The quick answer is that liberalism is no longer an ideology, focused on ideas. It is a sociology, bent on acquiring political power and social dominance.
George McGovern was the last Democratic presidential nominee who ran an issues campaign. That was 45 years ago. Since then Democratic politicians and their liberal supporters in the mainstream media have moved steadily away from issues and toward the politics of identity. Can you think of a single issue highlighted in Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign? I bet you can’t.
For the most part, all the issues we have been discussing since the days of Ronald Reagan have come from the right – flat tax, school choice, privatization, private Social Security accounts, etc. Liberal Democrats have done little more than oppose.
The only political message Democrats have had for blacks is: vote for us because you’re black. The only message for women is: vote for us because you’re a woman. Similarly, for Hispanics, immigrants, gays, etc.
Identity politics is based on three Vs: victims, votes and vengeance.
Victimization means telling people their problems, their setbacks, their disappointments are caused by someone else. They’ve been oppressed. Unfairly. They should be angry about it. Very angry. And … do what? … Go vote.
Identity politics is not about changing laws. It’s about getting people to the polls. It’s not about changing institutions. It’s about acquiring political power.
If you aren’t listening very carefully, you might mistakenly think that Democrats have agendas. For example, you would expect a party that is pro-women to have a women’s agenda. A party that is pro-black to have an agenda for blacks. A party that is for the little guy to have a little guy’s agenda. In fact, the Democrats don’t have any of these.
Some time ago, Wall Street Journal editorialist Kimberly Strassel and I wrote a book entitled, Leaving Women Behind. The entire book was about ways women get shafted by federal policies. For example, tax law, labor law, employee benefits law, the Social Security system, the disability system, etc., are all based on an outmoded view of how women live. It’s as though the entire federal bureaucracy decided years ago that the typical woman would be a stay-at-home mom, married to a full-time worker husband. If your household fits that image, federal policies probably work pretty well for you. But if you are a modern family living under outdated laws, you’re probably losing out.
Our book was chock full of ways to bring federal policies into the 21st century and make them consistent with the changing role of women in the modern age. Question: how many of these policy changes were endorsed by the Hillary Clinton campaign? Answer: not a one. (For what it’s worth, our suggestions to Mitt Romney were ignored as well.)
You might think that sexual harassment would be a rather straightforward issue for the party that claims to be the party of women. In the 1990s, liberal activist groups used the issue to almost derail the appointment of Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas and to force the resignation of Senator Bob Packwood. But the allegations against Thomas and Packwood seem almost trivial by today’s standards.
Later when Bill Clinton was accused of these far more serious transgressions, women’s groups associated with the Democratic Party defended him. Republicans called them “hypocrites.” But that misses the point.
We now know that sexual harassment has been rampant for years in all the places where liberals congregated – on Capitol Hill, in the state legislatures, in Hollywood, in the mainstream media, at liberal opinion magazines, etc. If they cared about this behavior they could have said something. But they didn’t. I hope it is now clear to all that sexual harassment to the Democratic establishment was always about elections and achieving political goals. It was never about anything else.
There is also no Democratic black agenda. And there never has been. At least for the last 50 years.
San Francisco is probably the most liberal city in California. And it’s the richest. If they care about minority children there, they certainly have the means to do something about it. Yet, black and Hispanic children do worse in San Francisco schools than anywhere else in the entire state.
It’s almost a rule of modern political science: wherever you find minority children attending bad schools, Democrats are probably in charge. Ditto for the worst housing. And the worst environmental dangers.
For many years, the only people who seemed to care about helping black children escape bad schools were conservative Republicans. Wealthy Republican donors set up private school choice programs all over the country. In recent years, many wealthy Democrats have joined to help them. But there are almost no establishment Democrats who are willing to stand up to the teachers’ unions.
The final V is vengeance. If people have been oppressed, don’t you think they should have the opportunity to complain? And given their oppression, don’t you think they should be allowed to step over boundaries the rest of us must respect? Liberals certainly think that way.
Jesse Jackson called Jews “Hymies” and called New York City “Hymietown.” Al Sharpton created a lucrative business out of Mau-Mauing unsuspecting whites – for $10,000 he could arrange a civil rights protest almost anywhere. Black Lives Matter marchers chanted “Pigs in a blanket…” Rich black football players took a knee, to protest living in a racist country. Protestors can tear down statues for almost any reason. Members of the media and even Hillary Clinton herself can make up fake news stories about Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown.
And they all get away with it. In fact, to object to any of this is in the liberal mind “political incorrectness.”
Well … at least it was until someone was willing to call them out. And because he did it, Donald Trump became president.
More on that in another column.