Pur Autre Vie

I'm not wrong, I'm just an asshole

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Democrat First, Liberal a (Distant) Second

Just a few thoughts on institutions and ideologies.  You can't quite apply the same moral reasoning to institutions that you can to individuals.  The constraints are different, the decision-making process is different, the moral status is of course different.  But you can still think about an institution's role in history, and you can apply some basic judgments.

The reason I bring this up is that some liberals sometimes say that they can never vote Democratic again, because of the party's various sins.  And that's fine, obviously it's important to have some standards when you vote, and if a party doesn't live up to your standards (and another party does), then by all means do what you think is right.

But I just want to observe that as between the Democratic party and the liberal/leftwing movement in American politics, the Democratic party is far more trustworthy on most of the important issues.  I can easily imagine affluent liberals throwing Social Security under the bus, for instance, but I can never imagine the Democratic party doing it.  Affluent liberals are eager to embrace wealth maximization as the logically correct policy criterion, but I doubt the Democrats ever will.

And in particular, I think that while plenty of affluent white liberals are happy to embrace the emerging scientific consensus that blacks are racially inferior to whites, it is absolutely unimaginable that the Democratic party ever will.  Over the period from 1948 to 1968 (that is, from the adoption of the 1948 civil rights plank, through the integration of the military, and then through the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act), the Democratic party bound its destiny so tightly with the rights of black Americans that the two essentially merged into each other.  The Democrats decided that black rights were worth fighting and (politically) dying for, and the result was that whenever the Democrats had power, they used it to roll back the southern reign of terror, to integrate blacks into the key institutions of American society, and eventually to build a society in which overt racism is socially and politically unacceptable in both major parties.  Now, this has worked  out decently well for the Democrats, electorally, but the party is uncompetitive anywhere race is highly salient, and increasingly white people simply won't pull the lever for a Democrat no matter what.

And so now we return to racial science.  Liberals, for a variety of reasons, have put science and the work of scientists on a pedestal and love nothing more than to tar their opponents as "unscientific."  Now, traditionally eugenics was regarded as bad science, that is, not just immoral but factually wrong.  But because liberal rhetoric is aghast at the idea that morals might ever intrude into the world of science, white liberals were only ever a few twin-studies away from eagerly embracing the conclusion that they are simply better (that is, genetically prone to be smarter and less criminally inclined) than black people.  (Black liberals, I suspect, won't be so eager to cast aside the "myth" of racial equality.)

So again, as between the Democrats and affluent white liberals, the Democrats are far more trustworthy, that is, unalterably bound up with doing what is right in the world.  Again, you can't take a complicated institution like a political party and label it "good" or "bad" as a moral matter, especially because so much of the Democratic party's stance is structural (at this point, it needs those black votes).  But the point is that Democrats are implacably on the right side of history, and liberals are squishy.  I know that I will vote Democratic until I die, but I am not nearly so sure that bien-pensant liberalism will be at all attractive to me in 10 years.  I don't even know if it will be recognizably liberal, in the sense of being concerned with the well-being of people who are oppressed or poor.  Its commitments (to technocracy, "science," the market, Muslim-bashing, and the professional classes) are likely to drive it even further into unsavory territory.

4 Comments:

Blogger Grobstein said...

This strikes me as a quite bizarre read on "affluent liberal" beliefs and behavior. And as implausible as it all seems by itself, it seems to me even less likely that the "affluent liberals" you describe this way are the same people who seriously consider abandoning Democrat politics to cast lefty protest votes.

This is an extremely strange post.

3:30 PM  
Blogger Sarang said...

I am scratching my head too; the best I can come up with is that it is a collage of the parts of Alan's belief system, yours, and mine that James dislikes?

4:53 PM  
Blogger Grobstein said...

To briefly take the post on its own terms:

It rests on the supposition that the Democratic party's good policy directions have been and are endogenously generated. But in fact they depend in complex ways on the whole political environment.

You seem to think that the Democratic party has earned a presumption of slack -- people who agree with it more than they agree with the Republicans should be unswervingly loyal, and not think of withholding their vote. This gives the Democratic party the maximal freedom to maneuver, and its judgment should be trusted.

But we might think that the institution's judgment can and must be nudged. Perhaps anti-war voters on the left side of the spectrum should consider withholding their votes, in the hopes of influencing the Democratic party in an anti-war direction.

Realistically, perhaps the optimal electorate has some mix of unquestioningly loyal soldiers and more mobile deliberators; each serves a function.

But I think you are generalizing, from the romance of the soldier role for yourself, to the conclusion that it is the only way to be.

9:28 AM  
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8:00 PM  

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