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Total "creative class" FAIL on what they're supposed to be good at: Messaging

The Howler has a massive takedown that puts the "creative class" Fenty debacle in the context of the last thirty years of neo-liberal domination. Read it all, though here are some highlights:

[Reich's] data describe[s] a social revolution. In the 1970s, the top one percent received eight percent of national income. By 2007, their share had tripled, to 23 percent. Herbert went on to state a concomitant point: “A male worker earning the median wage in 2007 earned less than the median wage, adjusted for inflation, of a male worker 30 years earlier.”

The rich have gotten a great deal richer. Everyone else has stood still. ...

In the face of that staggering social revolution, are you aware of any politics or political messaging on the left [sic] which has tried to encompass this revolution? Have liberal entities even tried to make the public aware of this change? Have liberal entities tried to build political frameworks in which average people of the left, the center and the right can see their obvious common interest in confronting this revolution?

Actually, no—you have not. ...

Simple story: Average people of the left, right and center are getting eaten by the social revolution defined by Reich’s data. For example, they are all getting ripped off by the remarkable cost of American health care—a remarkable topic which went undiscussed in last year’s discussion of health care. ... But no major liberal or mainstream press entity ever attempted to explain why health care costs are so stunningly high in this country.

Duh. Those remarkable health care costs are part of the social revolution defined by Reich’s data. But did you see a single Big Liberal really examine that topic last year? Did you see Rachel raise it? Big Eddie? Joan?

We’re sorry, but no—you did not.

Our “liberal leaders” almost entirely come from within that top one percent. (From high within that one percent.) They display little sense of the problem defined by Reich’s data—and when they’re pushed, they tend to defer to corporate/major wealth interests. Over the course of the past several decades, the “liberal” world has produced nothing in reaction to the revolution defined in Reich’s data —no messaging; no frameworks; no serious outreach.

So that makes "our" opinion and thought "leaders" neither "liberal" nor "left." Eh?

And the D faction that closest to defining any "messaging" on Reich's "revolution"?

Why, both Clintons, of course! Which would be why the courtiers at Versailles, including their young lackeys in the "creative" [cough] "class," hated them, feared them, and helped to destroy them. I'd caveat that both Clintons were more about messaging, some (not to be despised) empathy, and the delivery of concrete material benefits (HOLC; health care), than about developing what the Howler calls an analytical "framework," and teaching people how to use it. "It's the economy, stupid" begs precisely the most important question: "Whose economy"? And to that, neither Clinton -- both of whom are firmly in the Washington Consensus, though on the left-hand side -- have an answer. *

Unfortunately for both Clintons, and even more unfortunately for us, the "neo-liberalism with a human face" they proffer is no longer adequate to the times. Normalized 10% nominal (20% real) disemployment is not a condition that can be mitigated. That's why a third force in American politics needs to be created, and both legacy parties need to be destroyed.

* * *

Howler is teh suxx0r. He hates Rachel Maddow! Look! Over there! Sarah Palin!

* * *

NOTE Of course, "FAIL" is all a matter of perspective. I guess if your goal in life is to gentrify the District with PBR and condos, it's all good!

NOTE * Here's some excerpts from Bill Clinton's speech in Denver, 2008:

Middle-class and low-income Americans are hurting, with incomes declining, job losses, poverty, and inequality rising, mortgage foreclosures and credit card debt increasing, health care coverage disappearing, and a very big spike in the cost of food, utilities, and gasoline. ...

In this decade, American workers have consistently given us rising productivity. That means, year after year, they work harder and produce more.

Now, what did they get in return? Declining wages, less than one-fourth as many new jobs as in the previous eight years, smaller health care and pension benefits, rising poverty, and the biggest increase in income inequality since the 1920s.


American families by the millions are struggling with soaring health care costs and declining coverage.

I will never forget the parents of children with autism and other serious conditions who told me on the campaign trail that they couldn't afford health care and couldn't qualify their children for Medicaid unless they quit work and starved or got a divorce.

