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Neoliberalism’s Death Has Been Greatly Exaggerated
The triumph of the normcore is the real story.
1. Neoliberalism’s Death Has Been Greatly Exaggerated
If there’s one thing that conservative commentators and liberal blue-checks in Brooklyn agree on, it is the certain, imminent demise of dreaded “neoliberalism” or corporate liberalism or capitalist liberalism or “centrism” or whatever you want to call it. As both sides see it, the Democrats are going down a trail that is a mirror image of the Republicans—toward both European-style socialism and cultural Marxism that will upend the established order that has dominated the party for decades.
Their evidence for this disruption generally includes AOC’s primary victory, Bernie’s rise, the dominance of the DSA/SJW ideology online, and inevitably some hand-waving about campus politics.
While it’s true that the progressive left has won some internal victories within the Democratic party—eschewing concerns about debt and deficits and elevating racial justice politics in particular—these changes have largely been incorporated into the existing establishment structure.
Whereas the electoral evidence for the far left’s ascension is still pretty spare, the counter-evidence is in ample supply.
I would begin with, of course, the obvious example of the landslide primary victory for Mr. Normcore himself, Joe Biden, a man whose senior staff is made up of mostly DLC centrists from the ’90s and who would think Latinx was a typo if it were included in a briefing document. Just this week Biden once again reinforced his bona fides, putting a damper on the progressive dream of eliminating college debt in his first presidential print interview with, of all people, centrist high priest David Brooks. It’s just the latest example of Biden holding the more traditionalist center-left line on policy, having rejected expanding the Supreme Court and the Green New Deal and Medicare For All. So it’s clear that, for the time being, the center of the party has held.
But what of the notion that Biden was the death rattle or the dead-cat bounce of neoliberalism? That he is playing the role of Romney 2012, a final gasp of normalcy before the populist storm? Or that Biden’s election, made possible only because of voters’ fears of a second term for the Bad Orange Man, merely delayed the socialist takeover of the party?
Well, thus far in 2021 those theories aren’t bearing out either. In Louisiana, the more traditional Clyburn-style Democrat Troy Carter won a primary over what James Carville described as the more “woke” candidate. In Virginia the ultimate neoliberal corporatist Terry McAuliffe is swamping his left-wing challengers. Even in New York City, polls show the two candidates most reviled by the progressive left, Andrew Yang and Eric Adams, are in the lead, though we’ll see if that holds.
Part of what is happening is the changing coalitions are moving more moderate “red dog” voters into the Democratic camp. But another part of it is simply that “Twitter is not real life,” as they say, and Democratic voters aren’t as far left as they are made out to be on social media.
Take a look at the recent data that douses the most cold water on the inevitability of our great socialist future.
Every year the Harvard Institute of Politics conducts the preeminent assessment of political attitudes among the youngs. In March of this year they polled 2,513 18-29 year- olds, finding 41% identified as Democrats, 22% as Republicans, and 37% as independents.
But it gets really interesting when you get past the purely political questions and look more deeply at how these young voters respond to the issues. What the poll makes clear is that the death of neoliberalism among the zoomers and young millennials has been greatly exaggerated.
Here are their views in a few select areas.
Cutting taxes is an effective way to increase economic growth:
Our country’s goal in trade policy should be to eliminate all barriers to trade and employment so that we have a truly global economy:
If parents had more freedom to choose where they could send their children to school, the education system in this country would be better:
Recent immigration into this country has done more good than harm:
The Biden administration assisting in global pandemic relief efforts once all Americans have had the opportunity to be vaccinated:
Don’t Know: 14%
So a plurality of young voters wants to cut taxes, expand free trade, and expand school choice, supports immigration, and thinks that the U.S. has a leadership role to play in the world, and like Joe Biden?
Y’all I’m just sayin’
P.S. If you feel like it’s kind of weird that the political media distorts the plurality views in this country in favor of the extremes, support what we are doing here at The Bulwark.
2. Fill the Stadiums
Okay, I just have to vent about this one last time before we all get to move on.
Let me share a few local stats with you.
San Francisco General Hospital has zero COVID patients for the first time since the pandemic started (woo!)
