A stunner from Emmett Rensin of Vox on the progressive adoption of smugness over empathy:
The smug style in American liberalism
There is a smug style in American liberalism. It has been growing these past decades. 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.
Wait, is this an essay or the Vox mission statement? Pressing on.
The development of the smug style ties in to the Democratic abandonment of the white working class, which itself has some history:
Richard Hofstadter, the historian whose most famous work, The Paranoid Style in American Politics, this essay exists in some obvious reference to, advanced a similar line in writing not so well-remembered today. His then-influential history writing drips with disdain for rubes who regard themselves as victimized by economics and history, who have failed to maintain correct political attitudes.
But 60 years ago, American liberalism relied too much on the support of working people to let these ideas take too much hold. Even its elitists, its Schlesingers and Bells, were tempered by the power of the labor movement, by the role Marxism still played in even liberal politics — forces too powerful to allow non-elite concerns to entirely escape the liberal mental horizon. Walter Reuther, and Bayard Rustin, and A. Philip Randolph were still in the room, and they mattered.
As to the new members of the Democratic coalition, well...
The consequence was a shift in liberalism's center of intellectual gravity. A movement once fleshed out in union halls and little magazines shifted into universities and major press, from the center of the country to its cities and elite enclaves. Minority voters remained, but bereft of the material and social capital required to dominate elite decision-making, they were largely excluded from an agenda driven by the new Democratic core: the educated, the coastal, and the professional.
I would say this smugness piece is sailing in similar waters to those charted earlier by Jonathan Chait in his piece on the return of PC culture and the progressive thought police:
But it would be a mistake to categorize today’s p.c. culture as only an academic phenomenon. Political correctness is a style of politics in which the more radical members of the left attempt to regulate political discourse by defining opposing views as bigoted and illegitimate. Two decades ago, the only communities where the left could exert such hegemonic control lay within academia, which gave it an influence on intellectual life far out of proportion to its numeric size. Today’s political correctness flourishes most consequentially on social media, where it enjoys a frisson of cool and vast new cultural reach. And since social media is also now the milieu that hosts most political debate, the new p.c. has attained an influence over mainstream journalism and commentary beyond that of the old.
Lots to take in. And a certain type of smugness is hardly the exclusive possession of the left. Just off-hand, the "makers and takers" dichotomy alluded to by Romney in 2012 is not a particularly empathetic way of thinking about the large numbers of people for whom the American system of schools and jobs has not working.
John Sexton at Hot Air has more.