Liberal Smugness, or Something Else

The smug style in American liberalism

Beginning in the middle of the 20th century, the working class, once the core of the coalition, began abandoning the Democratic Party. In 1948, in the immediate wake of Franklin Roosevelt, 66 percent of manual laborers voted for Democrats, along with 60 percent of farmers. In 1964, it was 55 percent of working-class voters. By 1980, it was 35 percent.

This mirrors the decline of union membership, more so than Americans becoming less liberal. As industrial and unionized labor falls, now it’s middle/lower-income service sector workers filling the ranks of the ‘left’.

But is liberalism really that ‘smug’. If smug is synonymous with elitist, one can argue Sander’s campaign is the antithesis of elitism and is in fact very inclusive and populist, provided you’re not a banker. Despite supposed ties to Wall St., even Hillary’s campaign is pretty inclusive in her pandering to various minority groups and significant minority support (a common criticism of Sanders is that he failed to ‘win over’ minorities).

So what type of liberalism is smug? Or does smugness cross political lines? Is it liberalism, or something else?

It is a way of conducting politics, predicated on the belief that American life is not divided by moral difference or policy divergence — not really — but by the failure of half the country to know what’s good for them.

Hmmm… but as an example of elitism on the ‘right’, neoconservatives are also anti-populist and prescriptivist – people should summit to TSA screenings, for the good of national security; people should support tax cuts for high-income earners, for the good of the economy. And for the ‘left’ – people should signup for Obamacare, for or the ‘good’ of public healthcare; people should stop buying guns, for the ‘good’ of public safety.

So perhaps smugness is just another world for ‘prescriptivism’, and is related to anti-democracy – the notion that the masses are incapable rational judgment and decision making and should acquiesce to ‘experts’.

Maybe there is a hybrid ideology that combines neoconservative and neoliberal prescriptivism (people should support free trade, for the good of the economy) with the ethos personal responsibility and individualism (‘culture of self’) that is found in the ‘right’ and various libertarian ideologies (if people fail, it’s because they are either dumb and or lazy), that could be considered smug and elitist.

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