June 4, 2017

JOEL KOTKIN ON THE COMING DEMOCRATIC CIVIL WAR:

The two most remarkable campaigns of 2016 — those of Trump and Bernie Sanders — were driven by different faces of populist resentment. Yet, increasingly, the Democrats’ populist pretensions conflict with their alliance with ascendant “sovereigns of cyberspace,” whose power and wealth have waxed to almost absurd heights. Other parts of their upscale coalition include the media, academia and the upper bureaucracy.

This affluent base can embrace the progressives’ social agenda — meeting the demands of feminists, gays and minority activists. But they are less enthusiastic about the social democratic income redistribution proposed by Bernie Sanders, who is now, by some measurements, the nation’s most popular political figure. This new putative ruling class, notes author Michael Lind, sees its rise, and the decline of the rest, not as a reflection of social inequity, but rather their meritocratic virtue. Only racism, homophobia or misogyny — in other words, the sins of the “deplorables” — matter.

The Washington Post, owned by Jeff Bezos, the world’s third-richest man, reflects this socially liberal, but oligopolistic, worldview. Last spring, Bezos worked assiduously to undermine Sanders’ campaign, then promoted Clinton, and now has become a leading voice in the anti-Trump “resistance.” The gentry wing of the party, which dominates fundraising and media, as the opposition to Sanders reveals, likes its money. The tech community is famously adept at avoiding taxes.

How long can this odd pairing of socialism and oligopoly persist? There are growing sentiments on the left to begin confiscating some of the massive wealth of the tech firms. Bank of America’s Michael Harnett recently warned that continued growth of stock market wealth in a handful of tech stocks “could ultimately lead to populist calls for redistribution of the increasingly concentrated wealth of Silicon Valley.”

And note this related bit of irony from veteran left-leaning journalist Thomas Edsall, who discovers that too many wealthy leftists can be very bad for their own income distribution schemes. Or as Ace of Spades quips, linking to a new column by Michael Barone, “Who’s Standing in the Way of the Economic Left’s Dreams of Redistribution of Wealth…? The Affluent Social Left, Which Doesn’t Want to Share Their Money With the Riff-Raff:”

Thomas Edsall, the longtime Washington Post reporter now writing on his New York Times blog, laments the increasing tendency of high-income Americans to vote Democratic. That leaves the Democrats with an increasingly affluent constituency, presumably unwilling (or less willing than others) to support redistributive policies like Bernie Sanders’s proposal for higher tax rates on the affluent.

“In the past,” Edsall writes, “Democrats could support progressive, redistributive policies knowing that the costs would fall largely on Republicans. That is no longer the case. Now supporting these policies requires the party to depend on the altruistic idealism of millions of supporters who, despite being relatively well off, often feel financially pressed themselves.”

Kotkin concludes that “Trump, by his incoherence and incompetence, has opened the door to the Democrats. But the passage to redemption may prove more difficult if the party fails, as Hillary Clinton and the Democratic congressional delegation showed last year, to relate to the broad ranks of the citizenry.”

It will be interesting to see the left try and reconcile that with their concurrent goal of aiming towards ideological purity by casting off not just those Americans whom they declared “Deplorable,” but all Republicans.

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