"Listen Liberal - or, Whatever Happened to the Party of the People?"
Footnote citation: Thomas Frank, Listen Liberal (New York: Metropolitan Books, 2016)
Chapter 1: Theory of the Liberal Class:
“Let us put the question bluntly. What ails the Democrats? So bravely forthright on cultural issues, their leaders fold when confronted with matters of basic economic democracy. Why? What is it about this set of issues that transforms Democrats into vacillating softies, convinced that the big social question is beyond their control?
The standard explanation is money and the way it runs through politics, adjusting incentives and distorting priorities wherever it flows. … but the Democrats' problems go deeper than this. To diagnose their particular malady we must understand that there are different hierarchies of power in America, and while oligarchy theory exposes one of them – the hierarchy of money – many of the Democrats' failings arise from another hierarchy: one of merit, learning, and status.
Money and merit: sometimes these two systems of power overlap and sometimes they separate. Occasionally they are in conflict, but more frequently they are allies – contented partners in power.”
We lampoon the Republican hierarchy of money with the phrase 'the One Percent'; if we want to understand what has wrecked the Democratic Party as a populist alternative, however, what we need to scrutinize is more like the Ten Percent, the people at the apex of the country's hierarchy of professional status.” pp. 15-16
“... There is another criterion, however, that we sometimes have trouble acknowledging: social class.” p. 16
“Today, the American class divide is starker that at any time in my memory, and yet Congress doesn't seem to know it. Today, the House of Representatives is dedicated obsessively to the concerns of the rich – to cutting their taxes, to chastising their foes, to holding the tissue box as they cry about the mean names people call them.” p. 19
“It's just that the class they care about the most doesn't happen to be the same one Truman, Roosevelt, and Bryan cared about.” pp. 19-20
“... Still, if we want to understand what's wrong with liberalism, what keeps this movement from doing something about inequality or about our reversion to a nineteenth-century social pattern, this is where we're going to have to look: at the the assumptions and collective interests of professionals, the Democratic Party's favorite constituency.” p. 21
“Professionals are a high-status group, but what gives them their lofty position is learning, not income. They rule because they are talented, because they are smart. A good sociological definition of professionalism is “a second hierarchy” – second to the main hierarchy of money, that is – based on credentialed expertise. Which is to say, a social order supported by test scores and advanced degrees and defended by the many professional associations that have been set up over the years to define correct practice, enforce professional ethics, and wage war on the unlicensed.” p. 22
[My marginal note: “All professions are conspiracies against the laity.” – George Bernard Shaw]
"Labor's reward was as follows: by the time of the 1972 presidential contest, the Democratic Party had effectively kicked the unions out of their organization. Democratic candidates will wanted the votes of working people, of course, as well as their donations and their get-out-the-vote efforts. But between '68 and '72, unions lost their position as the premier interest group in the Democratic coalition. This was a result of a series of reforms auhored by the so-called McGovern Commission, which changed the Democratic party's presidential nominating system and, along the way, changed the party itself." p. 46
"... As it went about reforming the party, however, the Commission overlooked one important group: it did nothing to ensure representation for working-class people." p. 46
"... labor leaders ... were being taken for granted. ..." p. 46
"... The McGovern Commission reforms seemed to be populist, but their effect was to replace one group of party insiders with another -- in this case, to replace leaders of workers' organizations with affluent professionals. ..." p. 47
“... no left party in the world would deliberately close the door on the working class. Especially not after workers' organizations had done so much for the party's flat-footed nominee. Besides, it all worked out so very, very badly for the Democrats. Neglecting workers was the opening that allowed Republicans to reach out to blue-collar workers with their arsenal of culture-war fantasies. No serious left politician would make a blunder like that on purpose [emphasis added].