69% of residents have been vaccinated (nice!)
The whole county only has 5 COVID patients in the ICU (amazing!)
Here’s what California’s case chart looks like:
Based on all the available data, It sure seems like here in the Bay Area we have at long last won the fight against the virus. And yet when the city’s beloved Warriors hosted an epic sudden death play-in game last night, the Chase Center had a capacity limit of 35%, with a special “vaccinated section” that didn’t require distancing (why the whole stadium couldn’t have just been a passported, vaccinated section is unclear).
Worse, if locals wanted to gather at their neighborhood watering hole to watch the game with some pals, the city is allowing only 25% indoor capacity for bars and is continuing mask mandates, despite the CDC guidance.
Meanwhile the outdoor baseball stadium is still mandating 50% capacity limit.
Y’all this is madness.
I totally support every individual and business doing whatever they deem necessary to protect the health of themselves and their customers. If individual teams or businesses want to keep these guidelines in place, that’s their prerogative. If individuals want to continue to mask or distance, that is their call.
But the local governments are a different story. There is no meaningful definition of the word “crisis” that applies to the San Francisco Bay Area’s relationship with COVID-19 given the above data, so maintaining crisis-level dictates by the government on free people is simply wrong.
The virus has been largely defeated here and in many other communities around the country. The curve has been more than bent, it has been crushed. And that has happened in large part because people here took it seriously, socially distanced, wore masks, and got vaccinated. People’s resilience and selflessness and prudence should be celebrated, not forced upon them after it is no longer necessary.
We all deserve the chance to get together, to celebrate, to exhale. If sports brings anything to a community it is shared camaraderie and an escape from the sometimes harsh reality of our daily lives. It’s time to allow people to have that escape and togetherness again. Vaccinated people should be packing the stadiums, cheering on the home team, booing the rival, and giving people the revelry that they deserve.
Waiting until next year is foolish and unfair. It is also not grounded in scientific evidence. We can’t be sure what the future will bring. We cannot know for certain that when the NBA season starts again next fall the virus will be less prevalent than it is today. Dr. Scott Gottlieb has warned about an increase in infections in the fall, the need for vaccine boosters, and the possibility that new variants could emerge. Who knows, maybe the aliens will come by then.
We can feel confident that right now, today, returning to normal life is safe for people who have been vaccinated. So it is time to act that way. Fill the stadiums.
3. Free Omar Ameen
Last year I wrote about the horrifying case of Omar Ameen, an Iraqi refugee who was jailed in part to support a lie being perpetrated by the U.S. government about terrorist infiltrators in the refugee program.
Before Ameen was detained he was the embodiment of the American dream, working 20-hour days, learning English, raising a family, and contributing to his community.
But now he’s living a nightmare, having been detained for over a thousand days in his adopted country. Since I last wrote about his case, a federal judge has absolutely obliterated all of the government’s claims against him, but following the ruling that seemed would lead to his long-delayed freedom, he was detained again, this time by Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Ameen’s next hearing isn’t until July, and he has been forced to sue the government to get the long-overdue records that are the basis of his detention.
Ameen’s hearing, conducted remotely, is the latest installment in a three-year saga of a man who sought freedom and safety in the West, only to become the victim of what his legal team calls an attempted frame job by a crooked Iraqi militia leader with an ancestral grudge and financial incentive to lie—and of the Trump administration’s fervent desire to justify ending the nation’s refugee program for good.
Now, years after he was first arrested on bogus charges, the 47-year-old is still being held in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention on those same charges, facing removal to a country where his chief accuser has vowed to have him executed.
“There is just a level of insanity from the government on this case that is just remarkable, given that they’ve pursued a lie and don’t seem to recognize it,” said Rachelle Barbour, Ameen’s federal defender in his now-dismissed extradition case. Barbour likened ICE’s decision to detain Ameen “Trumpian,” part of an institutional legacy of hostility to due process in the immigration system that she had hoped would end with the Biden administration.
“We are back doing this again, as if we have not tread all this ground? As if they have learned nothing?” Barbour said. “I totally understood this under Trump. But how are we doing this again? Aren’t they ashamed of themselves?”