Conservative Socialism: Lind’s Critiques of Jeffersonianism (Pt. I of II)

Earlier today, I had been reading the latest articles of Michael Lind in the American Jewish publication known as Tablet Magazine. Catching up on his writings, there has been a number of noteworthy articles which I felt were worthy of passing up. The majority of them delved into contemporary issues which dovetailed with my own research. Even though our definitions of Hamiltonianism do differ, especially when it comes to the precise details of specific policies, there are plenty of broad areas where I do find myself in agreement with him.

The first article of interest concerned the American educational system, which is as much a challenge to navigate as trying to go through the motions of the American job market. It is way too easy to feel lost and unsure on where to proceed upon graduation. There is still that flawed consensus whereby to get employed, all one had to do was to finish their undergraduate and/or graduate degrees. That sort of rhetoric loses its credibility the moment somebody struggles to find Meaningful Work in this Market Economy, regardless of whether they are looking for employment in the private sector or the public sector. True, Internships might provide someone with some experience, but they are not necessarily the best places to start working towards one’s future nor can they be guaranteed to translate into future employment opportunities.

The overarching question posed in that article is that right to free education in America cannot be realized by simply allowing the Federal government to eliminate all tuition, not to mention the need to borrow student loans. The American educational system is dysfunctional at this point that to allow the Federal government to inject more funding into it would be wasteful and inefficient for everyone involved. The students should not have to become indebted by paying an ever-growing fortune out of a misguided hope that by finishing their undergraduate (and more recently, graduate) studies, they will eventually become employed. If America is serious about wanting to curtail Underemployment and mitigate the frustrations of young people not finding Meaningful Work, employers should be the ones financing higher education, not the Federal government or the students. It is the employers who are expecting to find the right employees among the graduating classes each year.     

Another aspect of this argument concerns the Federal government itself, specifically how the Democratic-Republican Party is governed. Education policy, much like the other domestic and foreign policies of these United States, are not decided by the American people, let alone by those who claim to be governing on their behalf as a Totality. This Populism phenomenon which occurred in 2016 was a short-lived farce, an illusory façade that created the false impression of the Democratic-Republican Party governing in the interests of the American people. There is a following passage in the aforementioned article which summarizes what was going in the months leading up to the 2016 Presidential Elections. Enough time has passed to allow Lind to revisit that year in retrospect:

“For a brief moment in 2015-2016, both Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump appeared to offer real alternatives to a future of neoliberal techno-oligarchy under alternating Clintons and Bushes. Sanders was a Democratic socialist whose program was more or less a restoration of pro-labor, pro-social insurance New Deal liberalism—not socialism, but still too radical for post-’80s Democratic and Republican neoliberals. Trump broke with right-neoliberal orthodoxy not only on trade and immigration but also on the need to tax the rich and protect Social Security and Medicare from cuts.

The challenges to establishment neoliberalism from the left and the right soon failed. Sanders lost the 2016 presidential primary contest to Hillary Clinton, the embodiment of neoliberalism. Trump lost the popular vote to Clinton and won only because of the Electoral College. But congressional Republicans under Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell ensured that none of Trump’s deviations from Bushite orthodoxy would get any traction, while pushing through their main goal—a tax cut for the rich and corporations. Trumpian ‘populism’ expired virtually from the moment that Trump assumed office.

Not that Trump cared. He delegated power to ‘Javanka’ and was more interested in pro-wrestling-style media beefs and running for reelection than governing. Even if he had been a serious challenger to neoliberalism, his personal circle—Rudy Giuliani, Michael Lindell, Sebastian Gorka—was easily thwarted by the mainstream Republican in-and-outers who joined the administration in order to ‘moderate’ it—that is, subvert it—from within, while loudly broadcasting their intentions to the media to avoid being blackballed.”

Basically, the Trump’s control over the Republican Party, apart from developing a cult of personality around Trump himself, has done little to deviate the Party away from the ideological consensus of the Bush 43 years. Even if Trump decides to run for President again in 2024, the Republicans will continue to tout its earlier stances from the Reagan and Bush presidencies. What Lind correctly insists is that the Democrats and Republicans represent the two halves of a shared ideology–Liberal Capitalism, and they should be understood as one party with multiple factions that behave like unofficial pseudo-parties. It may seem like the two parties are heavily divided, but what the mainstream media do not tell us is that the real Jeffersonians recognize those divisions as diversions, as pure spectacle. For Lind also noted that most US policies, both foreign and domestic, are executed by the members of the US Federal Civil Service, who are in turn informed by higher academia, think tanks, lobbyists and other special interests aligned with the Democratic-Republican Party.   

