Wednesday, August 03, 2011

The Greenberg Essay

A few days ago, Stan Greenberg--a remarkably good pollster who's also an "honest Lefty" according to a friend who knew Stan very well--published an essay which declared that Americans generally like the Lefty agenda, and are generally center-left in persuasion.

Only problem, as Greenberg admitted, is that Americans don't really like the Left.

Hmmm. At the time, I was surprised at his assertion "center-left." Didn't comport with my understanding, which was "center-right."

Along comes Walter R. Meade.

...Attentive readers of these essays will recognize Greenberg’s legitimacy crisis as part of the larger plight of the blue social model Via Meadia and its readers have been analyzing in so many posts. The progressive, administrative regulatory state and more broadly the technocratic and professional intelligentsia who operate it sold themselves to the public as an honest umpire in charge of American life. ...Alabaster towers of objectivity such as the FCC, the FDA, the EPA, the FEC and so many more would take politics out of government and replace it with disinterested administration. Honest professionals would administer fair laws without fear or favor, putting the general interest first, and keeping the special interests at arm’s length. The government would serve the middle class, and the middle class would thrive....

That was the theory; as Greenberg eloquently tells us, fewer and fewer voters believe it describes the actual government in our actual world.

Meade credits Greenberg with "getting it" rather than Obama-izing about "bitter clingers" and "Bible-Thumping Stupids."

Greenberg's solution boils down to the Feingold/McCain project: campaign finance reform! Yah, it won't work. Why?

...Greenberg is telling voters who deeply distrust the nexus of power and money swirling around Washington to give that nexus even more power: power to regulate and control the process of competition for office. They would be fools to take him up on it; I don’t think they are that stupid ...

But even more a challenge for Greenberg (et al) is this:

He roots the dangerous and corrupting special interests outside the state: with their money and their lobbying the corporations and the fat cats influence and pervert the state. But the state and its servants do not, in Greenberg’s story, constitute a special interest of their own...

For large numbers of voters the professional classes who staff the bureaucracies, foundations and policy institutes in and around government are themselves a special interest. ... many voters believe that the progressive administrative class is a social order that has its own special interests. Bureaucrats, think these voters, are like oil companies and Enron executives: they act only to protect their turf and fatten their purses.

(You might have noticed that if you live in Wisconsin and have not been under a rock for the last 120 days.)

The progressive state has never seen its job as simply to check the excesses of the rich. It has also sought to correct the vices of the poor and to uplift the masses. From the Prohibition and eugenics movements of the early twentieth century to various improvement and uplift projects in our own day, well educated people have seen it as their simple duty to use the powers of government to make the people do what is right: to express the correct racial ideas, to eschew bad child rearing technique like corporal punishment, to eat nutritionally appropriate foods, to quit smoking, to use the right light bulbs and so on and so on.

We'll add, for Kevin, that that agenda also includes criminalizing 'non-reporting' mommies of 'missing' chilluns. Yes, indeed, it is a Progressive conceit.’s impossible to grasp the crisis of the progressive enterprise unless one grasps the degree to which voters resent the condescension and arrogance of know-it-all progressive intellectuals and administrators.

Thus Greenberg's dilemma.

The fight for limited government that animates so many Americans today isn’t a reaction against the abuses and failures of government. It is a fight to break the power of a credentialed elite that believe themselves entitled by talent and hard work to a greater say in the nation’s affairs than people who scored lower on standardized tests and studied business administration in cheap colleges rather than political science in expensive ones.

If'n you ask me, it all started with the Warren Court/LBJ era. Been downhill ever since.

HT: Ace

(Ace's essay is worth reading, as is the whole of Meade's.)

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