But they did, reader. Leading Democrats actually chose to reach out to the affluent and to turn their backs on workers” [emphasis added] pp. 47-48
“... reverence for the professional class and his contempt for the 'legatees of the New Deal' opened the way for something truly unfortunate: the erasure of economic egalitarianism from American politics” [emphasis added] p. 51
“Democratic leaders decided to reorient the party after 1968 not because this was necessary for survival but because they distrusted their main constituency and had started to lust after a new and more sophisticated one.” p. 52
“... if Democrats could win back white, working-class voters while hanging on to their new, affluent suburban electorate, their triumph would be assured.
But that never really happened.. Instead the party intensified its courtship of the comely professional managerial class.” p. 53
“With the help of a Democratic Congress, [President Carter] enacted the first of the era's really big tax cuts for the rich and also the first of the really big deregulations. As though to prove how tough and post-partisan he could be, in 1980 he and Paul Volker, his hand-picked Fed chairman, put the country on an austerity diet that was spectacularly punishing to the ordinary working people who had once made up the Democratic base.” p. 54
“All these Democrats worked to sever their ties with the past, but for the nation's mainstream political commentators the Democrats' reorientation was always and forever insufficient. Regardless of what they did, they still hadn't distanced themselves from the New Deal finally enough; they were still too beholden to manufacturing and blue collar workers. Democrats would run for the presidency on a professional-friendly platform of high-minded post-partisanship and be rejected by the electorate – and then, in the aftermath, those same Democrats would be ritually denounced by Washington's TV thinkers as examples of the New Deal's exhaustion and irrelvevance. … each one of [the next three Democratic presidential candidates] magically transformed on the day of their defeat into an instructional film on why Democrats needed to embrace post-ideological, budget-balancing, technocratic centrism [i.e., further-to-the-right-ism].” p. 55
“... DLC also had but a single prescription for this malady: the Democratic Party could only win if it moved to “the center,” severing ties with its constituent groups and embracing certain free-market policies of the right. The essential flaw in this neat little syllogism flashed on and off like a neon sign – that all three of the Democratic candidates in the 1980s had followed this exact strategy of shifting rightward and had lost anyway” [emphasis added]. p. 57
“Why working class voters were supposed to pine for balanced budgets, free-trade treaties, and the rest of the items on the DLC wish list was a mystery. The answer, it would soon become clear, was that the DLC didn't really care all that much about working people in the first place. The aim of the group was to capture the Democratic party for its lobbyist supporters by whatever means were at hand, and in the 1980s, claiming to represent the overlooked middle American probably seemed like a good gambit” [emphasis added]. p. 58
“The Democratic Leadership Council … were a faction of hippie-punching white Southerners who loved free markets and who ultimately discredited themselves by whooping it up for the Iraq War.
These factions appeared to be opponents, and yet there was a persistent habit of thought that united them: regardless of what it was they were demanding, they all agreed that what stood in their way was the legacy of the New Deal – the Democratic Party's commitment to equality for working people. That had to end" [emphasis added]. p. 60
ENTER THE BUBBA:
“The exact point where these trajectories intersected was occupied by one Bill Clinton, Governor of Arkansas, a Rhodes Scholar and a McGovern campaign worker who had grown up to become chairman of the DLC. He led the idealistic Sixties generation and he warred with the teachers' union; he smoked dope and he never got high; he savored Fleetwood Mac and he got tough with welfare mothers. Here was the one-man synthesis of the grubby dialectic I have been describing, and he arrived in Washington to fulfill the sordid destiny of his class like Lenin arriving at the Finland Station.” pp. 60-61
Chapter 3: The Economy, Stupid
“For the twenty preceding years, pundits and politicians had hoped, predicted, and declared that the egalitarian impulses of the Depression years had been cured. Instead, the economic effects of Reaganism made their reversal inevitable. The rich were richer than at any time since WWII, while small farmers and manufacturing workers were seeing their livelihoods destroyed. The cult of the entrepreneur had produced a group of buyout artists and savings and loan owners who were little better than criminals.” p. 62
“In truth, however, erasing the memories and the accomplishments of the Depression-era Democrats was what Bill Clinton and his clique of liberals were put on earth to achieve.” p. 65
