Eric Alterman had a great article in last week’s print edition of The Nation, Cuomo Vs. Cuomo (that link it behind a pay wall, but a subscription only costs $9.50 per year—I think The New York Times charges more per month). In it, he talks about the two sides of Cuomo the Younger (Andrew): Socially Progressive Economically Conservative. This is so common (as readers of this blog know) that some clever pundits have coined an acronym: SPEC.
I have a better term for such people: Pretend Liberals. It is really quite simple: it doesn’t matter what laws you have if the power of individuals is too unequal. If you have the money, you can get around most laws. Wanna launder drug money? That might cost you a few bucks, but certainly not your freedom. If you don’t have money, you just better be lucky. Wanna launder drug money? You’re looking at life imprisonment. Hell, you don’t have to do anything at all for the state to kill you.
(It’s interesting to think about this for a moment. There is a great test case: OJ Simpson. Rich OJ had no problem getting a not guilty verdict against a case that was pretty strong. Poor OJ got 33 years for a fairly trumped up charge. Rich man poor man: free man caged man.)
Thus, I think we really need to do something about the Democratic Party. Over the last 20 years, the party really has abandoned economic issues. Just watch MSNBC. It is frightening. Now, I’m not suggesting that the people on MSNBC don’t believe in economic liberalism. Rather, they are all well-to-do, and are more than willing to overlook the economic issue if they can get some decent policy (Or lip service!) on guns or gay rights. What’s more, we have our great liberal president whose idea of fair is for the rich to pay an extra percent in taxes while the elderly get their benefits cut by substantially more. That’s not liberalism; that’s conservatism; it’s just not fascism.
We need to rework our political party. We need to embrace economic liberalism. It is not an option. “Economically conservative” means “conservative.” And the only way that most liberal voters will understand this is if we promote the idea. We’ve lived through 20 years during which the Democratic Party has been nothing more than Republican Lite. Not only is that completely at odds with what most liberals want, it is a losing strategy. The Republicans were still winning in 2009 when Democrats controlled the executive and legislative branches of government because the terms of the debate were still conservative. Note that even with overwhelming control of both houses, we couldn’t even discuss single payer healthcare. The Republicans won before the debate started.
We need real liberals. New Deal liberals; Fair Deal liberals; Great Society liberals. Not Economic Conservative liberals. They aren’t real liberals. When we elect one, we lose.