In Which You Answer David Brooks’s Question

 

shutterstock_128966351David Brooks in today’s New York Times:

The most surprising event of this political era is what hasn’t happened. The world has not turned left. Given the financial crisis, widening inequality, the unpopularity of the right’s stances on social issues and immigration, you would have thought that progressive parties would be cruising from win to win.

But, instead, right-leaning parties are doing well. In the United States, Republicans control both houses of Congress. In Israel, the Likud Party led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pulled off a surprising win in an election that was at least partly about economic policy. In Britain, the Conservative Party led by Prime Minister David Cameron won a parliamentary majority.

What’s going on here?

Well?

Published in Politics
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  1. Umbra Fractus Inactive
    Umbra Fractus
    @UmbraFractus

    I’m not sure how much it counts in the US, but I’m pretty sure the British have noticed that those countries who responded to the financial crisis by swinging to the left (France, Greece, the US) are still struggling (some more than others, of course) while those who swung to the right (Germany, Canada, the Scandinavians) have weathered the storm pretty well.

    Even within the US there’s the undeniable fact that red states are prospering while blue states are barely keeping afloat. No matter how the press might try to sweep it under the rug, the people know that Detroit hasn’t had a Republican mayor in decades. The people know that rioting and looting are neither understandable nor justifiable, and they know which party believes they are.

    As people have said above, most commentators say the right is losing on “social issues” because all they care about is gay marriage. Rioting in Baltimore is a social issue; black-on-black crime is a social issue; false rape accusations are a social issue; the “delicate snowflake” phenomenon is a social issue. The left is beclowning itself on multiple social fronts, and at some point being on the popular side of gay marriage can’t make up for all the rest of the baggage.

    • #31
  2. Umbra Fractus Inactive
    Umbra Fractus
    @UmbraFractus

    Guruforhire:

    2.) Nobody really cares about inequality in and of itself, they care a lot about cronyism, and faux capitalism.

    I think the real problem is inequality of power; wealth becomes part of the issue because there’s a sense that money and power are correlated in a way that seems un-American to a lot of people, left and right. The fact that the left wants to fix this problem by concentrating even more power into the hands of even fewer people goes over far too many people’s heads.

    • #32
  3. Ricochet Inactive
    Ricochet
    @RobertMcReynolds

    Peter what is going on here is that Mr. Brooks fails to see the policy of these parties as having turned left and simply assumes that, because the party is traditionally on the right, the attitudes of the voters have stayed on the right.  This is completely false at least in the UK and US instances.  Because while these two countries have produced what would be thought of as Conservative political leadership, the end result of these parties’ policies continues to have these two states tacking left, just ever so slightly compared to the actually leftist parties.  The real question is how is that with electorates that are still pretty much right leaning these parties are able to continue moving leftward without any real backlash?

    • #33
  4. Ricochet Member
    Ricochet
    @ArizonaPatriot

    Guruforhire:1.) What did the financial crisis have to do with the right? Nobody really believes that it did.

    I think that the Left absolutely believes that the financial crisis was entirely the fault of the Right.  They’re crazy to think so, but they do.

    2.) Nobody really cares about inequality in and of itself, they care a lot about cronyism, and faux capitalism.

    I think that Leftists really do care about inequality in and of itself.  Maybe because it is the one — extremely silly — measure that is quantifiable and in which capitalist economies appear to perform badly.

    I always think of an example to show that income inequality is a silly measure.  Imagine two countries, A and B.  In country A, everyone lives in absolutely equal poverty, on an annual income of $1,000/year.  In country B, 90% of the people have an income of $20,000/year, and 10% have an income of $100,000/year.

    By any measure of income inequality, country A is vastly superior to country B — though the poorest person in country B is 20 times better off than anyone in country A.

    It never ceases to amaze me that despite the absurdity of worrying about income inequality, many apparently intelligent people consider it a serious issue.

    • #34
  5. Luke Thatcher
    Luke
    @Luke

    Robert McReynolds:Peter what is going on here is that Mr. Brooks fails to see the policy of these parties as having turned left and simply assumes that, because the party is traditionally on the right, the attitudes of the voters have stayed on the right. This is completely false at least in the UK and US instances. Because while these two countries have produced what would be thought of as Conservative political leadership, the end result of these parties’ policies continues to have these two states tacking left, just ever so slightly compared to the actually leftist parties. The real question is how is that with electorates that are still pretty much right leaning these parties are able to continue moving leftward without any real backlash?