[To Bill Clinton goes credit for] “finally sinking the untenable old consensus of the New Deal, and the crafting of a new one.” Only a Democrat was capable of such a deed, and Clinton did it. That was his great and undeniable achievement: He put the thirties sensibility down so forcefully it would never again be revived.” p. 66
“Let us recall that Bill Clinton came to national prominence as the leader of the Democratic Leadership Council, whose object was to shift the party to the right using whatever ideological tools were at hand. It is ironic, given the damage they proceeded to do to working-class people, that the New Democrats finally got their chance to move into the executive branch as the result of a distinctly populist campaign pounding away at the oldest of left-wing themes.” p. 66
[Why no mention of Ross Perot taking 19% and 9%, respectively, in the 1992 and 1996 elections. Bill Clinton only got 43% in the first of these and still less than half in the second. So to ignore Ross Perot's roll in splitting the Republican ticket so badly, deserves acknowledgment. As Mark Shields said on the PBS Newshour: “Two words explain Bill Clinton's election in 1992: “Ross Perot.” Two words explain his re-election in 1996: “Newt Gingrich.” I would amend that to five words: “Ross Perot and Newt Gingrich”]
“Old people who recall fondly the battles of the Thirties, for example, are objects of a form of ridicule that [Joe] Klein thinks he doesn't have to explain; it is self-evident that people who care about workers are fools.” p. 66
“... the Clinton character speaks truth to weakness.: p. 68
“... resistance is futile.” p. 68
“It is the glibness of that dismissal, the professional-class certainty that has been repeated in a thousand presidential statements and Senate hearings and casual conversations on the Acela train, that explains the Democratic party's flat inability to rise to the challenge of plutocracy.” p.68
[Paraphrase of Bill Clinton]: “You get what you deserve, and what you deserve is defined by how you did in school.” p. 69
“But it doesn't take an advanced degree to figure out that this education talk is less a strategy for mitigating inequality than it is a way of rationalizing it.” p.70
“The real problem was one of inadequate worker power, not inadequate worker smarts. The people who produced were losing their ability to demand a share in what they made. The people who owned were taking more and more.” p. 73
“It was a costly mistake. While this interpretation might have made a kind of narcissistic sense to the well-graduated, it allowed Democrats to ignore what was happening in the real economy – from monopoly power to financialization to labor management relations – in favor of a moral fantasy that required them to confront no one. In the Clinton view, which would become the standard Democratic view, the only ones who had to change their ways were the victims themselves.” p. 73
“Their certainty came, for one thing, from the fact that just about everyone was repeating the same platitudes. Postindustrialism! Globalization! The Information superhighway! These were gods before whom everyoe bowed back then.” p. 77
“Examined from any perspective other than their external appearances, however, they were not representative at all. … there were more millionaires among the populist Bill Clinton's cabinet than there had been in Bush's. In addition, more than three-quarters of them were lawyers. The country had merely exchanged one elite for another; a cadre of business types for a collection of high-achieving professionals [professional students]” p. 79
“Change was an external force we could neither escape nor control; it was a reality that limited what we could do politically and that had in fact made made most of our choices for us already. The role of We the People was not to make change but so submit to its dominion.” p. 85
“As with so many of the achievements of the Clinton era, it eventually took a Democratic president, working with Republican members of Congress, to pass this landmark of neoliberalism.” p. 86
“Clinton would confront and deliberately antagonize certain elements of the Democratic Party's traditional base in order to assure voters that 'interest groups' would have no say in a New Democrat White House. As for those interest groups themselves, Clinton knew he could insult them with impunity. They had nowhere else to go, in the cherished logic of Democrtic centrism” [i.e., further to the right-ism]” p. 90
“Bill's chief political adviser, Hillary Clinton, instructed White House officials how it was to be done. As Carl Bernstein describes the scene, Hillary announced that the public must be made to understand that Bill was taking them on a “journey” and that he had a “vision” for what the administration was doing, a “story” that distinguished good from evil. The way to dramatize this story, the first lady continued (in Bernstein's telling), as to pick a fight with supporters.
