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Can liberalism survive?

From an upcoming editorial in U.S. News And World Report, John Leo asks, "Can liberalism survive?"

Modern liberalism, says Harvard political philosopher Michael Sandel, has emptied the national narrative of its civic resources, putting religion outside the public square and creating a value-neutral "procedural republic."

...We are seeing the bitterness of elites who wish to lead, confronted by multitudes who do not wish to follow. Liberals might one day conclude that while most Americans value autonomy, they do not want a procedural republic in which patriotism, religion, socialization, and traditional values are politically declared out of bounds. Many Americans notice that liberalism nowadays lacks a vocabulary of right and wrong, declines to discuss virtue except in snickering terms, and seems increasingly hostile to prevailing moral sentiments.

It's that last sentence that captures the frustration of those who would consider listening to a Democratic message. There is no shortage of opportunity as Republicans have, in many ways, become complacent in their electoral success. A jewel in the crown of conservatism is that voters have a sense, built up through the years, of where it comes down on issues of right and wrong, morality, and virtue. The fact that Republicans don't always practice what modern conservatism preaches leaves them vulnerable to an effective opponent.

The problem is that the liberalism espoused by Democrats isn't really an alternative as it has been overtaken by the pandering of the party. The quest to build a bigger tent by subsuming various interest groups has lead to a decidedly mixed core message. The principle of equal opportunity should be a natural play to "value" voters. The problems with this core plank of liberalism is that in practice it has turned out to be less about equal opportunity and more about quota and set asides. Bill Clinton understood this dynamic. His "end welfare as we know it" line played directly to core beliefs about self-reliance and hard work. We expect that the able will work and that society will help them back onto their feet when they fall.

With the murky state of liberalism today either the message of the messenger must be changed. Regardless of which occurs, unless liberalism starts taking stands on value issues it will continue its slide toward representing only those who value nothing aside from themselves.

Update: For more on the topic (via game theory) check out Paul Deignan's Info Theory.


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Comments (13)

You might be interested to ... (Below threshold)

You might be interested to know that there is actually a systemic reason for this phenomenon that has proven empirical support and is consistent with many other observations.

Please see: http://info-theory.blogspot.com/2004/12/connections-and-consistency.html

and be sure to read the links in that post.

Warning: this is not for the casual reader. It will not interest you unless you really really want to understand what is going on in US politics today. However, if you are of this ilk, you will find information here that is probably very new to you.

<a href="http://info-theory... (Below threshold)

Here is the direct link to the above comment.

This strikes me as hinding the truth in plain site (if you understand the posts, you'll get it).

Um, Tom Delay?... (Below threshold)

Um, Tom Delay?

I think that this is making... (Below threshold)

I think that this is making things way too complicated. The Democratic Party is having a problem on the national level because it is the party of Fordism. Fordism isn't, strictly speaking, socialism. It's the American response to socialism. Fordism is the combination of mass production, mass consumption, and intervention by government “experts” in management, labor, production, and consumption to keep the system in order.

The problem is that Fordism is collapsing everywhere under the combination of globalism and the intrinsic complications of the system itself. The machine is just too big and too complex for any expert to manage it effectively.

I read the following in a N... (Below threshold)
julie:

I read the following in a NJ online news website.
Some of my Republican friends are happy with the prospect of Dean leading the Democratic National Committee. The conservative agenda is not good for America and they know that liberals like John Kennedy, Franklin Roosevelt, Thomas Jefferson and George Washington made this country great.

Boy, are his friends ever playing a joke on him!

- Now julie....they wouldn'... (Below threshold)

- Now julie....they wouldn't do that.....(would they).... Bwahhahahahaha

Hmmm.Actually I de... (Below threshold)
ed:

Hmmm.

Actually I define myself as a Conservative, not as Republican. If I vote Republican, it's because a Republican candidate is at least nominally following my preferred agenda.

Frankly I think the Republican party is extremely vulnerable in terms of the conservative voters. Most conservatives I know are more issue oriented and are very much less party-dominated, much like myself. If a rebellious portion of the DNC could offer something tangible to conservatives, I'd expect mass defections.

This probably sounds unreasonable at first glance, but I'm frankly underwhelmed by the GOP's promotion of conservative core issues. Other than an ephermal tax cut, offset by a $200+ billion dollar war in Iraq and a $1 trillion dollar entitlement, the current GOP hasn't done anything for conservatives.

I know that Bush's "guest worker" idea has pretty much all of my conservative friends nearly incandescent with rage.

I agree that the GOP has so... (Below threshold)
Just Me:

I agree that the GOP has some weak spots, the problem is that the DNC is so far in debt to the wacky left, that they don't make a viable alternative to dissatisfied conservatives.

Conservatives want fiscal responsibility and less government, but the problem is the DNC continues to run candidates that are the more evil of two evils.

