The Challenge Of The “New” New Left

The political buzz among Democrats stems from a provocative article in The Daily Beast written by Peter Beinart titled “The Rise Of The New New Left”. He argues the passing political era that was created by Ronald Reagan & sustained by Bill Clinton will give way to a new era dominated by a voting bloc he characterizes as the “New” New Left:

Maybe Bill de Blasio got lucky. Maybe he only won because he cut a sweet ad featuring his biracial son. Or because his rivals were either spectacularly boring, spectacularly pathological, or running for Michael Bloomberg‘s fourth term. But I don’t think so. The deeper you look, the stronger the evidence that de Blasio’s victory is an omen of what may become the defining story of America’s next political era: the challenge, to both parties, from the left. It’s a challenge Hillary Clinton should start worrying about now.

Beinart makes the argument that America’s Millennial Generation will embrace a harder leftist view than the relatively conservative (in the sense of being pro-capitalistic) views embraced by the Baby Boomers & Gen X voters:

It is these two factors-their economic hardship in an age of limited government protection and their resistance to right-wing cultural populism-that best explain why on economic issues, Millennials lean so far left. In 2010, Pew found that two-thirds of Millennials favored a bigger government with more services over a cheaper one with fewer services, a margin 25 points above the rest of the population. While large majorities of older and middle-aged Americans favored repealing Obamacare in late 2012, Millennials favored expanding it, by 17 points. Millennials are substantially more pro-labor union than the population at large.

Most striking of all, Millennials are more willing than their elders to challenge cherished American myths about capitalism and class. According to a 2011 Pew study, Americans under 30 are the only segment of the population to describe themselves as “have nots” rather than “haves.” They are far more likely than older Americans to say that business enjoys more control over their lives than government.  And unlike older Americans, who favor capitalism over socialism by roughly 25 points, Millennials, narrowly, favor socialism.

Beinart examines the impact the Millennials have had on recent politics – including the abortive Occupy Wall Street Movement – & opines that (should she decide to run for the Oval Office), Elizabeth Warren may presage the biggest threat to Hillary Clinton’s presidential ambitions if Democrat activists deem her insufficiently liberal:

First, as a woman, Warren would drain the deepest reservoir of pro-Hillary passion: the prospect of a female president. While Hillary would raise vast sums, (Howard) Dean and (Barack) Obama have both shown that in the digital age, an insurgent can compete financially by inspiring huge numbers of small donations. Elizabeth Warren can do that. She’s already shown a knack for going viral. A video of her first Senate banking committee hearing, where she scolded regulators that “too-big-to-fail has become too-big-for-trial,”  garnered 1 million hits on YouTube. In her 2012 Senate race, despite never before having sought elected office, she raised $42 million, more than twice as much as the second-highest-raising Democrat. After Bill Clinton and the Obamas, no other speaker at last summer’s Democratic convention so electrified the crowd.

Warren has done it by challenging corporate power with an intensity Clinton Democrats rarely muster. At the convention, she attacked the “Wall Street CEOs-the same ones who wrecked our economy and destroyed millions of jobs-[who] still strut around Congress, no shame, demanding favors, and acting like we should thank them.”

And in one of the biggest applause lines of the entire convention, taken straight from Occupy, she thundered that “we don’t run this country for corporations, we run it for people.”

Don’t be fooled by Warren’s advanced age. If she runs, Millennials will be her base. No candidate is as well positioned to appeal to the young and economically insecure. Warren won her Senate race by eight points overall, but by 30 points among the young. The first bill she introduced in the Senate was a proposal to charge college students the same interest rates for their loans that the Federal Reserve offers big banks. It soon garnered 100,000 hits on YouTube.

Beinart closes his article with the observation that if Hillary is savvy enough to steal Warren’s populist thunder (should she run), then Bill may finally achieve his dream of being “First Husband” & enjoying a shadow third (& possibly fourth) term in office. But Beinart is convinced that the rise of the “New” New Left will pose challenges to both Establishment Democrats & Republicans since both parties (albeit for different reasons) have embraced Wall Street’s basic culture.

I think Beinart is on to something even though I disagree with his notion over the historical inevitability of the “New” New Left as well as his dismissal of the GOP as a political party that isn’t stuck in the past & in fact can produce a new generation of leaders to meet America’s challenges. Based on first-hand observations, I can attest to a growing discontent among average people against Wall Street. In its earliest stages (before it was hijacked by the New Left), Occupy Wall Street enjoyed brief support from auto mechanics, cooks, first responders et al to whom I spoke.

Unlike what happened in Iceland, the financiers & their bipartisan political enablers avoided any punishment for almost destroying our economic system. People who pay attention to these things are becoming increasingly disenchanted with Washington’s political class. I think Warren has hit a nerve even though some of the solutions she offers will only make things worse. The Democrats are poised to exploit the current mood of the voters. Not so the Republicans. If the GOP wants to have some influence on the direction of politics, it will have to become the “conservative liberals” who not only want to shrink the power of Washington (& Beacon Hill), but who will be willing to take on those elements of Wall Street whose alignment with Washington to perpetuate “crony capitalism” has done great damage to our country.

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