You show people what you're willing to fight for, Hillary said, when you fight your friends – by which, in this context, she clearly meant, When you make them your enemy.” pp. 90-91 “With NAFTA he connived in that constituency's ruin. He assisted in the destruction of its economic power. He did his part to undermine his party's greatest ally, to ensure that labor would be too weak to organize workers from that point onward. Clinton made the problems of working people materially worse.” p. 91
“Each of the bold endeavors I just mentioned eventually ended in disaster.” p. 100
“The final great accomplishment of Bill Clinton's presidency was another act of sweeping bank regulation, the 1999 repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act, which had separated commercial fom investment banking since 1933.” p. 102
“Some foundation. Nine years later, after the greatest wave of insider looting ever seen, the deregulated 21st-century financial system had to be rescued in its entirety. To say this was a system built on sand would be charitable. Its foundations actually lay upon a speculative bubble, pumped up by the prospect of a bigger sucker who everyone believed could be found a little ways down the line.” [The Theory of the Greater Fool] p. 103
“The story is one of the all-time great examples of just how bad journalism can get when a scribe is encouraged to express his love for the powerful and his deep respect for ideas that every member of his socioeconomic cohort agrees upon.” p. 103
“The ultimate result of their efforts [to counter Brooksley Born's attempt at regulation], the Commodity Futures Modernization Act, signed into law by Clinton a month before he returned to private life , was a deregulator debacle to which we can chalk up bo th the activities of Enron as well as the credit default swaps that brought the entire world economy to the brink of collapse in 2008.” p. 104
“It's striking that so many of the great economic initiatives of the Clinton presidency led eventually to catastrophe. But what really makes this story poisonous is that liberals by and large convinced themselves for many years that nothing had gon wrong at all. Everything Clinton's team had done was an act of professional-class consensus. Because most of the fuses lit by Clinton and Company didn't actually detonate until after he had left office – and by then some science-denying Rpublican was in the Oval Office – they found it easy to absolve the Democrat from blame.”
“What were we saying to the country, to our young people, when we lowered capital gains taxes and raised taxes on those who earned their living by working?” asked Joseph Stiglitz: “That it is far better to make your living by speculation than by any other means.” p. 105
Chapter 5: It Takes a Democrat
“How the Market Order Got Cemented into Place. It wasn't Ronald Reagan alone who did it. What distinguishes the political order we live under now is consensus on certain economic questions, and what made that consensus happen was the capitulation of the Democrats. Republicans could denounce big government all they wanted, but it took a Democrat to declare that 'the era of big government is over.' and to make it stick. This was Bill Clinton's historic achievement. Under his direction, … the opposition 'ceased to oppose.'” p. 106
“The object of Clinton's outreach to Gingrich in 1997 was Social Security privatization, a hunk of legislatived dynamite that would have blown apart the welfare state once and for all. … requiring every American to have a brokerage account would have meant billions in administrative fees for mutual fund companies. “ p. 107
“... 'the president was closer to Gingrich than he was to the leadership of his own party,' a description that could have been accurately applied to each of Clinton's great accomplishments – NAFTA, welfare reform, and bank deregulation, all of them made into law by cooperation between the Democratic president and the Republicans in Congress” p. 109
“Here's why the D. C. pundits came to love Bill Clinton: He almost did it. He almost achieved that great coalescence of the professional and business classes. [What do you mean “almost”?]
