Tag: Liberalism

Escapism as Politics: American Liberals and Cultural Consumerism

(This is a joint post by Douglas and Cato)

If there is one thing that you can say about the Bush Administration with absolute certainty, it was absolutely catastrophic for American liberalism.

It began with the closest presidential election in the history of the United States, with George W. Bush “winning” Florida’s crucial electoral votes by just 537 votes. In the face of such a questionable election, liberals decided to direct their ire towards Ralph Nader for having the temerity to participate in a free and democratic election, stating that the 97,000 votes that he received in the state were to blame for handing the Republicans the presidency; more so, apparently, than the 200,000-plus Democrats who voted for Bush in Florida.

The terrorist attacks on September 11th and the resulting wars in Iraq and Afghanistan combined with an increasingly reactionary domestic policy, capped off by aggressively gigantic tax cuts for the wealthy and a Medicare drug plan that was a massive giveaway to drug companies, to put liberals into a defensive crouch. An unprecedented midterm loss in 2002, driven largely by nationalist sentiment stirred up in the wake of 9/11, was compounded by another questionable loss to Bush in 2004. While liberals were able to head off some catastrophes, like defeating Bush’s effort to privatize Social Security immediately after he won re-election, the story of his administration is largely one of traumatizing defeat for liberals in a way that had not happened in modern American politics.

In the face of this kind of demoralizing defeat, liberals sought a surcease to their feelings of loss in media and culture. Two programs, in particular, stick out as enduring symbols of that era of retreat.

American Liberalism is Dead.

(This is a joint post by Douglas and Cato)

American liberalism died at 8:41pm EST on November 8, 2006.

It was at that time that the Associated Press called the U.S. Senate race in Virginia for Democratic nominee Jim Webb, giving the Democrats their 51st seat in Congress’s upper chamber and unified legislative control for the first time since 1992. This might seem a confusing time for liberalism to be dying, but it comes into focus a bit once you get below the partisan numbers. We will discuss this a little more later, but it makes sense to first discuss the long illness to which independent liberal politics in the United States eventually succumbed.

It was a slow death, one that began not long after the 1984 presidential election. Despite the electoral humiliation at the national level dealt to party nominee Walter Mondale, all was not lost for the Democratic Party. After all, they scored some victories in gubernatorial races, they still controlled the House of Representatives, and a 36-year old Congressman from Tennessee named Al Gore ascended to United States Senate. But for liberals within the party, the gig was up.