Republicans and the end of hard neoliberalism

by John Quiggin on April 26, 2021

As I argued recently, the decline of soft neoliberalism in the US Democratic Party can be explained largely in terms of generational replacement. What about hard neoliberalism and the Republican Party?

After four years of the Trump Administration, and a few months of post-election madness, the Republican Party has completed a transition that has been going on for decades. In the 1980s and 1990s, the Republicans were a hard neoliberal party, spending most of their policy effort on tax cuts and deregulation, and using white grievance politics to attract votes. Now the situation is reversed. The Republicans are a white grievance party, whose targets include ‘woke corporations’, However, they still attempt to attract support from corporations by advocating tax cuts. While any pretence of principled aversion to regulation has been abandoned, crony capitalist exemptions from regulation are still on offer if the price is right

The core claim of hard neoliberalism was that a free market economy with a modest ‘safety net’ could do a better job of delivering broad prosperity than the welfare state built on the New Deal and Keynesian economics. The optimism of this message, reflected in Reagan’s ‘Morning in America’ turned into triumphalism with the end of the Cold War.

Hard neoliberals supported globalisation, and cheered on the idea that borderless capital would bring governments under control, and put an end to budget deficits. In particular, Republicans supported trade deals like NAFTA https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/fact-checker/wp/2016/05/09/history-lesson-more-republicans-than-democrats-supported-nafta/

The high point of hard neoliberalism was the 1994 Contract with America, the slogan under which the Republicans gained control of Congress for the first time since 1952. The Contract called for balanced budgets and reduced welfare spending for single-parent families, but also proposed positive measures including an expanded child tax credit.

The commitment to balanced budgets was the first element of hard neoliberalism to be ditched. Responding to the collapse of the dotcom boom, the Bush Administration introduced large, and effectively permanent (fn: the most regressive elements were allowed to expire under Obama) tax cuts. These cuts, along with massive expenditure on the ‘forever wars’ that began after the 2001 terror attacks, pushed the government budget from the surplus that had been achieved under the Clinton Administration into permanent deficit.

For a brief period, the ‘Tea Party’ revolt against the Obama Administration appeared as a reversion to hard neoliberalism, with a non-partisan focus on sound finance. In reality, the Tea Party was a mixture of Republican activists and grifters who used its appeal to solicit donations, largely used to fund well-paid jobs for themselves. Both groups have been prominent among the support base for Donald Trump.

By the time the Republicans turned to Trump, grievance politics were already dominant. Trump discarded long held beliefs about free trade and the need for government to stay out of business. But even during Trump’s Presidency, Congressional Republicans held on to a few elements of the old mixture, such as corporate tax cuts and pro-corporate changes to regulation. It is only in the aftermath of Trump’s attempt to overturn the 2020 election that the alliance between Republicans and big business has been broken.

On the one hand, corporations regularly run afoul of grievance politics, by taking initiatives seen as ‘woke’. On the other hand, the threat posed to constitutional government by the Republican party is now so obvious as to arouse corporate resistance. Corporations with a long-term view of their prospects correctly prefer to risk higher tax rates than to operate in a Trumpist banana republic.

A puzzle remains. On the one hand, as we have seen, Trumpism is the culmination of trends going back many decades. On the other hand, today’s far right Republican party is clearly different in kind from the party that nominated moderate globalist Mitt Romney for the presidency in 2012

One useful metaphor for this process is that of a phase transition, such as from liquid to gas, or dissolved solid to crystal) in physics and chemistry.

To develop the metaphor, think of the Eisenhower-era Republican party as a complicated mixture of many dissolved ingredients, in which the dominant element was the business establishment, and the Trump era party as a crystallised mass of plutocratic economics, racism and all-round craziness. The development over the 60 years between the two has consisted of keeping the mixture simmering, while adding more and more appeals to racial animus and magical thinking (supply-side economics, climate denial, the Iraq war and so on). In this process various elements of the original mix have boiled off or precipitated out and discarded as dregs.

Boiling off is the process by which various groups (Blacks and Northeastern liberal Republicans in C20, liberaltarians more recently) have left the Republican coalition in response to its racism and know-nothingism. The dregs that have precipitated out are ideas that were supposed to be important to Republicans (free trade, scientific truth, classical liberalism, moral character and so on) that turned out not to matter at all.