This was a Democrat, remember. And him being a Democrat was important. For the party that invented Social Security and defended it with a kind of gleeful zeal over the years – for this party to even to contemplate turning the thing over to Wall Street was a concession of enormous significance.” p. 110
“... The Big Clampdown was a massive exercise in prison-building and mandatory sentencing. … It was as though every kind of cruelty was suddenly permitted.” p. 112
“... What the poor get is discipline; what the professionals get is endless indulgence.” p. 115
“ ...The real Clinton legacy on the poor comes down to one word: work” On the financiers, the real Clinton legacy came down to four words: Grab what you can.”
“... Toil hopelessly or go to prison [and toil there, too]: that is life at the bottom, thanks to Bill Clinton. p. 118
“But it was prosperity buoyed up by an investment bubble. It did not reverse the long-term tend toward inequality that Clinton liked to talk about in 1992. It did the opposite. The share of national income taken by the top 1 percent zoomed upward along with the Nasdaq during Clinton's time in office. Financialization marched in step, with Wall Street accounting for an ever-greater percentage of GDP. Average CEO compensation at big companies hit twenty million dollars in 2000, the most ever recorded – some 3833 times as much as average workers made during that final year of the bubble.” p. 119
“... to make the market consensus happen. It required something else – it required the capitulation of the other side.
That the triumph of Clinton markeed the end of the Democrats as a party committed to working people and egalitarianism is not some perverse conviction held by out-of-touch eggheads … Clinton's admirers used to be quite open about it; for many of them, it was precisely what they liked about the guy.” pp. 120-121
“People do find other places to go, of course – they stay home, the join the Tea Party [or the Green Party], whatever. But my purpose here is to scrutinize the tacit Democratic boast about always being better than those crazy Republicans. In truth, what Bill Clinton accomplished were things that no Republican could have done.” p. 121
“That a Democrat might be the one to pick apart the safety net is a violation of this basic brand identity, but by the very structure of the system it is extremely difficult to hold the party accountable for such a deed. This, in turn, is why only a Democrat was capable of getting bank deregulation passed; only a Democrat could have rammed NAFTA through Congress; and only a Democrat was capable of privatizing Social Security [and Obama thought he could do it, too]” pp. 121-122
To judge by what he actually accomplished, Bill Clinton was not the lesser of two evils, as people on the left aways say about Democrats at election time; he was the greater of the two. What he did as president was beyond the reach of even the most diabolical Republican. Only smiling Bill Clinton, well-known friend of working families, could commit such betrayals.” p 122
“Prosperity could even transform the traditional demands of Wall Street into the politics of people who worked. You could give the rich every last item on their bill of particulars and still present yourself to the public as a champion of the average citizen. … All that America needed to end the gap between the rich and everyone else was growth brought on by 'fiscal discipline, global competition, flexible labor markets, deregulated businesses, rapid communications, and limited government interference in markets.
And these were the Democrats. Over the years to come, their mantra would become a liberal version of the right's “voodoo economics.” Just as Ronald Reagan's Republicans claimed to be able to bring down the deficit by cutting taxes, so Clinton's Democratic heirs were able to pass off virtually any favor to the rich as an act of concern for the poor.” pp. 122-123
Chapter 7: How the Crisis Went to Waste
“It has now been seven years since the Day Change Came, and we can indeed see what happened. On the most urgent issue facing the nation – what to do about the banks – the intelligence quotient of the president's team turned out to matter almost not at all. The erudite Obama administration used its mandate to continue all the policies of the crude and tasteless Bush administration essentially unchanged, at least for the first few years.pp. 143-144
“For the new administration, as for the old, an obliging consideration toward banker confidence took precedence over everything else. For fear of frightening the men of lower Manhattan, the Obama team dared undertake none of the serious measures the times obviously called for.” p. 144
“As a result, the situation continued as follows: The Wall Street banks, being “too big to fail,” enjoyed a more-or-less explicit government guarantee against bankruptcy, but in order to enjoy that protection they were not required to stop doing the risky things that had got them in so much trouble in the first place. It was the perfect outcome for them, with the taxpayers of an entire nation essentially staking them to endless turns at the roulette wheel.” p. 144
“The classic and most direct solution to an epidemic of corrupt bank management and fraudulent bank lending is to use the authority that comes with rescuing failed banks to close those banks dow or to fire those banks' top managers. This was evidently never seriously considered by Obama's team of geniuses.” p. 145
“But Obama's stimulus package did get through Congress, and it was larger in nominal dollars than any stiumulus had ever been before. Unfortunately, the biggest single part of it was wasted on tax cuts designed to lure Republican votes. Another chunk was wasted on coaxing state governments to embrace charter schools and open their eductation systems to consultants and entrepreneurs. The Big Stimulus also contained many good things: subsidies for clean-energy projects, a push to update medical record keeping, billions for high speed rail projects, and support for a long list of state and local construction schemes – the famous 'shovel ready' projects about which everybody was talking in 2009. If you can name just one of them without going to Wikipedia, you have my respect.