    I second Mr. McReynolds sentiment, and I punctuate it with my own:

    I seem to remember Mr. Buckley sitting down with Rush Limbaugh on Firing Line to discuss whether Liberalism’s  vulnerabilities have been laid bare for all to see. This is just history repeating, as far as I’m concerned.

    The left is just tarnished by ugliness, in need of some revisionist polish. Because, Liberalism, in it’s modern manifestation, and for most modern people, is so much sexier; the political left’s falling out of vogue is just as inevitable as a return to the top.

    The reprise will be hastened by the uglier Rightists’ “power-drunk-attempts” to sell leftist policies as being conservative; or rightist.

    • #35
  6. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    Casey, what I meant (and should have written) was that the pendulum swings back and forth. You can explain to people that the “solutions” of the left always fail, but until they have watched them fail, a lot of people – Franklin’s fools – won’t get it. Some, such as Bernie Sanders, never will.

    • #36
  7. Autistic License Thatcher
    Autistic License
    @AutisticLicense

    The globe is warming. The city is on edge. It’ll be a long hot summer. The income gap is widening. A hard rain’s gonna fall. The Left expands its prerogatives by manufacturing crises. See Roosevelt, Wilson.

    Reagan was despised as a Pollyanna by the Left, but Seligman has shown that optimists win elections. The reason why is that human beings did not evolve to wring their hands and keen about doom; those who thrive act as though things can be figured out. Question: Peak Oil. Answer: fracking. Question: but that’s not a permanent solution. Answer: show me a permanent anything outside Heaven. After fracking, something else; let’s get to work.

    The Right doesn’t always have to have an answer; they do have to show confidence that one can be found that doesn’t rely on rationing, regulation, and ever tighter spirals toward a prison state.

    If we believe in human freedom and invention we should let everyone know that. Remember that our movies have happy endings, but only after the heroes face crises.

    • #37
  8. Casey Inactive
    Casey
    @Casey

    Percival, this isn’t a matter of swinging anymore. The country just doesn’t divide on the old lines anymore.

    To which Claire replies, “To replaced by what?”

    To which I reply, “I probably should write up a post about that. ”

    I will. Some day.

    • #38
  9. Tommy De Seno Contributor
    Tommy De Seno
    @TommyDeSeno

    This post will become moot with the election of Hillary Clinton.

    You heard it here first.

    • #39
  10. James Of England Moderator
    James Of England
    @JamesOfEngland

    Robert McReynolds:Peter what is going on here is that Mr. Brooks fails to see the policy of these parties as having turned left and simply assumes that, because the party is traditionally on the right, the attitudes of the voters have stayed on the right. This is completely false at least in the UK and US instances. Because while these two countries have produced what would be thought of as Conservative political leadership, the end result of these parties’ policies continues to have these two states tacking left, just ever so slightly compared to the actually leftist parties. The real question is how is that with electorates that are still pretty much right leaning these parties are able to continue moving leftward without any real backlash?

    This simply isn’t the case.

    It’s true that there’ve been Federal executive actions that have tacked left. That’s because the POTUS is still a lefty. On other stuff, though, we’ve seen spending decline to below Reagan levels, and we’ve had gridlock on most other federal issues. The states, meanwhile, have been doing sterling work on abortion, gun rights, labor law, budgets, taxes, education and such. We’ve also been doing good work moving public opinion. Americans want a robust foreign policy again. They want more free trade. Life is good.

    In the UK, government spending has fallen from 44.86% of GDP in 2010 to an estimated 39.77% for next year. Maybe you think that spending cuts like that aren’t enough, but describing them as moving leftwards is not defensible. The NHS has been partly privatized. Welfare was reformed to pay less. School choice was expanded. Anti-patriotic education, including the watching of anti-Western activist sitcoms as “history” was disincentivized.

    What in the world do you base your claims of a leftwards movement on?

    • #40
  11. Western Chauvinist Member
    Western Chauvinist
    @WesternChauvinist

    Jamie Lockett:

    Western Chauvinist:Eh, I’m not sure right/left generalizations work well in assessing global politics. Heck, even in Republican intramural party politics I think it’s fair to say that local and state leaders are more conservative than national politicians after they’ve been in DC awhile.

