'Zombie Liberalism': Standing Up for Minorities, Losing Sight of the Majority?

The Washington Post has a useful news analysis that looks at the New York State gay marriage decision and what it says about the state of liberalism. The headline says it all: “The rise of zombie liberalism: Half-dead, half-alive. “

The basic premise isn’t terribly new, but it’s too often forgotten: the liberalism of “Expanding civil rights and the retreat of discrimination on race, gender and now sexual orientation” is doing great. But “Income inequality has soared to levels not seen since the Gilded Age and the Roaring Twenties, anti-tax orthodoxy is ascendant on the right, the safety net is under attack, and labor unions are barely hanging on.”

It’s a critical question. While focusing on the civil rights of minorities, liberals and Democrats have lost their voice on the economic rights of the majority. Minority rights are a noble cause, but majorities win elections.

The writer, Post national reporter Alec McGillis, walks through a variety of explanations without taking a stand. One candidate: Americans’ native self-reliance, which favors individual rights but recoils at communal responsibility. Another candidate: the identity politics of the 1970s, which led to a decline of class in the attention of liberals — as a result of which “they were just less attentive to issues of economics,” in the words of John Russo, co-director of the Center for Working-Class Studies at Youngstown State University.

Sobering thoughts indeed, until you come to this conversation-stopper:

We could stop there. But McGillis gets into some identity-group politics that complicates the issue in some very interesting ways:

One group is Catholics, specifically

Secondly, he cites

Another interesting question, which McGillis doesn’t explore, is the psychology of the Wall Street liberals who support gay rights and other minority- and civil-rights causes and form the backbone of Democratic Party financing but don’t support workers’ rights or economic justice. Maybe the entry of big money into politics has simply crowded out any possible discussion of economic rights.

Written by

J.J. Goldberg

J.J. Goldberg

Jonathan Jeremy “J.J.” Goldberg is editor-at-large of the Forward, where he served as editor in chief for seven years (2000-2007).

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'Zombie Liberalism': Standing Up for Minorities, Losing Sight of the Majority?

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