Liberalism's Time Warp

Article excerpt


In this autumn of their discontent, Republicans tremble as November nears. But now comes yet another book by a gloomy liberal anticipating permanent Republican dominance. Thomas B. Edsall of The New Republic, in "Building Red America: The New Conservative Coalition and the Drive for Permanent Power," argues that inexorable social forces, augmented by the conservatives' superior reservoirs of anger, ruthlessness and cynicism -- he neglects only the word "wickedness" -- favor Republicans, "the party of the socially and economically dominant."

The parties are almost at numerical parity, but Edsall, who until recently was a Washington Post political reporter, says Republicans represent people "more broadly skilled in economic combat" and "more accustomed to the rigors of the market." Hence Republicans can maintain "a thin but durable margin of victory." Their technique is "the symbolic manipulation of controversial sociocultural issues touching upon national security, patriotism, race, sex, and religion."

"The GOP," Edsall laments, "has achieved a gradual erosion of the popular consensus behind the major progressive and social- egalitarian movements of the twentieth century." But what actually "achieved" that? Edsall says the principal Republican objective has been to break "the trust ... between the government and millions of its less advantaged citizens." But he acknowledges that Republicans have been helped "inestimably" by "the daily inefficiencies of government."

If Edsall is symptomatic, liberalism is lost in a time warp, thinking in antiquated categories. Edsall approvingly quotes a Democrat activist's opinion that there are twice as many angry conservatives as there are angry liberals: "Liberals by their very nature don't get as angry as conservatives do." Edsall, who evidently has not noticed the vitriol of the liberal blogosphere, is so blinded by his own anger he misperceives Republican realities.

The GOP, he says, courts whites "whose interests are overwhelmingly focused on tempering, if not altogether rolling back, the civil rights movement." Please. Who favors rolling back guarantees of voting rights and equal access to public accommodations?

If Edsall really thinks Republicans are marching efficiently in lock step, he has missed bitter intraparty arguments about spending, immigration and nation-building. …