What the sprawling stimulus measure did not include was the obvious thing, the most effective thing, the thing Americans of all ages remember that Franklin Roosevelt did – direct federal job-creation in the WPA manner. Obama was careful to avoid such things, because they would have expanded the federal work force. Instead, his New New Deal merely sent money to others; on its own it built no tunnels in national parks, constructed no Art Deco county courthouses, painted no murals on post office walls, published no guide books to the states. As a result, it missed out on another achievement of the Roosevelt era: the creation of spectacular and unmistakable monuments to activist government.” p. 146
"A New Deal for Whom?" p. 148
“If this was a modern-day New Deal, it was a timid iteration that was not particularly concerned with the big-picture deterioration of average people's economic situation – the wages that never grew, the rising incomes that always went to someone else. In terms of rhetoric, Barack Obama could be an eloquent champion of these people and their problems; it is thanks in part to his speeches that 'inequality' became a mainstream political issue at all. But in terms of deeds, the Obama administration repeatedly sacrificed working people's interests in the service of some greater goal, or for what Washington called 'optics,' or for no discernible reason at all.
Things didn't go down this way because helping average citizens during hard times is a utopian dream, but rather because those citizens interests conflicted with the interests of the upper strata. A choice between the two had to be made, and Obama made it.” p. 147
“Talk aside, the situation for working people has continued to deteriorate. … the 'labor share' of the nation's income, as I mentioned in the Introduction, declined sharply from its old postwar average; during the Obama presidency it has stumbled along at or near its all-time lows." p. 151
"This was Clintonism on monster-truck tires. Not only is it more profitable to make your living by speculation than by working, but it puts you above the law as well." p. 152
Chapter 8: The Defects of a Superior Mind
TTHE ENDS OF COMPLEXITY
“... In certain remarkable ways, each of these legislative achievements followed the same characteristic pattern – one that diminishes their effectiveness but allows Democrats to pursue the professional consensus they crave.” p. 159
“All of them, for starters, chose complexity over straightforwardness. The virtue of the old Glass-Steagall Act, which regulated the banking industry from 1933 until its final repeal in the Clinton era, was its simplicity: It structurally separated investment banking from commercial banking and forced those parts to compete with on another. The 2010 Dodd-Frank Act, which was supposed to re-regulate the business, uses a different method – in instructs federal agencies to make detailed new rules for the industry. As I write this, the agencies have finished about two-thirds of that task, with their regulatory work now running to a staggering 22,000 pages of rules, loopholes, and exceptions.” pp. 159-160
[Dodd-Frank now repealed by Trump administration and Democrats helped to vote for that]
“This intricacy does not make Dodd-Frank an outlier among Obama-era reforms; this makes it typical. The Affordable Care Act is even more profoundly dizzying.” p. 160
“Instead we got Obamacare, with its exchanges, its individual and employer mandates, its Cadillac tax, its subsidies to individuals and to the insurance industry, and its thousands of other moving parts, sluicing funding this way and that. Complexity is its most striking characteristic. No one is really certain how it operates.” p. 160 Consensus of the Willing “All the things I have mentioned so far – the fascination with complexity, the desire to preserve existing players, the genuflection before expertise – all of them arise from one of the deepest wellsprings of liberal thought and action: the longing for a grand consensus of the professional class that never seems to come. We saw an earlier version in Bill Clinton's presidency, but Barack Obama displayed a passion for reaching an understanding with his foes that was at times embarrassing to behold. … He and his team then sat vainly for months waiting for a Republican to sign onto the plan and thus certify it as 'bipartisan.'” p. 168
“That Obama would be more interested in consensus than in confrontation was something we should have seen coming; after all, the magical healing properties of consensus had been on of the great themes of Obama's pre-presidential career. … this deeply boring topic … and so tritely on.” p. 169
“For Obama and his supporters, there seems to be something elemental, something basic in the many showdowns between his cool, technocratic style and the raging, wailing, senseless defiance of the Republicans in Congress. Surely they believe that its mind against sentiment, ego against id, civilization against barbarism.
