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Beware the Blue State Model: How the Democrats Created a "Liberalism of the Rich"


Beware the Blue State Model: How the Democrats Created a "Liberalism of the Rich"

Thomas Frank

[This piece has been adapted from Thomas Frank's new book, Listen, Liberal, or What Ever Happened to the Party of the People? (Metropolitan Books).]


Traditionally, liberalism referred to the position that investments should have few controls upon them, thus favoring the banking institutions by enabling them to make money off of economic activity. By contrast, the conservatism focussed upon the already-moneyed class, with resources including land and business assets. In order to incite the conservatives into investments, liberals cheered on a certain amount of inflation that would diminish the value of the conservatives resources should they sit on the sidelines. Liberalism is for the wanna be rich and conservatism is for the already rich. The important word is PROGRESSIVISM.


The computer changes everything btw. Everyone has a speaking voice, of course, but that doesn't mean it gets heard by anyone out of earshot. We can write a letter but that doesn't mean it gets read by more than one person. A computer however gives you the 'big voice' which is kind of unique for an individual. You are not poor online. Nor does being rich give you any advantage either. Online in a forum like this you can reach a great many people located around the world and from various classes and occupations, rich and poor, left and right on various subjects and your voice is absolutely equal to any other.

None of the usual crap applies unless you choose to include it. Not race nor gender, not expensive clothes and fat bank accounts nor disabilities nor age ...none of that or anything else matters except your words are heard by others and only what is said is actually what counts. You know that never happened before the Internet except for the privileged few with a microphone and a radio show etc. It sometimes happens a thread will see upwards of 300 posts by people. Most are single posts and at any time dozens and dozens of people read what you said. Which illustrates best that there were perhaps hundreds who read them but never posted.

So whether you are poor or not... Online the voice of the little guy is the equal to the voice of the billionaires. It is only the words said that count not who says them. So Wicklund... You ain't poor that I see...lol.


This book is going to be very important going forward because what we're experiencing is a classic paradigm shift as America finally wakes up to the political obfuscation practiced by both parties at public expense. These will be interesting times...


Mr. Frank has confused the entrepreneurial powerhouse that is Boston with the political policies that redistribute wealth to care for the needful. The Boston educational model from which I mightily benefited (superb public education at The Boston latin School and full tuition scholarship to MIT, found three companies based on 23 US patents) is not the cause of Fall River's problems.


The mind acts on its own sometimes, while reading this stimulating piece, a phrase from a poem by Gerard Manley Hopkins popped into my mind, "leave comfort root room." How do people, just folks, find comfort in a stew like Boston? This piece dissects the decadance of American Liberalism, the technos running American Universities and much of the faux punditry, revealing a banality underneath, a selfish "I am creative, get out of my way" way. The Democratic Party is awash in Bostonism and this year may be its last hurrah--leave comfort root room, vote Bernie.


Thomas Frank is beyond charitable when he mentions "Democrats' flaccid response to Wall Street misbehavior". The alleged solution, Dodd Frank legislation, written by Wall Street and enacted by Democrats continues to increase the power of the 5 too-big-to-fail banks (at the expense of community banks) to the extent that by election day the 5 banks will control 50% of US bank assets, compared to 25% in 2008 when they caused the crash.


Amen to that!!!!


Interesting article & analysis.

Basically, the "Liberalism" practiced in Boston is just a New England flavor of Calvinism.

For the uninitiated, Calvinism is the belief that IF you are doing well, you demonstrate the blessing of God. And if you are struggling, then you have lost God's favor (ergo: you deserve to suffer and no one should be compelled to help you, neither society).

"Innovation liberalism is “a liberalism of the rich,” to use the straightforward phrase of local labor leader Harris Gruman. This doctrine has no patience with the idea that everyone should share in society’s wealth. What Massachusetts liberals pine for, by and large, is a more perfect meritocracy -- a system where the essential thing is to ensure that the truly talented get into the right schools and then get to rise through the ranks of society. Unfortunately, however, as the blue-state model makes painfully clear, there is no solidarity in a meritocracy."

