Thomas Frank on the Establishment Democrats

Thomas FrankThe reason Democrats treat these professionals so respectfully in everything from trade deals to urban bike paths is because that is simply who the Democrats are today. Read through the party’s favorite works of political theory from the last few decades and you repeatedly encounter the same message: the highly credentialled experts and innovators at the top of the nation’s hierarchy of achievement belong there by virtue of their brilliance. That these people also happen to be colleagues and classmates of leading Democrats only reinforces the party’s identification with them. Liberals love to mock the One Percent and their self-serving ideology, but they themselves serve the needs of the top 10% just as blindly.

In truth, our affluent, establishment Democrats can no more be budged from their core dogmas — that education is the solution to all problems, that professionals deserve to lead, that the downfall of the working class is the inevitable price we pay for globalization — than creationists can be wooed away from the tenets of “intelligent design”. The dogmas are simply too essential to their identity.

—Thomas Frank
The Issue Is Not Hillary Clinton’s Wall St Links but Democrats’ Core Dogmas

7 thoughts on “Thomas Frank on the Establishment Democrats

  1. My response is: South Carolina, Massachusetts, Ohio, Illinois, Missouri, Mississippi, Florida, North Carolina, Alabama, Nevada, Texas, Georgia, Tennessee, Louisiana and of course Arkansas.


    Seriously though-one, he veers a little to close to “don’t get an education, it is elitist” and two-there doesn’t seem to be a lot to do about the bottom of the economy beyond strongly supporting unionization for the service industry with unions like SEIU and allowing the gig economy to unionize while passing laws that treat employers like Uber and Lyft as regular employers.

    While yes one thing we could do is rebuild infrastructure, the fact is that there needs to be a revamp of the way we think of service jobs-they are the new factory jobs of today and wages should be raised to match.

    • “Service jobs are the new factory jobs of today and wages should be raised to match.”

      Well said. Thank you.

    • I think he is right that the Republican establishment is committed to the interests of the top 0.1% and the Democrats are committed to the interests of the top 10%. Obviously, that’s why the Democrats are far better. But it isn’t good. The only thing I wonder about is whether it was ever any different. BTW: in the book, he doesn’t just slam the Democrats. He notes that current state of the party is the result of a lot of really good instincts and ideals. He just thinks the party has become too inbred. He makes a great comparison of FDR’s “brain trust” and how varied it was to all the Ivy League people who Democrats now turn to. Iowa State produces genius just like Harvard. And the geniuses from Iowa State will have a different perspective from the geniuses at Harvard. It isn’t about getting rid of the Harvard people. But it’s a single track — a single way of looking at the world.

      But the thing about education is that it is a con. I’m horrified when young people tell me they are going to study computer science. You can’t chase the future. And regardless, they’ll fire you at 50 because you cost too much. But as I’ve written about quite a lot, the “inequality is all about education” narrative is just a way to avoid doing anything about inequality for another generation.

  2. I don’t know about that. There are some parallels, but they’re not equivalent. I don’t know any Democrat who’s as completely impervious to evidence as creationists are.

    • I know what you mean, but I suspect he is right. We all have our core dogmas that we can’t see. And the idea of meritocracy is so ingrained in American thinking that it is largely invisible. There is no doubt that Obama thinks he has surrounded himself with the very best people. But what’s he’s actually done is surround himself with the very best of a particular kind of people. I will allow that if a big study came out that showed that this was the case and that it had bad effects, the grip would loosen — but it would be slow and might not ever release. But believers in creationism give up their beliefs too. Perhaps Frank is overstating, but certainly not by much.

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