I also think the article is right on about the left being hostile to religion, but even more so to any type of moral absolutes. And as a religious conservative I admit that a lot of the liberal candidates that pull the religion card come across as totally fake. I would cringe every time Kerry would answer a moral oriented question by stating "I'm a Catholic" as if the fact that he was christened and confirmed innoculated him against taking positions contrary to the religion he was claiming. It just came across as smarmy and patronizing.

I'm with ed (^^) about my i... (Below threshold)
-S-:

I'm with ed (^^) about my individual voting methods, for the same reasons.

I've heard and read about the games theory thing in this regard before, but will now go read what I haven't yet (the links)...

Well, having read through P... (Below threshold)
-S-:

Well, having read through Paul's theorization and the comments that followed, it falls within the realm of theatre and/or fantasy to my read. You cannot generalize human behavior into "types" in such sweeping measures based upon theory without a whole lot of evidence based upon actual observations within statistical groups. As in, any "types" that result are concludable based upon a statistical analyzation within a greater population about whatever behaviors are studied, whatever the objective of a study/any study may be.

For gaming alone, you can and gaming relies upon deciding perameters of types of characters involved, but that also then limits the reality of where and how those characters operate, and in that regard, limits their capabilities (you cannot drive to New York from New Orleans if the gaming perameter is limited to a quadrant of the Moon). Gaming theory in and of itself relies upon limitatins that are not relevant to a wider study, is my point, but is based upon closed systems.

Which can, theoretically, amplify outward into open systems but not routinely. As in, it's not a given that one closed system set of behaviors and characters within those closed systems will behave the same way if and when 'released' into a larger, open system, because there will be other conditions present in those other, open systems that will affect behaviors by those introduced.

The rest of the premise..."feeling" characterises being a liberal, while "thinking" characterises a conservative...it's hardly credible since all are human and all are capable of all range of human behaviors as long as they are functional individuals.

About liberalism, that quote there (this thread, starter quote) is a very good analysis of just what is deficient with most "liberals" as to socio-political movements, and what I think it is as to why is that like attracts like. Groups are formed by charismatic individuals and then grow upon like numbers attracted by like individuals. The failure of most liberalism is that, on an individual basis, they pose little inspiration to others who aren't already affiliated. Because, like it or not, human beings as individuals still respond to motive and goals. People need to be inspired and look for those who inspire them. Liberals just fall flat in that regard, other than continuing to promise concepts that most others already know to be faulty, as in, they attract by falsehood based upon the experiences of many others. So, people don't follow so much as liberalism tends to cement certain resolute personalities that can't or refuse change and, at it's worst, actually relish failure or find failure desirable. HST committing suicide as he did and why is a great example of that and of the antihero to most in liberalism today.

S,You may not like... (Below threshold)

S,

You may not like what you read, but the data supports the analysis.

There is a statistically significant discriminant between self-identified liberals and conservatives in the core of their respective movements in the decision-making dimension (thinking-feeling).

When you consider that the method of processing information leads to different scopes in the goals of the individual and combine that insight with a realization that humans have a herding instinct (as well as other instinctual responses), then we are able to undestand the myriad hypocrisies and contradiction in the liberal movement.

Why did they support the Bush doctrine after 9/11 but not once the threat subsided? This was not a patriotic rally about the flag effect. Bush's numbers went to the 90s, not America's among the domestic TNL.

Why aren't liberals advancing an agenda that solves problems such as social security? Their response is entirely reactionary. Why do they focus their reaction irrationally against one person -- Bush? This is not ideology at work, it is an instinctual herd effect.

Note that the data is a distribution among dimensions -- I do not rely on "types". In fact, liberals are marginally thinking on average. Please read the conclusions carefully.

All politics is a game. However, the fact that one player moves towards the interior -- pursuing a zero-sum game is remarkable. This insight changes the character of the game. Note that optimal gaming relies on having two rational players. Here, one player is not as rational as the other. That changes things.

Kerry and Dean were chosen, neither is charasmatic. Bush is not charasmatic. For that matter, most all our leaders with the possible exception of JFK tend not to be charasmatic. That said, personality of the candidate seems to count more among liberals than conservatives. This is remarkable.

So, to understand the game, you need to understand that the motives and goals of the individuals vary depending on how they process information. A feeling person has a fundamentally different goal and motive in responding to external information that a thinking person. One wants inner harmony, the other wants meaning and logical consistency. These motives lead to different political behaviors if there is a significant discriminant between the two players, which apparently there is. This is a very simple and straightforward observation based on measured data.

I would label Bill Clinton ... (Below threshold)
Just Me:

I would label Bill Clinton as Charismatic. He was a master at double speak.

Just Me,You said h... (Below threshold)

Just Me,

You said he is a master ...

That is a measure of political skill. I would agree with you on that account. He understood his base.

But charisma is something different. Empathy is not charisma. Charisma is an attractive force--not merely a reflection in the mirror. Clinton did not bring new converts into the Democratic fold. At best, he kept enough in to beat his opponents.


(Well, maybe ML thought he was charismatic, but I am inclined to think that was more of a power attraction -- see again the herd instinct on display).




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