    In the case of British politics for instance, when pundits say “conservatives” have won, I often wonder, ‘”conservative” compared to what?‘ The commies and social democrats (but, I repeat myself) they oppose?

    I think the mistake you are making is assuming that British and American “conservatives” share the same tradition. American conservatives owe much more to classical liberalism than their British Tory counterparts. To try and graft American electoral politics on to Britain is a grievous error. This is the system that force Fredrich Hayek to write an essay on why he is not a conservative.

    You’re making my point. Just because “conservative” governments hold sway in many countries now doesn’t really mean progressives aren’t winning. We seem to agree that Brooks’s premise is wrong.

    • #41
  12. James Of England Moderator
    James Of England
    @JamesOfEngland

    Western Chauvinist:

    Jamie Lockett:

    Western Chauvinist:Eh, I’m not sure right/left generalizations work well in assessing global politics. Heck, even in Republican intramural party politics I think it’s fair to say that local and state leaders are more conservative than national politicians after they’ve been in DC awhile.

    In the case of British politics for instance, when pundits say “conservatives” have won, I often wonder, ‘”conservative” compared to what?‘ The commies and social democrats (but, I repeat myself) they oppose?

    I think the mistake you are making is assuming that British and American “conservatives” share the same tradition. American conservatives owe much more to classical liberalism than their British Tory counterparts. To try and graft American electoral politics on to Britain is a grievous error. This is the system that force Fredrich Hayek to write an essay on why he is not a conservative.

    You’re making my point. Just because “conservative” governments hold sway in many countries now doesn’t really mean progressives aren’t winning. We seem to agree that Brooks’s premise is wrong.

    What metrics do you think make sense?

    • #42
  13. Western Chauvinist Member
    Western Chauvinist
    @WesternChauvinist

    James Of England:

    Western Chauvinist:

    Jamie Lockett:

    Western Chauvinist:Eh, I’m not sure right/left generalizations work well in assessing global politics. Heck, even in Republican intramural party politics I think it’s fair to say that local and state leaders are more conservative than national politicians after they’ve been in DC awhile.

    In the case of British politics for instance, when pundits say “conservatives” have won, I often wonder, ‘”conservative” compared to what?‘ The commies and social democrats (but, I repeat myself) they oppose?

    I think the mistake you are making is assuming that British and American “conservatives” share the same tradition. American conservatives owe much more to classical liberalism than their British Tory counterparts. To try and graft American electoral politics on to Britain is a grievous error. This is the system that force Fredrich Hayek to write an essay on why he is not a conservative.

    You’re making my point. Just because “conservative” governments hold sway in many countries now doesn’t really mean progressives aren’t winning. We seem to agree that Brooks’s premise is wrong.

    What metrics do you think make sense?

    Oh, James, I’m a radical conservative. These politicians will never satisfy me. Mostly, I look at the character of the people who elect them. We’re in a bubble of conservative deliciousness here at Ricochet, but on the outside, the cultural fruits are increasingly rotten. That’s how the Left is winning. These “victories” are stop-gap.

    • #43
  14. user_370242 Member
    user_370242
    @Mikescapes

    Brooks’s question is an example of a logical mind looking for a thoughtful democratic expression from emotional voters, further complicated by different conditions, different cultures in different places.

    • #44
  15. James Of England Moderator
    James Of England
    @JamesOfEngland

    Western Chauvinist:

    James Of England:

    Western Chauvinist:

    Jamie Lockett:

    Western Chauvinist:Eh, I’m not sure right/left generalizations work well in assessing global politics. Heck, even in Republican intramural party politics I think it’s fair to say that local and state leaders are more conservative than national politicians after they’ve been in DC awhile.

    In the case of British politics for instance, when pundits say “conservatives” have won, I often wonder, ‘”conservative” compared to what?‘ The commies and social democrats (but, I repeat myself) they oppose?

    I think the mistake you are making is assuming that British and American “conservatives” share the same tradition. American conservatives owe much more to classical liberalism than their British Tory counterparts. To try and graft American electoral politics on to Britain is a grievous error. This is the system that force Fredrich Hayek to write an essay on why he is not a conservative.

