James Poulos and Rod Dreher think I'm misreading Matt Taibbi's cri de coeur about the lameness of liberalism, and maybe I am. I think they're misreading the contemporary American left, though, if they think there's any kind of significant fusionism waiting to happen between disillusioned lefties and the anti-Bush Right. Sure, on the margins you can find some left-wingers "experiencing the [same] sort of nauseous reappraisal of Democratic orthodoxy as certain young conservatives are concerning post-Bush Republican orthodoxy," as Poulos puts it. But most of the smart young lefties I know aren't interested in some grand convergence with disillusioned populist-conservatives; they're interested in harnessing the kind of "office-park populism" that gave us Jim Webb and Sherrod Brown and Jon Tester in order to dramatically expand social democracy in the United States. For some, this means a return the old-time religion (a higher minimum wage, strong unions, government jobs programs, etc.); for others, it means a smarter, more growth-friendly form of social democracy (think Denmark, rather than France); for most, it means some combination thereof. But the overall model is still bigger government plus cultural permissiveness, not some kind of "small is beautiful" left-conservatism out to defend the permanent things against the ravages of modernity.
The left's vision of an expanded welfare state as both the answer to populist anxieties and the guardian of social liberalism is a perfectly coherent worldview, and it's one that I think has a good chance of accomplishing many of its objectives over the next few decades. (When I say that things are going well for liberals right now, that's what I mean - not just the Dems might trounce the GOP in '08, but that the overall political climate is as favorable to social democracy as it's been in thirty years.) But it's not the kind of worldview that's likely to want, or need, an alliance with the partisans of crunchy conservatism and putting Kansas First. Rod Dreher would find things to like about a more Europeanized United States - there'd be more concern about the environment; more vacation days for working parents; lots of anti-consumerist rhetoric floating around; and so forth. But it would be a defeat, not a victory, for his side of things, and all the failings of the contemporary Republican Party shouldn't convince anyone otherwise.
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