Trump’s arrival is the catalyst seed crystal that produces the phase change. The final product of the reaction emerges in its crystallised form.

{ 47 comments }

1

Sashas 04.26.21 at 4:14 am

Eisenhower was president from 1953-1961. The Great Realignment Republican–>Democrat happened in the 1930s under Roosevelt, and the Southern Strategy that eventually switched the South from Democrat–>Republican and laid out the current US political alignment happened either in 1964 with Goldwater or 1968 with Nixon, in either case after Eisenhower. I’m not sure how reliable the date I have for the first half of this political realignment is (I admit I got it from Wikipedia), but I’m pretty confident of the second half being post-Eisenhower. As a result, I raise my eyebrows quite a bit when I hear about a transition directly from an Eisenhower-era Republican Party to a Trump-era Republican Party. What about the intervening Republican presidents?

In short, I actually agree with this being a direct transition, but I’d argue that the “Trump-era” Republican Party starts with Nixon and hasn’t stopped since. They made a conscious decision, whose evidence we can see in macro voting patterns and in their correspondence, to incorporate White Grievance into their coalition. I’m unable to find a position on which the Republican Party has changed on a coalition-building level since.

The OP is making the case for Free Markets being such a thing, and I think it’s the topic for which the strongest case can be made, but I don’t buy it. Republican administrations since Nixon have supported cronyism, military adventures in support of their favored companies, suppression of specific industries (e.g. solar), subsidizing others (e.g. fossil fuels and pharmaceuticals). I’m not an economist, but I suspect that if we zoom in we’d find more cases of Republican administrations intervening against Free Markets than to protect them on the level of individual companies too. When Republicans say Free Markets, they mean Deregulation and Low Taxes on the Rich, both of which notably continued under Trump. Romney, for comparison, would probably also have supported Deregulation and Low Taxes on the Rich, but Eisenhower didn’t.

2

DCA 04.26.21 at 5:07 am

I think you overstate the extent of corporate separation from the current Republican party. Corporations that are trying to sell to the public at large (Coke, Delta) have to embrace majority trends in society or lose customers. But (say) Koch Industries only has to sell to a much more limited pool of people, many of whom probably are also upset by “woke” turns. Texas oilmen sell to refiners, and so on–so many companies have little to lose by being just as nativist, etc, as Trumpist politicians. Many heads of companies probably don’t worry about climate change, because it isn’t happening–and many also no doubt hope and expect to thrive just as well, maybe better, in a Trumpist setting via some well-placed “donations”. And they’d all like lower taxes and fewer of those pesky regulations–not something the Democrats will ever offer.

I completely agree with your chemical metaphor.

3

John Quiggin 04.26.21 at 5:49 am

Sashas @1 None of this was ever pure. But the transition was far from complete under Nixon. Still plenty of Eisenhower and Goldwater Republicans (actually I need to say a bit more about Goldwater), and culture wars a subordinate theme.

DCA @2 The big distinction is between widely held global corporations with large skilled workforces and national crony capitalists (typically individual or family) like the Kochs, Mercers and Trump himself . I’ll try to spell this out a bit more.

4

Brian 04.26.21 at 6:47 am

Working in the Midwest and Idaho I think there is a large group of jumping voters. I called the 2016 election for Trump after staying in multiple AirBnBs with people who voted Obama twice and were voting for Trump. Same reason – hope for change.

The past few years I was surrounded by Trump voters, some still good friends. They aren’t conspiracy dingbats. They also liked Yang. They radically dislike the democrats corruption and warmongering. It’s the religious who sign up to fight those wars and their children coming home in body bags.

The real issue is no choice, nobody except liars, and politicians on the take.

Don’t kid yourself, John. The current white house occupants are a senile old warmonger whose drug addict son has him wrapped around his finger, and the one primary candidate who resoundingly lost.

Those two, foisted on the nation by DNC oligarchs, nearly lost! They came within a hair of losing to an uncouth, marginally literate clown. Ignore the electoral college. Look at the margins in states that won.. this is no victory, no mandate, nor is it stable. This pack of Same old drivelers in both parties is busy shoving the same garbage that created Trump’s victory.