Are these the family values the Republicans are so proud of?

Notice what's missing? The analytical framework. Why is all this happening? Neither Clinton really has an answer. In some ways, Hillary's great strength on policy detail has two great weakness: (1) Policy, and (2) Detail. I'm all for concrete material benefits, believe me, but why the need for the policies in the first place? Nobody in either legacy party has an answer.

UPDATE Fred Hiatt's pool boi, Ezra Klein, helps himself to a dinky portion of crow (hat tip, danps):

I made the mistake of confusing the mayor's record with the lived experience of D.C.'s residents.

So don't let that happen again. Haw. Actually, it wouldn't matter if Ezra were only confusing himself; the fact that he confuses other people -- that confusing other people is his job -- is the real problem. As for example:

Adrian Fenty ran for office in late 2006. Unemployment was in the 5 percent range. Today, it's at 10.5 percent.

Klein -- confusingly! -- cites the average. What the average conceals is that African-American unemployment in DC is double the national average: 34.5%. Funny, isn't it, how race is "any stick to beat a dog" with the "creative class," instead of a serious analytical category. Or not funny.

And check out this comment:

When I saw in the paper Monday morning that Fenty had spent Sunday competing in a triathalon, I felt like it was the perfect encapsulation of why he was going to lose. I'm sure young, well toned folks with lots of free time and disposable income think it's really cool to have a mayor who runs triathalons, but I suspect most middle aged (and 'better') women have the same reaction I do - that he is 'goofing' off (I would choose another word, but it triggers the Post's filter) and that the things that are important to him are not remotely the ones that are important to us. I have the same reaction every time I hear about Obama golfing. BTW, I am a lifelong totally committed Democrat, but I just feel like the Fenty [Obama] wing of the party just doesn't get the importance of the need for both the reality and the appearance of empathy with the folks they are asking to vote for them. Of course, you are right that if unemployment were 1% and incomes were roaring upward, Fenty would have been fine, but given that he knew that was not the case, I think that his own mistakes, not the economy, were the main causes of his downfall.

(Two typos corrected.) Live by cultural markers, die by cultural markers. And it couldn't happen to a nicer bunch of perfumed courtiers.

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chicago dyke's picture
Submitted by chicago dyke on

The plutocrat world was very skilled as it constructed these deceptive points. In response, the liberal world has been completely hapless. Can we talk? The plutocrat world has shown great skill. It’s the liberal world which has been dumb.

i guess he's not talking about the people i read and talk to, who make some very fine arguments and worthwhile media memes. it's just they aren't employed to do so by any "left" or democratic outfit. they're mostly dirty bloggers and community activist types. people wonder why i prefer "progressive" over liberal and it's not because i'm ashamed to hold liberal values. but because people who think of themselves on the left construct that so differently than i do, it's hard for me to understand them. my mind really struggled with that essay, as his use of "we" and "our" and "left" were not entirely logical and clear to me. ymmv, but i'm a long way from intimately perceiving the hierarchal pecking order of the Village. those people don't live in my world and vice versa.

Submitted by lambert on

If there were a genuine third pole in American politics, Somerby would probably be right there, and his language would no longer be a problem. His "we" is an imagined left that actually has leftist leaders. And parking meters....

CMike's picture
Submitted by CMike on

Nor is he talking about those people you talk with who make fine arguments and conjure up worthwhile, but not widely circulated, media memes. At the Daily Howler, Somerby has been critiquing what has been appearing in the main stream media since 1998. He is especially critical of those loyal-to-their-class millionaire pundits, their go-to feckless liberals who guest as expert commentators, and whatever invariably pathetic messaging the Democratic Party and liberal special interest groups have put together on any policy topic or breaking controversy being discussed. (Paul Krugman is the one regular who doesn't get lumped in with the rest of them by Somerby.)