Granted, if one is of the view that the Democratic-Republican Party is truly “running out of ideas” or appear to be incapable of governing competently, Lind insisted that this came as the consequence of an apparent death of American intellectual life. If American Conservative intellectualism died in the 1990s, then Progressive intellectualism died in the 2000s. “Wokeism” and “Woke Capitalism” are the results of an institutional decay within Progressive intellectualism, which in turn was abetted by an influx of Kapital that subverted the very definition of “Progressivism.” The result is that what passes as Progressivism is in final analysis an inverted doppelganger of “Libertarianism,” of Classical Liberalism.  A number of topics were cited by Lind as examples, and I have marked the most significant tidbits to emphasize their relevance:

“In the 1990s, you could be a progressive in good standing and argue against race-based affirmative action, in favor of race-neutral, universal social programs that would help African-Americans disproportionately but not exclusively. Around 2000, however, multiple progressive outlets at the same time announced that ‘the debate about affirmative action is over.’ Today race-neutral economic reform, of the kind championed by the democratic socialist and Black civil rights leader Bayard Rustin and the Marxist Adolph Reed, is stigmatized on the center-left as ‘color-blind racism,’ and progressives in the name of ‘equity’ are required to support blatant and arguably illegal racial discrimination against non-Hispanic white Americans and ‘white-adjacent’ Asian Americans, for fear of being purged as heretics.

Immigration policy provides an even more striking example of the power of Progressivism, Inc. to crush debate among actual progressives. Up until around 2000, libertarians and employer-class Republicans wanted to weaken laws against illegal immigration and expand low-wage legal immigration, against the opposition of organized labor and many African-Americans—who for generations have tended to view immigrants as competitors. The Hesburgh Commission on immigration reform, appointed by President Jimmy Carter, and the Jordan Commission, appointed by President Bill Clinton and led by Texas Representative Barbara Jordan, the pioneering civil rights leader who was left-liberal, Black, and lesbian, both proposed cracking down on illegal immigration—by requiring a national ID card, punishing employers of illegal immigrants, and cutting back on low-skilled, low-wage legal immigrants. As late as 2006, then-Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton both voted for 200 miles of border fencing in the Southwest.

Then, virtually overnight, the progressive movement flipped and adopted the former talking points of the Chamber of Commerce cheap-labor lobby. While Democratic politicians deny that they oppose enforcing immigration laws, center-left journals and journalists keep pushing the idea of open borders, in alliance with crackpot free market fundamentalists. On April 12, 2022, David Dayen in the American Prospect wrote that ‘declining immigration rates since the pandemic have contributed to labor shortages in key industries and harmed Americans who rely on those services.’ Dayen linked to an article in the libertarian Wall Street Journal bemoaning rising wages as a result of lower immigration. On February 20 of this year, The New Yorker published a long essay by Zoey Poll, ‘The Case for Open Borders,’ a fawning profile of the libertarian ideologue Bryan Caplan, author of Open Borders: The Science and Ethics of Immigration, which, appropriately, takes the form of a graphic novel—that is to say, a comic book.

Back in 2015, Ezra Klein, then editor of the ‘progressive’ outlet Vox, asked Senator Bernie Sanders about the idea of ‘sharply raising the level of immigration we permit, even up to a level of open borders.’ Sanders replied in alarm: ‘Open borders? No, that’s a Koch brothers proposal.’ The lobby FWD.us, funded by Facebook and other large tech corporations that prefer hiring indentured servants (H-1bs) bound to their employers instead of free American citizen-workers and legal immigrants, denounced Sanders for holding ‘the totally-debunked notion that immigrants coming to the U.S. are taking jobs and hurting Americans.’ Vox then published an article by Dylan Matthews entitled ‘Bernie Sanders’s fear of immigrant labor is ugly—and wrong-headed.’ ‘If I could add one amendment to the Constitution,’ Matthews declared, ‘it would be the one Wall Street Journal editorial page editor Robert Bartley once proposed: ‘There shall be open borders.’’ In 2018, the progressive author Angela Nagle was canceled by Progressivism, Inc. when she published an essay in American Affairs, ‘The Left Case Against Open Borders.’ By 2020, when Matthew Yglesias, a co-founder of Vox, published One Billion Americans, the purging of dissidents and the fusion of the Progressivism, Inc. party line on immigration with the anti-union, cheap labor policies favored by the Wall Street Journal and Silicon Valley was complete.

The energy debate provides another example of the closing of the progressive mind. As recently as the early 2000s, some environmentalists favored reducing atmosphere-heating carbon emissions by expanding nuclear power, replacing coal with lower-carbon natural gas, or both. By 2010 these positions had been thoroughly anathematized by Progressivism, Inc. Not only all fossil fuels but all nuclear energy—which provides 20% of utility electric generation in the United States, roughly the same as all renewable energy sources put together—must be completely eliminated from the energy mix, according to the Green commissars. Insofar as only around 11% of global primary energy, and only around a quarter of global electricity, comes from renewable energy (chiefly hydropower, which has limited potential for expansion), the Green fatwah against nuclear energy seems self-defeating—as well as certain to shovel American money to China, which holds near-monopolies on the rare earth metals and production facilities used to make things like solar panels and lithium batteries. China also happens to be a major source of the fortunes of some of the billionaires who fund progressive media and NGOs.”

There are plenty of other articles worthy of mention here, but I feel that these were the most significant during my readings earlier today.



Categories: Philosophy

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