It’s Easier to Have a Permanent Majority When You Know What You’re Doing

Ari Berman at The Nation worries:

But Democrats, beset by internal dysfunction and legislative gridlock, also run the risk of throwing their majority away. “Their chief challenge now is governance, which is daunting in its own right,” Teixeira writes. “They have an ambitious agenda in areas such as health care, financial reform, education, energy, and global relations that they are having some success in pursuing. If these policies have their intended effects and make serious progress toward remedying problems in these areas, Democrats will be in very good shape indeed and will solidify their support among emerging demographics while destabilizing what is left of the GOP coalition.

Although conservatives think of their own idea as the “natural” one, it’s always been a wonder to me that the left didn’t secure a lock on US politics in the 1970’s, and it looks like they’re letting victory slip through their fingers again.  Why is this?  I think there are two reasons.

The first is that Americans are, by nature, economically ambitious, and have high expectations.  Most welfare states have operated in environments with expectations not so high, or other objectives (lots of time off, etc.)  They can argue all they want, but relative to a successful capitalist society, the left’s agenda involves lowering living standards (that’s where the 50 square metre apartment comes in.)

The second is that American liberalism is way too utopian to run a successful, modern society.  For all of its faults, the Soviet Union built a great industrial power to achieve its objectives.  The American left would tear (and has torn) down the economic engine we have to achieve theirs.

And then, of course, there’s the plague of both parties: the need to satisfy patronage requirements, which always gets in the way of a “pure” agenda.

Demographics should be going the Democrats’ way.  Making the country run properly–governance–isn’t.

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