It's a fact that progressive/liberal/lefty messaging has been a big fail over the last several decades and anyone who doesn't think so should take a fresh look at what the general population is being exposed to when they pick up a mass circulated publication, listen to the radio, or turn on the TV. The flip side is that, like Somerby says, the bad guys have successfully sold half of the population the ideas that "tax cuts pay for themselves," "Social Security is going broke," and it's a hoax that fossil fuel consumption causes climate change.

Democrats, progressives, liberals, and lefties must be doing something wrong and I don't think there's anyone who has done a better job over the years than Somerby in pointing out what that is and when it is, in real time, that they're doing it.

Fredster's picture
Submitted by Fredster on

Fred Hiatt's pool boi, Ezra Klein

BTW, where did the emoticons go?

JG's picture
Submitted by JG on

Somerby's most significant criticism of Ed Schultz was probably this post from last year, in which Schultz is accused of intellectual laziness:

Good God! In passing, he even mentioned the difference in per capita health care spending! Though he said it so quickly, and in such truncated form, that it likely flew by without notice.

Please come to Toronto, Schultz said. Let’s fly to Toronto—it takes an hour—and learn about their health care system! But in that statement, you saw the soul of pseudo-progressive failure on this issue.

Schultz, you see, is a major progressive. He’s a long-time talk radio host, from the northern tier of the country. A few years ago, Democratic Party leadership helped him advance to his current national platform.

And yet, even at this late date, Ed Schultz doesn’t know squat about Canadian health care! A bit later on last night’s program, he interviewed Nancy Barto, a Republican state legislator from Arizona who opposes Obama’s health care proposals. In particular, Schultz explained, Barto has helped “put a constitutional amendment on the 2010 ballot that would ban nationalizing health care in that state.”


Fifteen years after the failure of Bill Clinton’s health plan, this leading progressive has now decided to “find out about all this stuff.” Ed Schultz broadcast from Fargo for years. But he still doesn’t know how to respond to standard critiques of Canadian health care, such as the one made by Barto.

But don’t worry! He plans to go now!

In that completely pathetic exchange, you see the Potemkin heart and soul of America’s “progressive” pseudo-movement.

Pseudo-progressives—people like Schultz—have been too dumb, too lazy, too uninvolved to assemble even the simplest facts and frameworks for arguing health care. Last night’s exchange was quite typical:

Barto knew what objections to raise. Schultz had no idea how to respond.

leea's picture
Submitted by leea on

From the folks I've talked with, that would be long time white and black DC residents in Dupont Circle, the reason for their split with Fenty is because he was seen to be taking care of only some of DC, not the majority of DC. I emphasize 'seen' because it's understood that there will be some social problems, homelessness, unemployment, crime, etc. but what got them was the sense of betrayal. He is from DC. He grew up here. He went to Mackin. He should know better.

The thing I saw that was different about how these folks thought and felt about DC is the idea of " if poor folks struggle, DC will struggle". A few had relatives friends in city that were struggling and knew how they felt. Another was an activist who has seen how kids are being left behind unnecessarily by the admins focus on test scores and not learning to learn.

That is so far from the sentiments of other parents at my child's school, who are newer to DC, well to do and majority white who say 'everything is going to fall apart... how could people not like the improvements.... aren't the schools better....they don't know what's good for them. The always effective "STFU!!" was thrown in there, as well as "Things are great, look at all the new businesses and improvements in don't want to go back to the days of Marion Barry do you?".

I think those responses from newer DC residents was echoed/supported by the administration by not once simply acknowledging that people had legitimate concerns that should be addressed. Fenty only acknowledged that he should have been more receptive, available, and open when he realized that he might lose and promised to do it next time. Too late.

"The system does work sometimes" is what I get from this. If blacks in this city were more disenfranchised, I doubt that the impact of their voting power would have had the effect that it did. I don't think anyone will forget that they don't have a voice when it comes to choosing the mayor of this city.