalist democracy” and other forms of governance than Douthat thinks. Proponents of “capitalist democracy”, such as Douthat, generally distinguish it from other systems in that it promulgates abstract rules that are applied neutrally and predictably. But this is impossible — not just impossible to perform 100% neutrally, but impossible to do even approximately. First, abstractions come with trucked-in assumptions about what is and is not pro-social behavior, and this often differs between different cultures. Second, facially-neutral rules can have brutally discriminatory impacts, as the descendants of American slaves learned with grandfather clauses after the Civil War. Liberal order is and has always been chimerical.

    Capitalist democracies still allocate resources and rights preferentially to certain ethnic and family groups. Douthat, I suppose, would consider political donations to be a kind of “political freedom” distinguishing capitalist democracy from various “illiberalisms”, but this system of campaign finance enables the levers of government to be disproportionately wielded by the descendants of people who ruled these lands quite illiberally a few hundred years ago. If you’re descended from slave traders or murderers of Native Americans, you’re probably better off than the descendants of those historically-oppressed peoples, and you probably have a much bigger say in the governance of this country. Contrary to Douthat’s presumptions, the liberal West is not immune to dynastic oligarchy and ethnic favoritisms.

    Take the the United States, which prides itself on being a melting pot of different ethnicities. Social Security initially excluded domestic laborers, which had the effect of shutting out primarily African-American workers from this lucrative government benefit. Home mortgage tax preferences were a boon to (predominantly white) suburbanites, but no comparable program existed for the people who were red-lined out of those markets. Even today, a disproportionate share of government benefits go to white people, even though government “handouts” are theorized to exist for the neediest, and the neediest (as well as the most harmed by prior government actions) are disproportionately racial minorities.

    It isn’t that there are new cracks in the liberal order. It’s that the liberal order was an illusion propped up by unchallenged Western dominance. This whole discussion that’s ostensibly about civilizational values is really about the fracturing of what was (until recently) a relatively unipolar global military order.Report

    • Avatar Zac in reply to Robert Greer says:

      Wow, this is a fantastic comment. Hell, I’d love to see an expanded version of the thesis you expound here done as a full-on front-page post.Report

    • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to Robert Greer says:


      In the current confrontation between non-Enlightenment worldviews such as fundamentalist Islam and the West, and between defenders of the traditional cultural canon and the challengers from contemporary liberalism, there is a need to honestly confront what was good, and what was lacking in our cultural history.

      Right now Douthat and other conservatives seem puzzled as to why there aren’t more enlistees to defend the ramparts of Christendom from the infidels.Report

  13. Avatar miguel cervantes says:

    well that’s one interpretation, then again we have a different demographic profile then most Western European nations had at that time,

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