For us, however, what needs to be pointed out is that, with their sonorous warnings about deficits, Obama's “very serious people” turned out to be completely wrong. The expertise of the experts was, in this case, worthless.” pp. 170-171
The Race is Not to the Swift
“All these brilliant people, all these honored professionals and Ivy League PhDs, and yet one of the most striking features of the Obama administration has been its timidity, its leaden lack of originality. The situation in 2009 called for daring and imagination, but what we got were half-measures in all things.” p. 174
“Professional correctness also fetched the Obama administration a beating in the arena of partisan combat. In their guileless search for Grand Bargains and bipartisan comity, it seems never to have dawned on Team D that their Republican opponents might do exactly what Newt Gingrich and Tom DeLay taught them to do in the 1990s: dedicate themselves completely to obstruction, drag the conversation always to the right, and refuse to confer even the slightest bit of legitimacy on the Democratic administration. Failing to guess that this extremely likely eventuality might come to pass cost our pack of geniuses many months of wasted time as they fruitlessly pursued Republican votes for their health care bill. Worse: the Affordable Care Act that Obama ultimately signed into law relies in numerous ways on the cooperation of state-level politicians – many of them Republicans who, we now know, are just as enthralled by the obstruction game as are their national leaders.
“Worst of all was the administration's ideological assumption that Democrats simply owned economic discontent. Those upset because Team Obama didn't get tough with Wall Street would have nowhere else to go, they thought. It was science, political science: move to the center, and you can take such people's votes for granted.
That the liberals' failures might expose them to deadly flanking fire from the right is something the administration appears not to have seen coming; for all their subtle learning, many memobers of the liberal class still don't believe it really happened – what did them in, they think, was just the recrudescence of some boorish reflex in the minds of an unenlightened public. And this brings us to perhaps the most crucial indictment of them all: these Democrats don't really seem to care about winning elections. Even that, the most fundamental political act, takes a back seat to professional vanity.” pp. 174-175
Chapter 9: The Blue State Model
“This is a curious pattern, is it not? Blue-state Democrats, with transparent connections to high finance, who have deliberately antagonized public employees, and whose chief economic proposal has to do with promoting 'innovation,' a grand and promising idea that remains suspiciously vague. None of them can claim that their hands were forced by Republicans. They came up with this program all on their own.” p. 178
Chapter 11: Liberal Guilt
“ What this event suggested is that there is a kind of naturally occurring solidarity between the millions of women at the bottom of the world's pyramid and the tiny handful of women at its very top.” p. 227
“... at the conclusion of which you discover you've got little to show for it besides NAFTA, bank degregulation, and a prison spree.” p.228
“This book is about Democrats, but of course Republicans do it too. The culture wars unfold in precisely the same way as the liberal virtue-quest: they are an exciting ersatz politics that seem to be really important but at the conclusion of which voters discover they've got little to show for it all besides more free-trade agreements, more bank deregulation, and a different prison spree.” p. 229