Election 2016

Bernie Sanders & Hillary Clinton Are Running For President of Geritol Nation

Liberal Dems won't talk about obvious fixes to our politics, such as ending restrictive land-use rules, stopping drug war, and GMO foods as "progress." Why?


Over at Literature R Us, Alan Vanneman lays out simple, mostly unobjectionable fixes to various woes that should be no-brainers for liberal politicians and voters. These range from ending "restrictive land-use policies" that jack up housing costs in places such bluer-than-blue environms as San Francisco and D.C. to "reduc[ing] the burdens of occupational licensing" (because really, why do barbers need to shell out thousands of dollars and spend hundreds of hours when apprenticeships would get the job done).

More controversially, Vanneman says that liberals of all people shoud support GMO foods (they represent "progress," he says, "something liberals used to believe in") and they should support fracking (especially since in California and New York). "This is another case where liberal concern for the middle class is eclipsed by their concern for 'pristine' views from the decks of their vacation homes."

The starting point of Vanneman's common-sense list is this observation:

It's no secret that a large chunk of the American people are very upset these days, mad as hell and not going to take it any more, and also no secret that family incomes that have flat-lined for the past 15 years are a large part of the problem and also no secret that neither Donald Trump nor Bernie Sanders have any good ideas of what to do about it.

That last point is most important. While Trump and Sanders benefit from a sense of pent-up frustration and social and political lassitude, it's also clear they have no way forward. They are the last gasp of what might be called the long 20th century. They're not harbingers of a new way of looking at the world and reshaping our policies to engage how technology and other forces have changed our economy, our culture, and our politics. They—and their true-believing, ardent fans—are the equivalent of old men yelling at clouds. The anger is real and meaningful and needs to be appreciated, but it hardly provides a path to a future where power has been disrupted, decentralized, and disintermediated.

Read the whole thing.

It's worth puzzling over the inability of liberals and Democrats in particular to figure out a forward-looking set of policies. It should be a source of shame that Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders are explicitly anti-Uber and other elements of the sharing economy (being hypocritical about it makes it even worse). Conservatives at least have the excuse of wanting to maintain the status quo or, better yet, return to the status quo of five or 10 or 15 years ago. That's their whole point as an ideological group and it explains their consistent resistance to virtually all forms of social change that give more power to individuals.

Liberals are at least supposed to be less hung up on the past and captivated by efficiency that makes life better for all of us, especially the poor. And yet, as Vanneman points out, their politics seem much more focused on keeping things exactly as they are for a middle- to upper-middle class group.

Earlier this year, Gallup reported that party identification for Democrats is a 27-year low, at just 29 percent (as awful as that is, it's still better than the GOP's 26 percent). When you look at the two presidential candidates on the Democratic side, it's easy to understand why folks are vacating the brand. Sanders and Clinton are not simply chronologically old but, more important, ideologically ancient, proper representatives only for a Geritol Nation that has nothing but tired blood to offer.