Another religious analogy is apt and it's this idea that it's easier to pass a camel through the eye of a needle than to get a rich man (or woman) to part with his money. This insight takes us to the following quote:

" Boston is the headquarters for two industries that are steadily bankrupting middle America: big learning and big medicine, both of them imposing costs that everyone else is basically required to pay and which increase at a far more rapid pace than wages or inflation. A thousand dollars a pill, 30 grand a semester: the debts that are gradually choking the life out of people where you live are what has made this city so very rich."

Money casts a spell over those in possession of lots of it. And in a society that's fueled by money/capital, obvious advantages ensue to those persons (or communities) that have lots of it.

The disproportionate powers attributable to those with capital allow them to influence culture, politics, academe, media, the courts, and the rules of economics.

The more that money solidifies into fewer and fewer privileged hands, the greater the efforts to come up with fancy theories and rationales for this unnatural, unequal dissemination of assets.


I'm not a liberal or conservative. (So bored with that tired framing.)
Mr. Frank, from my perspective it's not that your argument is full of overt falsehoods, it's that it doesn't have enough context, rendering it myopic and hence weak.
A homicide detective once said, "Before you connect the dots, you gotta collect the dots."
Below are some dots that may or may not be part of your collection: "We need scarcely add that the contemplation in natural science of a wider domain than the actual leads to a far better understanding of the actual." Sir Arthur Eddington, The Nature of the Physical World

“The most fundamental phenomenon of the universe is relationship.” Jonas SalkAnatomy of Reality

“The story of human intelligence starts with a universe that is capable of encoding information.” Ray KurzweilHow to Create a Mind

Wider Domain: Code is relationship infrastructure in bio, cultural & tech networks: genetic, language (sound & alphabet coded), math, moral, religious, legal, monetary, software, etc.

Arguing: Exponentially accelerating complexity has crushed of the efficacy of our cultural genome.
It ain't rocket science; if your culture's relationships with the sky and ocean are deadly, your cultural genome sucks.
Naturally, our culture's weak and decaying relationships include income inequality. And then there's the rapidly oncoming automation that will likely further increase said inequality.

Arguing that reform, little stitches (policy edits) on our and world culture's rotting cloth, are not sufficient.
Think we need to "redomain" culture's relationship / reality interface, internally, and with geo, eco, bio & cultural networks.
Redomaining is “ … the expressing of a given purpose in a different set of components …” Brian Arthur The Nature of Technology
Examples: agriculture redomained food procurement from hunting and gathering;
alphabet code redomained writing from pictograph code;
electricity redomained power generation from steam power;
democracy redomained government from monarchy;
eukaryote cells redomained biotech from prokaryote cells.

Have some innovation variation re our cultural genome that is not geared to the rich, but we're not allowed to post links here. So, for those interested, please search Culture, Complexity & Code, add postgenetic.


The job of the modern Democratic Party is to take voters' good intentions, and then melt them into bullets, bombs & barbed wire.

Speaking of bullets, bombs & barbed wire, DeFacto Democrat Bernie Sanders' legislative career is full of votes in favor of all three.

Why anyone familiar with his actual record should expect anything beyond the Obama hopey-changey BS is a mystery to me.

But I guess people want to believe in a savior or something.


You are enamored of labels or more specifically relabeling through creating subdivisions. Redomaining is simply either progress if technological or evolution and adaptation renamed!

You seem to be attempting to generate a 'jargon' specific to renaming things. The names may change but that actually changes nothing.


After drug and insurance company profits were bolstered by Obama's Affordable Care Act (ACA) , Dodd Frank legislation enabled them to expand through mergers and acquisitions to the extent that we now have drug and insurance companies that are too big to fail and will have leverage for trillions in taxpayer funded bailouts when the next crash hits.

The reason Clinton tells us we can't afford tuition relief, Social Security expansion, or Medicare for all is that she will use Social Security and Medicare funds to bail out the corporations that own her.


Nice work Thomas Frank.

