In 1948 Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr.’s wrote a book, "The Vital Center." Schlesinger was a liberal product of Harvard University and quite unlike a then traditional Democrat like President Harry S Truman whose support came from the basic interests of the returning middle and working class veterans of World War II.
Schlesinger represented a type of liberalism with an agenda different than than that of the old-style Democrats who represented the interests and values of many in the middle class. The old-style Democrats invented social security and favored social and economic mobility, strong protection for unions, funding of a national highway system, the development of viable public schools and a strong foreign policy.
Today’s liberalism has moved greatly to the left and has a much different agenda. It represents the interests and values of the wealthy believers in globalization living in neighborhoods and luxurious suburbs in and around New York, Washington, Boston, San Francisco and Los Angeles.
To our country’s serious misfortune, the Schlesinger-type of liberalism has taken over the Democrat party. Support for Republicans and their brand of conservatism seems to be decreasing among independent voters and even among those making a good living.
While the number of industrial workers and traditional middle-class households has declined, the number of the affluent class have grown. The number of millionaires in the U.S. rose 26% from 2000 to 2005 and families with incomes of more than $100,000 a year grew 54% from 1994 to 2004, according to Ogilvy & Mather demographer Peter Francese.
Although many of the newly affluent continue to be politically conservative, surveys by the Pew Research Center indicate an increasing number are accepting the new Democrat agenda. These surveys indicate families with annual incomes greater than $135,000 — the nation’s top 10% — are moving toward the Democrats. In 1995, there were nearly twice as many Republicans (46%) as Democrats (25%) in this category; today there are as many Democrats (31%) as Republicans (32%).
The result is that the majority of the nation’s wealthiest congressional districts is in the hands of Democrats , according to Michael Franc of the Heritage Foundation. This change contributed to the Democratic gains in the 2006 elections because affluent districts once held by the Republicans switched to Democrats. Iowa is one example, the three wealthiest districts elected Democrats whereas the two poorest elected Republican.
Another indication of the growing political power of the new wealthy liberals is the ability to generate huge campaign contributions from Wall Street, Hollywood and the Silicon Valley. This year’s Democratic presidential candidates have raised 70% more money than GOP contenders. According to the Wall Street Journal, the securities industry, which gave Republicans 58% of their campaign dollars in 1956, gave the GOP only 45% in 2006 and hedge fund managers are giving 77% of their contributions to Democrats in congressional races.
In 1948 Schlesinger belittled the then-largely Republican business class and mainstream Democratic politicians like Truman because he thought they foolishly appealed to the working-class. Schlesinger believed that government should be in the hands of "an intelligent aristocracy" (people like himself) whose governance would be guided by what he considered enlightened policy rather than class interests.
Since the 1960s, the intellectual class exemplified by Schlesinger has grown many times over. Academic liberals have become something of a political power in their own right. Im the 2004 election, college academia constituted a large base of contributors to the presidential campaign of Sen. John Kerry. Professors are among the highly compensated and professionals, which include lawyers, engineers, doctors, wealth managers and investors, who have become the “intelligent aristocracy” supporting liberal Democrats.
The internet websites like MoveOn.org are signicicantly funded by affluent liberals (George Soros comes to mind). These and other sites generally focus on foreign policy, gay rights, abortion and other social issues, as well as the environment; traditional middle-class concerns are generally ignored. There is also considerable emphasis on issues such as global warming and the environment which are seen as products of the American ‘good life’, while ignoring the wealthy’s contribution to the perceived problems from use of their private jets or 20,000-square-foot vacation homes that emit large amounts of carbon dioxide. To ‘repent’ for these sins they purchase of carbon "offsets," parcels of rain forests, hybrid vehicles or solar panels.
The liberal crusade to tighten U.S. environmental regulations to purportedly slow global warming will end up hurting the middle and working-class but this is not important to the Schlesinger-styled ‘new Democrats’. Insistance on replacing carbon-based energy sources and an aggressive anti-carbon regime will shift manufacturing and energy-reliant jobs to countries with weak environmental laws and regulations – to the detriment of the working class. Ignoring these ‘environmental’ costs will not only result in shifting the geography of greenhouse gas emissions without slowing or even affecting global warming; it will be at a terrible cost to jobs in the U.S. and to our economy and lifestyle.
The evolution of the new liberalism goes unchallenged because Republicans do not address middle-class aspirations and do not remind us all that we have the best chance to improve our lives by adopting conservative principles of self reliance while avoiding the immediate gratification advocated by those who would surrender control to the government. Democrats are unlikely to stop or reverse the current economic trend that dispenses major benefits to their voting base.
In the past 50 years liberals have moved from strong support for basic middle-class concerns to policies that reflect the concerns and prejudices of elite interests. Unfortunately, Republicans have not filled the void because they seem to believe that they have to follow in the footsteps of the liberals and ignore the conservative principles they once stood for.
The United States of America deserves better than that.