About a year ago I published an American Compass essay on “The Five Deadly Sins of the Left.” In that essay, I addressed the surprising fact that the left has not performed as well as one might expect, given the poor performance of free-market capitalism in the 21st century. Even the financial crisis of 2008–09 did not spur any real realignment of voters toward the left. Nor have—so far—the twin economic and health crises brought on by the COVID pandemic. What has gone wrong?
A year ago, I put forward a simple theory. The public just isn’t interested in buying what the left is selling. No matter how loudly the left hawks its wares or how heroically it organizes, it will not succeed. The left’s internal diagnoses lead it to believe that, in picking up the pieces from this global debacle, it can finally gain the elusive majority support it needs. But, I argued, durable mass support for the left will not emerge unless and until it radically revamps its offering, abandoning the unhealthy and unpopular obsessions that consume its attention and distract from actual solutions. In particular, it must find the strength to overcome its five deadly sins: identity politics; retro-socialism; catastrophism; growthphobia; and technopessimism.
So, how is the left doing today? In the year since my essay was published, Joe Biden managed to wrest the presidency from Donald Trump, albeit in a closer election than anticipated and with unexpected losses in the House and state legislatures. Yet despite considerable legislative accomplishments, Biden’s approval rating has sunk to a very unimpressive average of 43%. Democrats appear headed for a drubbing in the 2022 elections where they will possibly lose both the House and the Senate. Meanwhile, the Democratic party’s ratings on many key issues are seriously lagging the GOP’s, and its brand appears to be in serious trouble in broad swaths of the country. While there are many reasons for this gloomy outlook, the five deadly sins I described a year ago provide a useful lens through which to evaluate the left’s quest for a durable electoral coalition.....
The year since I wrote the original essay on the Five Deadly Sins of the Left has not resulted in a sea change in the left’s attitudes embodied in these five sins. Instead, they seem just as or more entrenched than they were. This augurs a future where working class voters continue to drift away from the Left, while highly educated elites increasingly define the left’s profile. The economist Thomas Piketty has referred to this development as the rise of the “Brahmin Left.” For the Brahmin Left, the five deadly sins are virtues, since this is what the enlightened among them believe. But for the working class, as well as less ideological upscale voters, these ideas make the left less attractive.
There is still an opening for a left that promotes universal values, a better model of capitalism, practical problem-solving on climate change, and an economy that delivers abundance for all. But the hour may be getting late. The left needs, without delay, to reject the five deadly sins and embark on a program of de-Brahminization. If they fail to do so, the left is likely to continue to decline in popularity.
Read the whole thing at American Compass!
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