Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Gentry Liberals

The current political divide is beginning to resemble a split between the rich who want to exploit us and the rich who want to manage us. Like many gross oversimplifications there is still a grain of truth left when the obscuring tangle of details is stripped away. Q and O commenting on an LA Times article states the obvious --- Democrats: The Party of Truman is No More.

The Gentry Liberals: But what kind of liberalism is emerging as the dominant voice in the Democratic Party? Well, it isn't your father's liberalism, the ideology that defended the interests and values of the middle and working classes.

Today's ascendant liberalism has a much different agenda. Call it "gentry liberalism." It's not driven by the lunch-pail concerns of those workers struggling to make it in an increasingly high-tech, information-based, outsourcing U.S. economy -- though it does pay lip service to them.

Rather, gentry liberalism reflects the interests and values of the affluent winners in the era of globalization and the beneficiaries of the "financialization" of the economy. Its strongholds are the tony neighborhoods and luxurious suburbs in and around New York, Washington, Boston, San Francisco and West Los Angeles.

Gentry liberalism is not an entirely new phenomenon. Its intellectual roots can be traced to historian Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr.'s 1948 book, "The Vital Center." … Schlesinger was suspicious of the traditional liberalism of President Truman, who baldy appealed to the basic interests of returning middle- and working-class veterans of World War II.

In "The Vital Center," Schlesinger dismissed both the then-largely Republican business class, as well as mainstream Democratic politicians like Truman, because he thought they were too craven in their appeals to middle- and working-class interests. He believed that government should be in the hands of "an intelligent aristocracy" -- essentially men like himself -- whose governance would be guided by what it considered enlightened policy rather than class interests.

As QandO point out, LA Times authors Joel Kotkin and Fred Siegel are decidedly on the left side of the seating chart and their story eventually drifts into the mildest rebuke of the environmentalist obsessions crowding out the focus on the needs of the people. Their larger point, however, is well taken. The smug superiority of intelligent aristocracy drips off the modern day Democratic Party. Their nanny state insistence on bans and mandates is in stark contrast with their historical drive to improve the lives of the average citizen by creating a prosperity rewarding freedom, hard work, responsibility and discipline.