If you think that the Republicans media machine is unhinged, read Matt Taibbi on Russiagate’s lies. How much more unhinged is it for the Democrats media (Rachel Maddow and co) to attack and provoke a nuclear super power into creating new weapons and reinstating MAD.

5

ArtSrc 04.26.21 at 7:09 am

Here is my evidence that Right Wing science denial is older than Trump:

https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-1986-01-10-me-911-story.html

6

Phil 04.26.21 at 8:29 am

I think I’d want to go back further than Sashas. Researching an article on Helen Keller a while back, I discovered to my surprise not only that Ms Keller was a Wob (in the Debs/Wobbly intersect to be precise) but that she was funded by Andrew Carnegie – and that the GOP of her day was, as well as a party of bankers and strikebreakers, a party of East Coast pencil-necked liberals with fingers in every progressive cause going (excepting the cause of labour, for obvious reasons).

All this was in the period prior to the US joining the Great War – which is what we historians refer to as a hell of a long time ago – and the Dems have also gone through a change or two in the same period. (Well, one big one.) Still, I wonder if the story of the GOP could be told as a series of these transitions – from plutocrat/business/liberal to plutocrat/business/conservative to plutocrat/business/conservative/racist to today’s hard core plutocrat/racist – with the only constant being the presence of people with the kind of money that can endow libraries around the world, or do less useful things.

7

MFB 04.26.21 at 10:06 am

Wouldn’t it be nice to wait and see if there has actually been an end to hard neoliberalism (or, indeed, a leftward shift in the Democratic Party) before making confident and information-free declarations about such matters? As far as I can make out there is essentially no current plan to make any substantive changes in the U.S. economic system arising out of the Democratic Party, and no sign of any substantive shift in the Republican Party’s positions.

It is always comforting to believe that such things are true. Liberals, however, have been fooled before, over and over, by the Democratic Party. Naturally politicians attempt to say some nice things, which are then fed back to the appropriate demographics by compliant media houses which have their own agendas and which know that their audience know no alternatives.

As Mr. Fenton put it:

Listen to what they did.
Don’t listen to what they said.
What was written in blood
Has been set up in lead.

Lead tears the heart.
Lead tears the brain.
What was written in blood
Has been set up again.

The heart is a drum.
The drum has a snare.
The snare is in the blood.
The blood is in the air.

Listen to what they did.
Listen to what’s to come.
Listen to the blood.
Listen to the drum.

8

MisterMr 04.26.21 at 1:04 pm

I think that the real backbone of conservative parties is small business, more than big corporations. It certainly is so here in Italy (where however we have a much larger share of small business to big business relative to the USA), but I wonder if this is a common phenomenon.

I think that the clash between big business and small business is a big part of the apparent change in right wing parties.

9

J-D 04.26.21 at 1:20 pm

I called the 2016 election for Trump after staying in multiple AirBnBs …

Is that the way to find out the truth, staying in multiple AirBnBs? If so, I’m condemned to never finding out the truth, because I’m not going to be staying in multiple AirBnBs. What bad luck for me, if that’s really how it works.

They radically dislike the democrats corruption and warmongering.

But they don’t have the same dislike for Republican corruption and warmongering, is that what you’re saying? But why would that be?

The real issue is no choice …

If somebody says ‘I voted for Trump over Clinton because there’s no choice’ or ‘I voted for Trump over Biden because there’s no choice’, that makes no sense. Voting for Trump over Clinton or for Trump over Biden is, by definition, a choice. (If somebody says ‘I didn’t vote because there’s no choice’, it’s a different case.)

If you think that the Republicans media machine is unhinged, read Matt Taibbi …

Why? Is he unhinged?

10

Gorgonzola Petrovna 04.26.21 at 3:43 pm

@1 “…and Low Taxes on the Rich, both of which notably continued under Trump.”

Ever heard about the infamous SALT cap? Check out the above-mentioned Matt Taibbi @substack.com.

