Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Is there still an American Left?

I've just finished reading Richard Rorty's Achieving Our Country, and I must say that it is the best thing of his that I've ever read. I will probably bother the group with it more than once as I think about it more, but for now, since I'm just in the "stunned" phase, here's a choice little passage I wanted to share:

It is as if, sometime around 1980, the children of the people who made it through the Great Depression and into the suburbs had decided to pull up the drawbridge behind them. They decided that although social mobility had been appropriate for their parents, it was not to be allowed to the next generation. These suburbanites seem to see nothing wrong with belonging to a hereditary caste, and have initiated what Robert Reich (in his book The Work of Nations) calls "the secession of the successful.

Sometime in the Seventies, American middle-class idealism went into a stall. Under Presidents Carter and Clinton, the Democratic Party has survived by distancing itself from the unions and from any mention of redistribution, and moving into a sterile vacuum called the "center." The party no long has a visible, noisy left wing---a wing with which the intellectuals can identify and on which the unions can rely for support. It is as if the distribution of income and wealth has become too scary a topic for any American politician---much less any sitting president---ever to mention. Politicians fear that mentioning it would lose them votes among the only Americans who can be relied on to go to the polls: the suburbanites. So the choice between the two major parties has come down to a choice between cynical lies and terrified silence. (pp. 86-7, emphasis mine)

No comments: