In the Arena

Gentry Liberalism?

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This LA Times piece, by two people I respect–one of whom, Fred Siegel, is a good friend of mine–is pretty far off the mark. It describes Democratic candidates of the recent past, but not the current campaign.

For one thing, all of the Democrats are far more populist than they’ve been in the past. They’ve turned against free trade (a bad move, I think) and turned toward bolstering the social safety net (a good move). Kotkin and Siegel note that 77% of hedge fund managers favor the Democratic Party, but 100% of the leading Democratic candidates this year favor taxing the profits of hedge fund managers as regular income (not at the 15% capital gains rate). The authors make no mention of universal health insurance, which is hardly a gentry issue–but is the number one priority for each of the candidates running.

As for the environment–yes, it was a gentry issue in the past (and proof that gentry priorities–fiscial discipline is another–aren’t necessarily bad things). But this time, the candidates are framing it, appropriately, as a potential source of new jobs and as a national security matter. Kotkin and Siegel say the technology isn’t ready for the array of “green collar” jobs promised by Democrats, which just isn’t true: the bulk of those jobs, at first, will come in the area of conservation–retrofitting insulation etc etc…And the foreign and national security policy issues that have often separated the Party from the working class in the past are rapidly fading into the mist, as Iraq–for the moment–calms.

In sum, the Party that Kotkin and Siegel describe doesn’t even vaguely reflect the Party I’ve seen out here on the campaign trail this year. And now it’s off to Fort Dodge, with John Edwards…