With the debt ceiling battles behind us for now, the Democrats are acting out a sorry sense of rage and frustration in their usual brat attack fashion. Unfortunately for them, the nasty name-calling campaign is only giving their leadership credibility once again a very big black eye. Yet we must have some sympathy for the Democrat devil, for after all, this poor fallen fellow is totally dumbfounded by the titanic turn of political events. The progressive Word might have been made flesh back in that wonder year of 2008 but I don’t think that 2012 will be serving up a Second Coming.
One of the most incisive analysis on the major hurdles facing the progressive movement in this post-2008 environment comes from the mind of Walter Russell Mead. He pinpoints what he sees as a new wave of Jacksonian democracy washing over the American political landscape compliments of the Tea Party. Listen to how succinctly he sums up the Democrat dilemma.
The professionals and administrators who make up the progressive state are seen as a hostile power with an agenda of their own that they seek to impose on the nation.
This perception, also, is rooted in truth. The progressive state has never seen its job as simply to check the excesses of the rich. It has also sought to correct the vices of the poor and to uplift the masses. From the Prohibition and eugenics movements of the early twentieth century to various improvement and uplift projects in our own day, well-educated people have seen it as their simple duty to use the powers of government to make the people do what is right: to express the correct racial ideas, to eschew bad child rearing technique like corporal punishment, to eat nutritionally appropriate foods, to quit smoking, to use the right light bulbs and so on and so on.
Progressives want and need to believe that the voters are tuning them out because they aren’t progressive enough. But it’s impossible to grasp the crisis of the progressive enterprise unless one grasps the degree to which voters resent the condescension and arrogance of know-it-all progressive intellectuals and administrators. They don’t just distrust and fear the bureaucratic state because of its failure to live up to progressive ideals; they fear and resent upper middle class ideology. Progressives scare off many voters most precisely when they are least restrained by special interests. Many voters feel that special interests can be a healthy restraint on the idealism and will to power of the upper middle class.
The arrogance and tin-eared obtuseness of self-assured American liberal progressives has infuriated generations of Americans and foreigners who for one reason or another have the misfortune to fall under the power of a class still in the grip of a secularized version of the Puritan ideal.
A growing section of the American population wants to think and act for itself, without the guidance of the graduates of Ivy League colleges and Blue Chip graduate programs.
The fight for limited government that animates so many Americans today isn’t a reaction against the abuses and failures of government. It is a fight to break the power of a credentialed elite that believe themselves entitled by talent and hard work to a greater say in the nation’s affairs than people who scored lower on standardized tests and studied business administration in cheap colleges rather than political science in expensive ones. The American Interest
Absolutely right on target! The essence of progressivism is its anti-democratic core of snotty elitism and outrageous condescension. Note that these insightful observations are voiced by a registered Democrat who voted for Obama in 2008. Walter Russell Mead is Editor-at-Large for The American Interest magazine and the James Clarke Chace Professor of Foreign Affairs and Humanities at Bard College.