11

Tm 04.26.21 at 4:44 pm

JQ: “After four years of the Trump Administration, and a few months of post-election madness, the Republican Party has completed a transition that has been going on for decades. In the 1980s and 1990s, the Republicans were a hard neoliberal party, spending most of their policy effort on tax cuts and deregulation. Now the situation is reversed.”

I suggest you read that snippet again (in isolation), and try to make sense of it. I can’t. What has been reversed? Is there a missing step in your argument? “Tax cuts and deregulation” is a concise description of Trump administration policies, and there is no indication whatsoever that the post-Trump GOP will be any different. And the Culture War has been a staple of right wing politics in the US for decades. So what do you mean by reversal?

12

rogergathmann 04.26.21 at 4:45 pm

#4, This is beautiful. “The current white house occupants are a senile old warmonger whose drug addict son has him wrapped around his finger…” And it is heartfelt. But it lacks something. Some little, oh, I don’t know, nugget. I’d suggest: a pizza parlor pedophile palace headed by corrupt Hilary Clinton! I think that will round out that wonderful bit of political analysis.

13

Tom 04.26.21 at 7:13 pm

John, have you read Before the Storm (2001) by Rick Perlstein? You may find it useful for the Goldwater years.

I have also similar issues with the claim of Republicans being free marketeers. Yes, obviously, they (used to) say that they are pro-market but they rarely walk the talk. E.g.: Reagan increased the budget deficit; Trump-like concerns for the trade deficit (with Japan at the time) and currency manipulation spurred the 1985 Plaza Accord; even when they are in favor of lower taxes, they rarely care about how this may distort incentives (e.g. no sales tax on goods purchased on Internet are a subsidy to Bezos), they just (claim that they) want to starve the beast; Casey Mulligan advised Trump and according to him Trump is the greatest deregulator ever; and “freedom” is always a loaded term, e.g. they are against immigration which is just the freedom of one factor of production (labor) to freely move across countries. So, yeah, the libertarians who have (mainly in the past but some also now) supported Republicans are hard neoliberals free marketeers but most Republican rarely fit that description.

More general question (no need to answer, obviously, just for your thoughts): what is the role of this intellectual history section in your book? It seems you are forced to make some generalizations that some may object to, even though it is not clear to me how essential they are to your main thesis.

14

jwl 04.26.21 at 7:17 pm

I don’t completely understand the phase transition metaphor, and think a more rigorous statement of the specific phase transition you are talking about might aid your use of the metaphor.

So, the Eisenhower Republican party is a diverse chemical mixture of dissolved solids, kept in a liquid/dynamic state by applied heat. Over time, some portion of the mixture has boiled away and other parts have settled to the bottom and precipitated out of the mixture. In principle, this is in a metastatic equilibrium, but over time significant amounts of one of the dissolved solids have been added, and we have now had a phase transition, where the mixture crystallizes into a hard mass. Is that the argument?

If so, then what are the various elements of the metaphor?
Dissolved elements: business community, nativism, cultural conservatives, religious conservatives?
High temperature: Soviet Union/fear of communism, tripartite stool of tax cuts/laissez faire, miltarism/patriotism, religious/cultural conservatism?
Added solid: nativism/populism/anti-immigration (us not them)?
Boiled off: liberals, rootless cosmopolitans, Black entrepeneurs/talented tenth?

As a descriptive statement, this has some power. But do we actually know that nativism is the primary element that has been added over time to the exclusion of other elements? For example, Nixon was pro-environment, pro-health care. Tax cuts to the exclusion of all else seem more recent, as in they rose and then fell, peaking in the 90s. One through line is deep corruption, grift, and criminality that Nixon and other Republican presidents have exhibited. It’s rather remarkable to compare the indictments of Republican presidential administrations to Democratic ones over the last 40 years.

15

Barry 04.26.21 at 7:47 pm

Brian: “The past few years I was surrounded by Trump voters, some still good friends. They aren’t conspiracy dingbats. They also liked Yang. They radically dislike the democrats corruption and warmongering. It’s the religious who sign up to fight those wars and their children coming home in body bags.”

It’s the religious right who loved them some o’ dat war. It’s the religious right who loves corruption, especially in their leaders.