Reading the photo caption -- "Listen, Liberal is, in a sense, a history of how, from the Clintonesque 1990s on, the Democratic Party managed to ditch the working class (hello, Donald Trump!) and its New Deal tradition, throw its support behind a rising “professional” and technocratic class, and go gaga over Wall Street and those billionaires to come." -- i hope the full book goes into specifics about how the Clintons and the DLC sold out the New Deal Democratic Party, to cater to capital.

As such, perhaps your new book will help swing some mainstream thinking away from backing the duplicitous Clinton campaign, to support the far more genuine Sanders campaign.

But i also hope it includes a section on the history and meanings of liberalism, which has always been the ideology of capital.

Only in the USA -- looking at the New Deal through the lens of the social movements of the 1960s -- does anyone think "liberal" necessarily means anything like pro-working class, pro-peace, pro-social justice, or pro-environment.

i realize you are writing for a US audience, and using words like "liberal" and "blue state" in ways that people think have certain meanings. And you can't personally fill the gaping holes in the average US understanding of the historical function of liberalism at the service of capital.

But hopefully your book at least outlines how "liberal" came to have its different meanings.


The important word is actually ecology.


One thing I have noticed when it comes to discussions of "Socialism" and things like Universal health care , pension plans, family leave and the like when contrasting Europe to the USA is that there are persons who are from Europe and are in the US as migrants that defend the US model as they condemn that in Europe.

They will write letters to the editor pointing out they from Europe and it not all that people claim. This very same thing happens with ex pat Canadians going down to the USA.

Generally when one scratches beneath the surface one will find that these people are are all upper middle class and higher. They are in the top 10 percent of wage earners. Of COURSE they will support the US model. Now it much easier for upper middle class professionals from these Countries in the EU to migrate to the USA for a "better life" than it is for the poor people in the USA to migrate to Europe for a "better life" and so what you create in the USA is people of the lower middle class or even poor reading this stuff from those migrants working in the USA and concluding "things are no better over there".

Given it the rich and the very rich that control the media and thus the "narrative" , this in turn fuels that "America the exceptional" meme. Well if you are rich and want to get richer then the USA is the place for you and in that regard it very exceptional. For the other 90 percent of the worlds population not so much.


I would say that what you characterize as confusion is in fact precisely Mr. Frank's point, as exemplified in two quotes from the article:

The kind of liberalism that has dominated Massachusetts for the last few decades isn’t the stuff of Franklin Roosevelt or the United Auto Workers; it’s the Route 128/suburban-professionals variety.


Innovation liberalism is “a liberalism of the rich,” to use the straightforward phrase of local labor leader Harris Gruman. This doctrine has no patience with the idea that everyone should share in society’s wealth.

As for "the cause of Fall River's problems," I have to say that Mr. Frank's observation that

...this is a place and a way of life from which the politicians have withdrawn their blessing.

accords perfectly with my own over the last four decades.


Fine. So you won't mind if we tax all you yearly personal income over, say, $200K at 70% like we did in the good old days?


Great piece! Thank you for the new perspective. Allow me to say "Socialism! What is it Good for? A Lot!"

The only real Freedom is with Power. And the best way to ensure Justice is to spread that power to as many people as possible. Or so I believe.


Couple things Tom Frank should have mentioned. Firstly, this is really just a return to classical, lazzez-faire, robber-baron liberalism.

Also, in most of these booming "entrepreneurial" areas - Boston/MIT, the Virginia/Maryland/DC Beltway area, Norfolk/Tidewater Virginia, Atlanta, Southern California, Salt Lake City, Seattle/Takoma, and probably more than a little of the SF Bay Area - their economies are fueled by the massive "defense" contracting industry. Get away from stuff that the Pentagon wants and maybe a couple handheld electronic trinkets, and practically NOTHING innovative is being designed in the USA. In my field, civil engineering, all innovation comes from Europe and we are practically a third-world country when it comes to public infrastructure and building innovation. I just finished attending a talk about radar system used to monitor slope movements and provide landslide prediction and warning - It was all designed and built in Italy. All wind turbine technology comes from Spain or Denmark, Hydropower and advanced metallurgy from Germany, High speed rail from Spain or France or Italy. Tunneling technologies.. ditto....