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Reflections on the crisis in American liberalism

By Al Schumann on Monday January 12, 2009 02:40 PM

Every time liberals win an election, a victory defined as a shoveling a Democrat into office, their intellectuals indulge in an odd, portentous imputation. They believe that the conservatives have lost in a very significant, very meaningful way, and that this loss is attributable to some dramatic failure in the conservatives' onto/epistemo constructs. They write well and often insightfully, but what it boils down to is that the conservatives have lost because they have bad cess in their heads, the poor things, and the bad cess has interacted with numinous forces to cause their defeat. It follows, then, in a scholarly enthymematic progression, that liberals have won because they have good stuff in their heads. The numinous forces have smiled. Needless to say, the conservative intellectuals indulge in the same game. However more of them get paid, they get paid more, they say "emergent" less often and they have a better understanding of their place in the food chain. They too elide a systemic critique, but more of them understand that's a job requirement.

In the recent election, the victorious liberal candidate out-fundraised, out-organized, out-charmed and out-maneuvered everyone who got between him and the presidency. There was no epochal clash of ideologies. An enormously talented, very good looking man sailed right by a sad collection of mentally unbalanced hacks, in his own party. On paper, his policies were quite similar to theirs. He was, simply, the better politician.

His conservative opponent had been delivered a bed shat in over eight years by Cheney-Bush and measured for him by Corporate Procrustes, who was determined to make sure it never fit, no matter how hard the poor sap abased himself. He had no principles left after a lifetime in politics, and no ideas with which to contest. So he offered up his self-regard. In the end, he became the useful idiot for a minor celebrity. No loss, none at all. Procrustes can work with Obama through the super yuppies from the Hamilton Project (motto: Your people, sir, is nothing but a great beast!).

It was a farce. The heirs of John Kenneth Galbraith did not square off against the heirs of Russell Kirk. Just try to imagine any of the popular pundits so much as referencing them in support of an argument, never mind attempting to explicate their ideas. Al Gore offered more ideological content in his loss to George Bush. There should be a clue in that. Hip urban intellectuals swooned over a man who read Stendhal. No one else was moved. Gore was ridiculed and subjected to endlessly petty, ideologically empty calumnies in the media. His supporters dutifully tracked all of them down. He rewarded them by caving in a noisy and craven fashion. Any takers on a bet that Barack Obama has read Galbraith? But he wisely stuck to platitudes and to being good looking. He won and as has already been made abundantly clear, his supporters can expect no more in his victory than they got in Gore's loss. To drive it home to them, he's using Rick Warren in the same way George Bush used John Bolton at the United Nations: as a living, breathing insult.

There is no crisis in American conservatism. The Republican Party has a human resources problem, a public relations problem and a brand identity problem. Talent is thin. They need to recruit. The brand needs to be adjusted to fit the needs of the organization in a way that does not alienate the consumers. The beshat bed left by Cheney-Bush has a new occupant already. Their revenue stream is secure. The managerial core is demoralized, but capable of seeing this through. It is a proud corporate concern with deep roots in the community. It can and will offer a robust, scalable nationwide management solution, with improved moral hygiene and fewer Big Gubmint calories than ever. If needed, and as needed, they can count on a hand up from their colleagues, offered for the good of the country, in the same spirit that got them the votes for the Iraq war, the continued funding of it, the Patriot Act, its extension, the slow sabotage of the factory farm schools, through NCLB, and their replacement with pay-to-play targeted training, the "self-regulating" financial services industry, the War on Drugs, the conversion of manufacturing to services, services to temping and temping to taking out loans for reeducation, etc. etc. A kindly hand, with many dimes in it to be displayed as tokens of managerial rivalry.

Comments (14)


i don't know american liberalism seems to be on its usual course:


Al Schumann:

Well, yeah, sure. That's my whole point. American liberalism is on its usual course. The crisis/crises don't exist, at least not in the sense their enthusiasts intend to convey. Not in liberalism and not in conservatism. As they're both almost infinitely adjustable to suit the needs of the system they brand, and therefore almost infinitely empty, the idea of a crisis within them is risible. The only crisis is consistent elision of that.

I thought I'd hammered it home pretty well :-(

Al Schumann:

But maybe not.

I see two organized entities vying for control of a system of production: an industrial state forcibly converting to a services state, while maintaining the organizational structure of the the industrial state. One entity is arguably better than the other in the sense that it takes a narrowly conservationist approach to maintaining the system. The people who "identify" with that call themselves liberals. The other entity takes a more immediately extractive approach. The people who identify with that call themselves conservatives. Cognitive dissonance works well for both groups of people. They consistently find reasons to maintain their identification, even when faced by the reality that neither entity views them as anything better than nuisancy labor.

Their intellectuals perpetuate that and provide "content" to keep the defensive dissonance healthy, with health defined as the organizational needs of the system of production. Some intellectuals do that for free. Labor remains obedient.


