Blog Credo

The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.

H.L. Mencken

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

The New New Left

Matthew Yglesias chronicles the somewhat surprising rise of left wing politics in the English speaking world.  While he offers the obligatory "Sanders probably won't win" the fact is that it is no longer possible to argue that Sanders CAN'T win.

He notes that a lot of this is about generational change.  If you were of age in the '60s and '70s, your view towards social change and economic leftism, is probably pretty bleak.  You became Alex Keaton in the '80s and cheered on Reagan and Thatcher.

Arthur Schlesinger argued that American history works in cycles of reform movements and conservatism.  From 1932-1980, America was broadly in a period of reform.  Even Nixon didn't stand in the way of ascendant liberalism on issues like the environment or wage and price controls.

But the if the period from 1980-2008 was a period of conservative retrenchment, the question remains whether Americans are ready to fully embrace a reform agenda.  The rise of Sanders and Trump don't have much in common, beyond a certain jaundiced view of party apparatchiks by the activist bases of both parties.

And even if Sanders or Trump or Carson wins the nomination, is it possible that any of them can win a national election?

When it comes to Sanders the question becomes: Is he a figure like James Weaver or even William Jennings Bryan?  Is he a John the Baptist figure signalling the advent of a new age?  Or is he a figure like Teddy Roosevelt who can vault from relative obscurity to the White House in a few short years and usher in a new era of reform?

Stay tuned.

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