16

PatinIowa 04.26.21 at 9:46 pm

I’d bet a chunk of cash that a thorough reading of the first fifteen years of National Review will show that the victimology/culture war dimension to Eisenhower and Goldwater Republican and especially movement Conservative discourse is far more prevalent than reasonable centrists like to admit.

I’m convinced that Black Republicans like Jackie Robinson saw it first.

Don’t forget that Bill Buckley endorsed the practice of lynching.

17

J-D 04.26.21 at 10:42 pm

Wouldn’t it be nice to wait and see if there has actually been … a leftward shift in the Democratic Party …? As far as I can make out there is essentially no current plan to make any substantive changes in the U.S. economic system …

John Quiggin did assert that the Democratic Party has shifted leftward but did not assert that the Democratic Party now has plans to change the US economic system. There is no contradiction between saying ‘The Democratic Party has shifted leftward’ and saying ‘The Democratic Party has no plans to change the US economic system’.

18

DCA 04.27.21 at 1:13 am

If you go back to the 60’s and before, the Republican mantra for government funding was not “low taxes above all” but “balanced budgets above all”–with a secondary preference for low taxes and hence smaller government (or the other way around). Remember, Reagan raised taxes while governor of California (which admittedly has to balance its budget).
For about 90 years (1860-1950) white supremacy was very much something within the
Democratic party, though geographically limited. That was the party’s conservative wing.
The first break away from this was the Dixiecrats in 1948.

19

nastywoman 04.27.21 at 1:14 am

Okay – Dudes! –
so I cradle around Coral Gables – or actually more north a bit outside of the protecting gates of wealthy Coral – and there is this house with all these HUUGE Trump signs around the house –
BUT! –
there is a car in the driveway which just looks like a ‘beautiful’ 56 Porsche Speedster in the -(without tires)
flanked by some HUUUGE Trucks – and a few HUUUGE dudes are standing around a open hood and seem to discuss – what might be wrong with the motor inside?

And I say:
I want to buy this car -(the Speedster)
and the huuugest dude laughs and says –
I just put a Subaru Engine in it – AND I will put HUUUGE wheels on it.

And I say:
OOOH my god that’s a crime! –
and the HUUGE Dude –
(let us call him ”Brian” like the ”Brian”@4)
laughs again and says jokingly – it’s kit car it’s not an original, dummy!
And I laugh – and say: You got me there!
and he looks at me and says:
‘Don’t kid yourself, The current white house occupants are a senile old warmonger whose drug addict son has him wrapped around his finger…’

AHHH!
Fooled you guys – as he never said that – BUT if my ‘Brian’ would read what y’all writing here – he probably would tell you guys that the Republican Party is just –
a ”Fake Kit Car with far too HUUUGE wheels” –
or in other words all these funny ”political labels” –
just DO NOT apply anymore!

It is just ‘BEAUTIFUL” (Trump) – whatever names y’all want to give it!
As thinking about it?
WHY NOT call it ”Subaru” instead of ”Neoliberal”?
If the motor fits into the tiny butt of a 56 Speedster –

Just go ahead – guys!

20

LFC 04.27.21 at 1:16 am

Perhaps relevant to a couple of the above comments is an excerpt from a blog post I wrote in 2016, when I was reading Perlstein’s Before the Storm (which I didn’t finish):

One thing (among others) that comes through clearly in the first 50 pp. or so of the book is the extent to which the emergent or reconstituting U.S. Right in the ’50s and early ’60s found a key constituency in family-owned and/or privately-held manufacturing and other businesses… Indeed Perlstein opens the first chapter with a sketch of the political views and trajectory of one such (hypothetical) businessman. Here’s one actual example of many: In ’59, on the eve of Khrushchev’s visit to the U.S., we’re told that “Milwaukee’s Allen-Bradley Company bought a full page in the Wall Street Journal: ‘To Khrushchev, “Peace and Friendship” means the total enslavement of all nations, of all peoples, of all things, under the God-denying Communist conspiracy of which he is the current Czar…. Don’t let it happen here!'” (p.52) Pretty clearly only a family-run or closely-held business would have felt able to spring for this kind of full-page ad in the WSJ — a big publicly-traded company presumably would not have done this sort of thing, even if some of its executives might have shared the same views. (I use the word “presumably” because I’m not sure that this speculation is correct, but it seems fairly logical.)

