Thursday, August 20, 2020

My Latest: The Case for a New Liberal Nationalism

As I noted in my Wall Street Journal article, even if Biden wins and wins big, it will still be challenging to keep the Biden coalition together. To weld that coalition together and keep it together, Democrats will need a unifying vision and project that differs from what the left currently has on offer. Here is such a vision and project--the Next Frontier--outlined by myself and my friend and colleague Peter Juul in the new issue of the excellent heterodox journal, American Affairs (subscribe!; it's will worth it)

"When labor and civil rights leaders A. Philip Randolph and Bayard Rustin put forward their ambitious Freedom Budget for All Americans in 1966, they couched their political argument in the powerful idiom of liberal nationalism. “For better or worse,” Randolph avowed in his introduction, “We are one nation and one people.” The Freedom Budget, he went on, constituted “a challenge to the best traditions and possibilities of America” and “a call to all those who have grown weary of slogans and gestures to rededicate themselves to the cause of social reconstruction.” It was also, he added, “a plea to men of good will to give tangible substance to long-proclaimed ideals.”

To the detriment of the nation as a whole, the Democratic Party and left-wing political elites abandoned the successful and compelling idiom of liberal nationalism espoused by the likes of Randolph and Rustin, as well as by political leaders like Franklin D. Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, and Hubert H. Humphrey. Instead, party and intellec­tual elites have retreated into an ideological hall of mirrors that has left them adrift at a critical time in the nation’s his­tory. They lack the political language required to move the United States beyond the rolling crisis it finds itself in as it barrels toward the 2020 presidential election.

Indeed, given current trends, it’s very possible, if not likely, that Democrats will win the White House this November (though the picture on the Senate is less clear). If former vice president Joe Biden proves victorious, he will assume the leadership of a deeply divided nation in desperate need of renewal and reconstruction—but likely without the sense of national unity or the broad political coalition such an effort demands. Focused on the short-term demands of win­ning a presidential campaign against an unscrupulous rival candidate amid bitter national divisions, Democrats will find themselves unpre­pared for the scope and difficulty of the task that will confront them in January 2021 if they hold fast to their current course.

Right now, Democrats do not have a vision adequate to the de­mands of the present moment, much less the future. While the coronavirus crisis has laid bare the incompetence of the Trump administration and the failings of conservative ideology, it has also magnified the inadequacy of the two newly fashionable streams of progressive politics on offer in recent years: left-wing multiculturalism and democratic socialism. Neither approach can unite a strong majority of the American people together in a shared project to re­build the nation after both the Trump presidency and the coronavirus. Such a project would require a sense of common purpose driven by a politics that speaks to all Americans and embraces the best of the nation’s potential, not its rejection in favor of ideological projects that pit Americans against one another."

AMERICANAFFAIRSJOURNAL.ORG
When labor and civil rights leaders A. Philip Randolph and Bayard Rustin put forward their ambitious Freedom Budget for All Americans in 1966, they couched their political argument in the powerful idiom of liberal nationalism. “For better or worse,” Randolph avowed in his introduction, “We are...

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