The Post Wherein I Reveal Lingering High School Angst
by Chris Bowers, Mon Mar 12, 2007 at 09:33:25 AM EDT
In the early days, the neoliberals coalesced around two small magazines, The New Republic and The Washington Monthly. They represented, first of all, a change in intellectual tone...And BooMan himself adds:
On policy matters, the neoliberals were liberal but not too liberal. They rejected interest-group politics and were suspicious of brain-dead unions. They tended to be hawkish on foreign policy, positive about capitalism, reformist when it came to the welfare state, and urbane but not militant on feminism and other social issues.
The neoliberal movement begat politicians like Paul Tsongas, Al Gore (the 1980s and '90s version) and Bill Clinton. It also set the tone for mainstream American journalism. Today, you can't swing an ax in a major American newsroom without hitting six people who used to work at The New Republic or The Washington Monthly. Influenced by their sensibility, many major news organizations became neoliberal institutions, whether they knew it or not.
Exactly. Exacta-fucking-mundo.Funding issues, I am certain, played a major role in how such writers came to speak for the left on shows like "Crossfire" over the past twenty-five years. As is the case with the vast wignut welfare system that supports conservative punditry of all sorts, "liberals" and Democrats who would tow the neoliberal line would receive media and promotional backing that so-called more "traditional" liberals would not. The past generation of neoliberal pundits smacks of a fraternity that was oriented toward business school. This is probably because virtually all of these pundits are male, because they all wrote for either The New Republic or the Washington Monthly at one time, and because they have been so loved by business interests. From my perspective, it is also because they pretty much all exude the exactly the same cultural signifiers: comfortable wearing suits and playing golf, smarter than thou but wouldn't touch non-professional graduate school with a ten foot pole, not from an upper-class background but desperate to get "in" with the establishment, etc. Very much the attitude of the kids at the local, upper-middle class public high school who were both smart and cool. Or maybe I am just projecting my personal cultural biases onto a class of people I don't really know, and I need to get past high school / college myself.
The question that needs asking is: how in the hell did people like Michael Kinsley, Andrew Sullivan, Marty Peretz, Michael Kelly, and Peter Beinart come to define the left, and how the hell can we get them to go away and never presume to speak for us again?
Brooks goes on to imply that it was the internet and the blogosphere that killed neoliberalism.
If you surf the Web these days, for example, you find that a horde of thousands have declared war on the Time magazine columnist Joe Klein.I don't think Brooks is entirely wrong about this. In a very real way, it was the rise of the blogosphere that finally gave a means for people on the left who vehemently opposed the rise of the various neoliberals frats to disseminate and distribute their message. The reason neoliberal supremacy within the Democratic Party is being challenged, however, is not merely a change in attitude, but actually a loosening of the establishment strictures around the dissemination and distribution of political writing. It is my thesis that a neoliberals have dominated established news organizations for so long, and that the blogosphere is so flush with writers vehemently opposed to the previous generation of neoliberal pundits who ostensibly represent "the left," because of different attitudes within the two groups about the types of institutions each feels comfortable working within. That is to say, the cultural predilections of the neoliberals would result in them gravitating to established print periodicals, while the cultural predilections of those who oppose them cause them to gravitate toward the blogosphere. To return to the high school and college analogy for the moment, I can best describe it a difference between those kids who would excitedly join fraternities, and those who would excitedly start alternative literary magazines. When one reaches adulthood, I think that difference easily translates into wanting to write a column in Time magazine, versus wanting to become a big-time national blogger for an independent website.
Wow. I still have a lot of angst about college and high school. Here I am blaming the rise of neoliberalism in the Democratic Party upon a certain type of guy I didn't like back when I was a teenager. But there is a certain absurdity to the way establishment politics works that makes you feel as though you never left high school or college after all. Perhaps the social norms we learn in our formative years stick with us all until the bitter end.