21

nastywoman 04.27.21 at 1:21 am

and if anybody wants to know how truly craaaazy it really has gotten –

My US autocorrect changed my ”radel” -(which is the short expression of the German ”Radfahren” = bicycle-riding – into ”cradle”)
NO wonder nobody knows anymore what or where the US American Republican Party is?

Perhaps it is just –
‘THE Party of the dumbest Racist Idiot Alive’?!

22

AWOL 04.27.21 at 1:34 am

Yes. Robinson was a Rockefeller Republican who left the Republican Party due to his perception that they’d become a racist party after Goldwater was nominated before his eyes at the RNC Convention. (Kahn, R. ‘Into My Own,’ 2006).
I’m utterly shocked your vapid OAN/Fox/Newsmax slanders got by the moderators. Once they allowed a neo-nazi to post his website before I insisted they ditch the psychotic’s post. I give you credit for not linking to anything but your own ignorance. May I suggest you get your rocks off on Redstate or Breitbart? They need you for affirmation of their insanity and hate.

23

J-D 04.27.21 at 2:19 am

Here is my evidence that Right Wing science denial is older than Trump:
https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-1986-01-10-me-911-story.html

From the linked article:

A new report by his own special representative on acid rain, former Transportation Secretary Drew Lewis, should put an end to the President’s dissociation from the facts.

Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha! Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha!

That was really great material! Whoever wrote that should have turned pro.

24

Alan White 04.27.21 at 3:03 am

@4–pitiable ad hominem overlaid with a numerical diversion shell game. Clinton’s loss was electorally slimmer by a margin of about 2-1 by the absolute numbers of shifted votes it would have taken to elect Agent Orange (more accurate ad hominem by skin tone) as against hers. And please–yeah, yeah AO got more votes than any incumbent, but Biden killed it with the most in history by a significant margin. That means disgust by the majority of those voting.

And John, great analogy about the supersaturation of !@#$ ideas that Trump precipitated. Terrific image that really fits.

25

John Quiggin 04.27.21 at 5:41 am

TM @11 Good catch. Some text ” and using white grievance politics to attract votes” got lost in editing. I’ve added it back. See if it makes sense now.

26

Barry 04.27.21 at 11:56 am

John: “For a brief period, the ‘Tea Party’ revolt against the Obama Administration appeared as a reversion to hard neoliberalism, with a non-partisan focus on sound finance. ”

No, they never did, except for people willing to believe. They didn’t have a single problem with abuses under Dubya.

27

Tm 04.27.21 at 1:51 pm

JQ 25, I think I get your point but I wouldn’t call this much of a reversal. An interesting question is at what point Culture War became a (not yet ‘the’) defining feature of the GOP, and how that point is related to the hard neoliberal turn.

Phil 6 describes the transition “from plutocrat/business/liberal to plutocrat/business/conservative to plutocrat/business/conservative/racist to today’s hard core plutocrat/racist” (i. e. fascist I would say).

Fwiw there also is an account that paints the pre-Reaganite GOP as more complex than that, e. g. they weren’t always strictly anti-labor (https://www.nytimes.com/2020/09/06/opinion/labor-unions-republicans.html). It seems to me that one characteristic of the GOP of our time is the strict and in the US context extremely unusual ideological homogeneity, which imho strengthens the case for classifying that party as fascist.

28

AWOL 04.27.21 at 2:10 pm

To clarify, The first part of comment 22 was addressed to PatinIowa.

The last part was for Brian, who is an absurd QAnonesque commentator.

The numbering system dropped out.

29

Howard F. 04.27.21 at 2:14 pm

Perhaps now we can look forward to the demise of the term “soft neoliberalism,” an awkward designation for what used to be called “liberalism” in the US. It had some currency as a term of opprobrium for anyone who was not Bernie Sanders (thus, bros yelling “Neolib bitch!” at Barbara Boxer, one of the farthest left menbers of the Senate). But it never made much sense– the fact that none of these people supported most of the ideas associated with neoliberalism was explained by the “soft” label. If the Democratic Party is shifting to the left, let’s just say so and leave Hayek out of it.

