Liberalism is back, says the NYT's always superb Timothy Egan, although this re-emergent center-left majority could prove as "tenuous" as before:
For at least a generation’s time, liberals in this country have been afraid to call themselves liberal. Was it the excesses of their creed? ... Or was it the relentless campaign by the broadcasting and publishing empires of the far right, associating liberals with tyranny, spiritual vacuity and baby killing, that drove people from the label that could not speak its name?
Given that narrow choice, I'd take the latter. American liberalism's excesses were rarely excessive. Since FDR, strengthening capitalism--not weakening it--has been liberalism's chief occupation, while attempts at genuinely equitable wealth redistribution have been virtually absent. The right's appropriation, however, of flag and deities as it simultaneously propagandized liberalism as unAmerican socialist godlessness were brilliant strokes of electoral maneuvering--rendered even more brilliant by going essentially unanswered.
What also shall remain unanswered, or unresolved, for some time is the oddest sort of paradox: Today's center-left majority may not have organically supplanted yesterday's center-right majority; it might merely have shifted the distorted center leftward, still leaving the left on the right, but the right a bit more to the middle.
Or--and here's another real possibility--much of the labeled positioning blather of left and right and center and center-left and center-right is a heaping pile of practical nonsense. Americans are immemorially pragmatic; if they must be labeled, label them that. Grasping that central concept has always been key to Obama's electoral success. Still, Egan is nervous, as am I, as we all should be:
All political moments are ephemeral. This one could vanish in the blink of a donkey’s eye.... For now, the majority of Americans have Obama’s back. But should he fail, the same majority could become something much worse — a confederacy of cynics.
Which would fuel the nihilists. That's pretty much all they've got: the fierce hope of a raging cynicism born of endless obstructionism.
Crushing that hope by somehow circumventing its barricades would, as Egan rightly speculates, cause Obama to "be remembered among the greats."