    You’re making my point. Just because “conservative” governments hold sway in many countries now doesn’t really mean progressives aren’t winning. We seem to agree that Brooks’s premise is wrong.

    What metrics do you think make sense?

    Oh, James, I’m a radical conservative. These politicians will never satisfy me. Mostly, I look at the character of the people who elect them. We’re in a bubble of conservative deliciousness here at Ricochet, but on the outside, the cultural fruits are increasingly rotten. That’s how the Left is winning. These “victories” are stop-gap.

    I’m not asking what metrics would you need for satisfaction. I’m asking what metrics you’d need to believe that the left wasn’t winning.
    I don’t see a basis for believing that the pro-life victories, or the gun rights victories, or the labor rights victories, for instance, are stop gap. It seems to me that there’s every chance that we will never see the levels of abortion or union membership of the 20th century ever again in history. I would be genuinely shocked if the advances in free trade were ever reversed (with the possible exception of a Chinese collapse producing some medium term effects).

    From that perspective, the character of the people who elected them, as judged by their fruits, seems superior to the character of the people who voted in Reagan. Those guys aborted kids like parenthood was going out of style.

    • #45
  16. Western Chauvinist Member
    Western Chauvinist
    @WesternChauvinist

    James Of England:

    Western Chauvinist:….

    Oh, James, I’m a radical conservative. These politicians will never satisfy me. Mostly, I look at the character of the people who elect them. We’re in a bubble of conservative deliciousness here at Ricochet, but on the outside, the cultural fruits are increasingly rotten. That’s how the Left is winning. These “victories” are stop-gap.

    I’m not asking what metrics would you need for satisfaction. I’m asking what metrics you’d need to believe that the left wasn’t winning. I don’t see a basis for believing that the pro-life victories, or the gun rights victories, or the labor rights victories, for instance, are stop gap. It seems to me that there’s every chance that we will never see the levels of abortion or union membership of the 20th century ever again in history. I would be genuinely shocked if the advances in free trade were ever reversed (with the possible exception of a Chinese collapse producing some medium term effects).

    From that perspective, the character of the people who elected them, as judged by their fruits, seems superior to the character of the people who voted in Reagan. Those guys aborted kids like parenthood was going out of style.

    Interesting. Did you read A.D.P Efferson’s Federalist piece?

    If you’re not careful, you’ll be pegged as an optimist, James. You’ll have to drag me kicking and screaming to your position. ;-)

    • #46
  17. James Of England Moderator
    James Of England
    @JamesOfEngland

    Western Chauvinist:

    James Of England:

    Western Chauvinist:….

    Interesting. Did you read A.D.P Efferson’s Federalist piece?

    If you’re not careful, you’ll be pegged as an optimist, James. You’ll have to drag me kicking and screaming to your position. ;-)

    I’ve now read the Effferson piece. I don’t think it’s particularly sensible. There’s been similar opinion polling going back to the days of Roe, and it’s surprisingly stable. We’ve never had more than a small number of Americans who fight over the issue at the level that Republicans do (incest/ abortion exceptions). The bulk of pro-life Americans have always accepted some abortions. It was 21% saying “all circumstances” in Gallup’s latest poll (May 8-11), and 22% in April 4-7. The numbers got worse in the early 1990s, but they’ve been better since then.

    I mean, it’s possible that things could change, but the abortion rate has been declining, which means that fewer people will know people who have had abortions, technology is constantly advancing, and the pro-life movement has become dramatically more professional. There’s a reason that we’re seeing pro-life reforms passing across the country and nothing pro-choice in a long time.

    If we lose the next election, we could tip the Court to a straight liberal majority for the first time since Nixon replaced Black with Powell in ’72. That really could change everything. Just one change would do it, and we have an aging conservative bench.  Other than that, I don’t see any plausible reason for negative change.

    ADP’s evidence for change is a statistic that has been improving for 20 years, having been relatively stable for 40 years, as far as Gallup goes back. Also, she notes that the ground shifted fast on SSM. It’s true that if abortion were like SSM, we’d be in trouble, but there are kids barely old enough to write for the Economist, and with appropriate levels of understanding of American history and politics who know that SSM and abortion aren’t remotely similar issues as a political matter.

    • #47
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