30

Rob Chametzky 04.27.21 at 2:29 pm

A reference that might be of interest:

Heather Cox Richardson’s history of the GOP from 2014, To Make Men Free, has a 2021 edition “with a new epilogue that reflects on the Trump era and what is likely to come after it”. Haven’t myself seen this newer version.

–RC

31

MisterMr 04.27.21 at 4:32 pm

@J-D
”‘The Democratic Party has shifted leftward’ and saying ‘The Democratic Party has no plans to change the US economic system’.”

Since for the last 200 years or so one of the main (if not the main) purpose of the left was to change the economic system in a more egalitarian direction, if that was true I would say that there would be a contradiction (I think the dems or some of them at least still want to change the economic system).

I mean I understand that “the left” is a fuzzy concept, but it seems to me that if you take away economic concerns we are not speaking of the same thing anymore.

32

Omega Centauri 04.27.21 at 4:54 pm

I think MrMister’s point at 8 is underappreciated. Its the small mom and pops that are worried about taxes and regulations. Big corps can hire lawyers, but these little guys are more exposed. Now the R’s are making a big play to all the small business owners -and those that failed, about the impact of public health measures. So they truck in COVID is fakeism, and restrictions are anti-freedom and so on. And especially once COVID is in the rear-view mirror the fear of illness will be forgotten, but the financial hit remains, that may be an easy sell. Never mind the R’s opposed spending money to keep small business afloat, but just made unreasonable appeals to ignoring the pandemic.

33

John Quiggin 04.27.21 at 7:18 pm

MrMister@31 The point you make is the mirror image of the one in the OP. At what point does a change in degree (the Repubs are more focused on white grievance than they used to be) become a change in kind (the Repubs are a white grievance party). IN the case of the Dems, have changes to make the existing system a bit fairer reached the point of changing to a new system. I’d say that’s a long way off.

34

John Quiggin 04.27.21 at 7:19 pm

OC @32 and earlier Not just “small” mom-and-pops. This is also the pattern for big individual capitalists like the Kochs and Mercers.

35

Dr. Hilarius 04.27.21 at 7:58 pm

The right wing in America has a long association with cranky, anti-science tendencies. Kubrick’s 1965 film “Dr. Strangelove” featured Gen. Ripper and his obsession with fluoridation and body fluid purity. The belief that communists were using fluoridated water to sap willpower was outside public discussion by Republican leaders but it was real. Health food fads predated hippies and the New Age. I met more than a few adherents in the late 60s and early 70s who worried about the Rockefellers controlling the food supply for nefarious reasons.

The right wing of earlier times did worship at the altar of engineering and technology for its ability to deliver shiny toys and things that go boom but that did not require either an understanding or respect for science as a methodology. Environmental concerns stoked science opposition as a conscious, rather than crank, policy choice with Rachel Carson as an early target. And let’s not forget the campaign against health concerns and smoking.

I do think creationism was of little concern to the Republican establishment until after the cultivation of Evangelicals as a political force. (Catholics, even very traditional ones, had little concern about evolution.) Funding for the Discovery Institute to promote Intelligent Design really moved creationism into the mainstream of Republican anti-science work. Creationists I’ve met (many over the years) easily accommodate other crank and cult belief systems. Once the doors of Reason are breached, anything can pass.

36

Barry 04.27.21 at 8:06 pm

Omega Centauri: ” Big corps can hire lawyers, but these little guys are more exposed. ”

Those big guys seem to feel the need to spend a lot of money on lobbyists, and far more on campaign contributions.

37

J-D 04.27.21 at 11:15 pm

I may have misunderstood what MFB meant, but my understanding was that MFB was asserting that the Democratic Party is not going to replace the existing US economic system with a new and different economic system.

I may now be misunderstanding what MisterMr means, but my understanding is that MisterMr believes that the Democratic Party wants to make changes (in a leftward direction) within the existing economic system.

There is no contradiction between ‘The Democratic Party is not going to replace the current economic system with a new and different system’ and ‘The Democratic Party is shifting leftward within the current economic system’.

There are some people (I do not know whether MFB is one of them) who believe that it is impossible to shift leftward without replacing the current economic system with a new and different one. They are mistaken.

