Monday, March 10, 2014

The Landrieu-Bloomberg-Booker generation

Alex Pareene points out something I've been trying to call attention to for a while now regarding the oft-prophesied "End Of The Republican Party" because of some supposedly inescapable demographic determinism.

But, it turns out the so-called liberalism of "Millenials" (especially the white and well off ones who are more likely to vote.. or to be allowed to vote) is greatly misunderstood.
Philip Bump identifies the more conservative white millennials as, basically, libertarians. Many of them definitely are, if we are using a loose enough definition of the word. Because there are different strains of young white millennial libertarianism. There is scrawling “INFOWARS.COM” on lampposts libertarianism. There are tech bros. There are Reddit atheists. And there are quite a few rich young people who have no problem with drug legalization and gay marriage but who are otherwise actually just conservatives.

Frank Luntz is probably studying all of these people right now, because this is your future Republican Party base! The idea horrifies many contemporary movement conservatives — this generation has absolutely no interest in your Tough, Muscular Foreign Policy, sorry Bill Kristol — but the Kochs of the world will be fine. Millennials aren’t even much more liberal than older votes on gun control and abortion. That’s like half the GOP platform, right? They’ll barely have to change a word.
To the extent that this generation* has impacted politics it has given us Obama, and the brand of Democrat whose names are listed at the top of this post; typically more reasonable (within limits) on social issues but perhaps even more viciously right wing on economic issues than any generation this century.

A few years back, I tried out the term "Yuppie Left" to describe this phenomenon in local politics. But "left" is inadequate as it implies more empathy for the growing numbers of people left behind in the widening inequality crisis than this group seems capable of.  "Neoliberal" just confuses people. In any case, they're the folks who made Ray Nagin and Mitch Landrieu and, yes, even Bobby Jindal possible. If you're expecting these people to kill off the Republican Party any time soon, you'll be waiting a long time.

*People define generations in all sorts of ways.  I'm attempting to describe a particular political zeitgeist which actually spans several decades of white conservative backlash and has remained consistent among young majorities starting with Boomers during the 1970s and going all the way through to.. whatever you call 20-30 somethings today. It's akin to libertarianism but with a more dumbed down mass appeal than your typical Ayn Rand stuff.

Thomas Frank hit on it pretty well recently in this essay about the late Harold Ramis.
 These same conservatives are also the most likely to understand class conflict in the way “Caddyshack” does: as a rivalry between WASP old money and differently pedigreed new money. In fact, this is one of the themes of George Gilder’s 1981 book “Wealth and Poverty,” the manifesto of the “supply-side” revolution, and of countless wealth-celebrating books that followed. That’s why “Caddyshack” seems in retrospect like a piece of crypto-Reaganite social commentary. Rodney Dangerfield’s character, for example, is a clear symbol of the crude power of markets—proudly showing off one of his tasteless billboards and announcing that he only cares about the “snobatorium” country club because he wants to build condos there. The choice before the white, working-class caddy boils down to the Harvard-proud WASP snob and the earthy, joke-cracking businessman; the side he eventually chooses is the same one that millions of real-life blue-collar workers were also choosing in those confused days.
And that's basically what our politics is built to sell us; a celebration of "differently pedigreed new money" and anyone who identifies with that.

It's why the New York Times keeps sending style writers here, for example. But it's also the reason our alt-weekly gets so much mileage from reassuring its yuppie advertisers after such episodes.

Mostly, though, it's the reason the only voices that matter in local politics are those of "business leaders" especially those invested in the tourism trade while everyone else is basically laughed out of the building.

But in the meantime... yay weed! You don't have to be high to buy the canard that the demographics are pushing us inexorably leftward but it helps.


hopitoulas said...

I'll drink to that. And if you drink enough, it's the other way of losing one's senses and grip enough to believe that the bullshit formulation "social liberal/fiscal conservative" stands for anything but an anti-liberal conservative in social drag.

joejoejoe said...

I use the term "nuggies" for this lot - new urban gentrifiers. It's a politics of inverting the American city and pushing the poor into ring suburbs. That's the geographic model of poverty in most of the rest of the world. It's much easier to be a superstar mayor in The Atlantic Cities when you push your poor into a ring suburb. They aren't so much problem solvers as problem displacers.

jeffrey said...

Pretty much. What's remarkable to me is just how popular this policy is in the view of what is presented as the "mainstream"

HStreetLandlord said...

why should cities have to deal with all the poor folks. its an appropriate rebalancing to some extent.