Last week was a good week for natural gas, but a bad one for green gentry liberalism. John Podesta, a veteran of the Clinton White House who is once again a presidential adviser, tried to explain some energy facts of life to the true-believing liberal base. Still, it’s unclear if Podesta’s intended audience was listening, and that willful blindness may cost the Democrats control of the Senate.
Podesta warned that opposition to natural gas is impractical and not grounded in reality. As he explained, “With all due respect to my friends in the environmental community, if they expect us to turn off the lights and go home, that’s sort of an impractical suggestion.” Coming from Podesta—who previously headed the George Soros-funded Center for American Progress—them was fighting words.
Meanwhile, the Pew Research Center reported that the fight over the Keystone XL pipeline project was not a routine party-line battle between Democrats and Republicans, but a high-profile scrum pitting the Democrats’ donor class against the rest of America. According to Pew, the public actually favors Keystone by better than two-to-one, with opposition concentrated among graduate degree holding Democrats, and Democrats with household incomes north of $100,000. In contrast to high-end Democrats, working class Democrats support Keystone—regardless of race.
So where does this leave would-be populist Al Gore—who branded Keystone as an“atrocity,” —along with would-be Democratic financial savior and Keystone opponent Tom Steyer, and the Democratic Party itself? How about a world away from job-craving America, and light years from the mid-twentieth century Democratic Party.
Indeed, this gap gives added credence to Professor Fred Siegel’s critique that “today’s liberal gentry see the untamed middle classes as the true enemy,” as he writes in his new book, The Revolt Against the Masses: How Liberalism has Undermined the Middle Class. It’s not that the Democrats don’t know that they have a problem with the non-government employee middle class, but it’s just that they really are not bothered by it. As the New York Times framed the issue, “many in the party pay so little attention to white working-class men that it suggests they have effectively given up on converting them.”
This hardly looks or sounds like the lunch-bucket liberalism of FDR and Harry Truman, or the JFK’s robust New Frontier, which sought to ameliorate poverty while embracing technology and space shots. No, the current iteration of liberalism sounds more like reactionary 19th century Toryism, which, in the words of Siegel, attacked further industrial and commercial expansion as “impossibly vulgar.” Indeed, the Tories of that day, many of them big landowners, found an intellectual champion in one Thomas Malthus.
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