38

Mark Pontin 04.28.21 at 1:48 am

John Quiggin: “national crony capitalists (typically individual or family) like the Kochs, Mercers and Trump himself .”

You severely underestimate Charles Koch (who is and was the only one of the Koch brothers who counts) by lumping him in with the likes of the Mercers and Trumps.

He scares the cr*p out of me and he should do the same for you. He’s highly intelligent — two masters degrees in engineering from MIT, one in nuclear and one in chemical engineering — and in the course of a half-century has successfully re-engineered U.S. society to something more like his lunatic vision of society than anybody else believed possible back in the Reagan era 1980s (William Buckley considered him nuts) let alone the 1960s when he started.

39

onastywoman 04.28.21 at 7:49 am

No more jokes like this, please

40

Tm 04.28.21 at 8:01 am

MisterMr: the catch is always what counts as “change the economic system”. In any case, left and right are relative terms. The Democratic Party has never been a socialist party, never advocated the overthrow of capitalism. The concept of a leftward shift is nevertheless, I think, meaningful to describe political trends.

41

nastywoman 04.28.21 at 12:20 pm

AND as today I will visit a family with many children and they will tell me how ‘Biden’ –
has helped them –
and when we made the appointment they didn’t mention some ‘Democrats’
or
some ‘soft neoliberalism in the US Democratic Party’
or some ‘Left Swing’ –
they did – what everybody here seems to do they ‘personalised’ it –
so it is now the new President ‘Biden’ who helped them –
and I promise I won’t scare their children with talking about ‘Bidenism’ or even worst words like ‘Neoliberalism’…

42

Jerry Vinokurov 04.28.21 at 4:42 pm

You severely underestimate Charles Koch (who is and was the only one of the Koch brothers who counts) by lumping him in with the likes of the Mercers and Trumps.

He scares the cr*p out of me and he should do the same for you. He’s highly intelligent — two masters degrees in engineering from MIT

For what it’s worth, Robert Mercer himself has a Ph.D. in computer science from UIUC and was a researcher at IBM before he went into finance. I don’t know who between him or Koch is more dangerous (my money is on “both, actually”) but Mercer is certainly no less of an educational elite than Charles Koch.

43

PatinIowa 04.28.21 at 7:45 pm

AWOL at 28: I was taken aback for a moment and then figured out what happened. It’s all good.

44

AWOL 04.29.21 at 1:52 am

39 just posted a racist anti-Chinese joke. Are the moderators here absent???

Not as alert as might be, first thing in the morning. I’ve asked the commenter not to repeat jokes like this

45

nastywoman 04.29.21 at 7:11 am

@
‘Not as alert as might be, first thing in the morning. I’ve asked the commenter not to repeat jokes like this’

And I never will –
repeat it here.

But for the record and @44 –
it was a ”Anti-Belgium-Anti-Trump-Joke”-
as I remember writing that the joke was made by ‘the head of Belgium’

AND I INSIST ON THIS CORRECTION!
(while the real reason for the joke – the use of labels like ‘Hard-Neoliberalism’ can be forgotten)

46

nastywoman 04.29.21 at 8:16 am

AND if I may add:
perhaps the decline of soft neoliberalism in the US Democratic Party can be explained largely in terms of ‘comical’ replacement.

As the jokes Jon Stewart made nearly a decade ago – from his ‘March for Sanity’ –
to giving Trump his real name ‘FF von Clownstick’ –
(which was nothing else than a reference to some kind of ‘MiniHitler’)
FINALLY sank in!

And FINALLY – more and more of my fellow Americans are understanding – that the solution wasn’t/isn’t some kind of Grabbing-Loud-Mouthed-Racist Idiot?

47

Tm 04.29.21 at 8:48 am

35: “The right wing of earlier times did worship at the altar of engineering and technology for its ability to deliver shiny toys and things that go boom but that did not require either an understanding or respect for science as a methodology.”

You have to look no further than the Nazis. Their general outlook was anti-modernity, anti-enlightenment, they condemned relativity as “Jewish science” and had quite some affinity with certain esoteric movements (and vice versa), but they also had the engineering/technologiy-worshipping side. See also Italian Futurism.

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