Re: Max Blumenthal. That was a great line about the Gaza school kids building the bombs under their desks. It sort of reminded me of when Leno used to be funny.

Re: Conservatism. All they need is a new daddy figure to lead them back onto the true path, someone who will give them the moral clarity that the current crop failed to project--or perhaps projected a little too clearly. As for the liberals, they shouldn't get too cocky. Obama was just Plan B, after all.


No, Al, you made it clear. I was just being dense.

By the way, how dya like Franken now?


yuk yuk yuk...

Al Schumann:

Oh, god, that's just too painful. It's depressing and sad that he's getting laughs as well.

Al Schumann:

What always got to me about his schtick was its almost malevolent banality. His career in comedy just didn't work. He wasn't trying to shine a light on the unmentionable or unseen. There was no art to it, no transgressive quality of any kind. No risk and no fire. He didn't even play it up for the yucks. And needless to say, politics is his means of continuing the punitive approach he took on stage.


Thank you for an interesting article. In your comment, you say we are converting to a services state. What's next, when services - legal, accounting, etc. - are being outsourced?

Al Schumann:

The Bureau of Labor Statistics has some projections (pdf). They don't take into account a prolonged, vicious recession, but that does look like the evolving face of the job market.

High end manufacturing might actually benefit, a little, if the financial crisis continues for a long. Supply chain outsourcing is much harder when the outsourcees try to cope with the race to the bottom through cuts in quality assurance, and the credit that smoothes delivery is difficult and expensive to obtain.

I hope Owen Paine will chime in on this. It's his bailiwick.


"the conversion of manufacturing to services, services to temping "


that is what's on view for and from
the upper middle of the stack

the fate of
the kulak dedicated wagery

the white spotted prole hogs
are well into final slaughter mode

despite counter trends like smithfield corporate amerika has the reserve army of latinos
mobilizing for another wave of the invisible invasion
--even as i write this ---
skill-less productive shit
on site ...when and if necessary
ain't about offering
citizen pay checks any more

as to the final stage temping trend
it emerged whole cloth
from the over soul
of white collar
out sourcing
years ago and has remained a robust trend
these past several decades

temping man power needs
is quarterly kost kool

"firms " find
its grand help

as always vision limited corporations
--by the reach of their chief's finite rationality --
flux capacitate their way size wise
thru their profit progress

there's love at the end of the tunnel

all or major parts of various corporate staffing functions
like HR , Accounting , Marketing ,IT etc
is now more ambitious
our giant limited liability profit multipoles
are " out functioning" themselves
as well as lop producting ---citi group--

combine this with
the endless duel in the sun action
over buy vs build
with switch offs following switch ons
faster then stink follows a shit
and you get the blind staggers
long often conflicting
inter sectoral trends
remain an on going part
of big biz enterprise's
size shape and activity shifting racket ball

"post corporate " amerika
what a bing bing

still all the rage among the merit class ???

does the future mean
self organizing
cluster fucking
by temp bands of "free class " professionals
"taking out loans for reeducation, etc. etc."

a liberated zero liability
restlessly innovating
faustian value adding elite

are we at the dawn of total firm-less-ness ????

my take:
just another petit burger
fantasy eruption
like the co op factory raves of yore

off shoring however
with all the cost arbitrage hiding
in the forex fiddles
adds another
possibly synergistic option here

in shoring the out sourcing ???

but... so what ...
if it reverses itself
all or in part

them that's got the credit
gets the glow worm

hi fi pri sec hegemony
remains intact globe wide

whether its here or there
its everywhere


the hideous edmund burke
had his party of property
and party of ability
with 220 or so years
of self morphs and tosses into dust bins of history
and a few one becomes twoing
and the odd becoming one's opposite
the party of property vs the party of ability
seems apt enough even now

so long as ability is seen as a property
and property as an ability


the bottom wrungs bottom line

if you're not out there
covertly if not overtly
fighting the board room
then you're just
part of the .....back room

"You can imagine how rare it is for me to agree with everything Senator Coleman says."

Yes, it's such a strain, barely possible...

What a complete turd this creep is.


i guess i oughta come clean on something now it seems he's headed for the senate ..
i never got hired by my pal al to write gag lines

yes back in the day Al suggested i " throw together a few funny ones" as he mobilized for the big run
but truth is i wanted the mother fucking oak faced fucker to fall flat on his kisser
so i sent him nothin but lame shit ....some of which can be found scattered about here at smbiva among various posts and comments

self admiring zionic ass
that he is

AL once told me he'd "love to be jack benny to somebodies rochester "
so i did a whole bunch that started
" ohhhh voter ...."

u know with the voter talkin back
like rochester ....

quite unexpectedly
he didn't take a shine to any of em

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