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Listen, Liberal: Or, What Ever Happened to the Party of the People? download epub

by Thomas Frank


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Thomas Frank’s new book Listen, Liberal documents a half-century of work by the Democratic elite to belittle working people and exile their concerns to the fringes of the party’s platform.

Thomas Frank’s new book Listen, Liberal documents a half-century of work by the Democratic elite to belittle working people and exile their concerns to the fringes of the party’s platform. If the prevailing ideology of the Republican establishment is that of a sneering aristocracy, Democratic elites are all too often the purveyors of a smirking meritocracy that offers working people very little. Listen, Liberal is a powerful addition to America’s political discourse. It is full of truths and, sadly, the truth hurts. Washington City Paper

There are consequences to excessive hope, just as there are to other forms of intemperance. What happened at the turning point

There are consequences to excessive hope, just as there are to other forms of intemperance. One of these is disillusionment, another is anger, and a third is this book. What happened at the turning point. That these things are happening under the watch of the Democrats, the political party that was once such a militant defender of workers and the middle class, makes the triumph of inequality that much more startling. This latest Democratic administration started so auspiciously, too, with a hero who was going to put things right.

Listen, Liberal book. A form of corporate and cultural elitism has largely eclipsed the party's old working-class commitment, he finds. For certain favored groups, this has meant prosperity. But for the nation as a whole, it is a one-way ticket into the abyss of inequality.

Listen, Liberal: Or, What Ever Happened to the Party of the People? is a 2016 book by Thomas Frank about how the American Democratic Party has changed to support elitism in the form of a professional class instead of the working class.

Listen, Liberal: Or, What Ever Happened to the Party of the People? is a 2016 book by. .The Democratic Party is one of the two major contemporary political parties in the United States, along with the Republican Party. Tracing its heritage back to Thomas Jefferson and James Madison's n Party, the modern-day Democratic Party was founded around 1828 by supporters of Andrew Jackson, making it the world's oldest active political party.

Other readers will always be interested in your opinion of the books you've read. Whether you've loved the book or not, if you give your honest and detailed thoughts then people will find new books that are right for them

Other readers will always be interested in your opinion of the books you've read. Whether you've loved the book or not, if you give your honest and detailed thoughts then people will find new books that are right for them. 1. Flesh & Bone: An Inspirational Contemporary Romance.

LISTEN, LIBERAL: Or, What Ever Happened to the Party of the People? by Thomas Frank (Metropolitan Books/Henry Holt & Company). The prospect of a Trump presidency has raised urgent fears: of the nation’s fascist tendencies, of the potential for riots in the streets. At the same time, many liberals have expressed a grim satisfaction in watching the Republican Party tear itself apart

Listen, Liberal: Or, What Ever Happened to the Party of the People? is a 2016 book by Thomas Frank about how the American Democratic Party has changed to support elitism in the form of a professional class instead of the working class. Nicholas Lemann (October 13, 2016). Can We Have a 'Party of the People'?". Retrieved October 4, 2016. Cooper, Ilene (March 15, 2016)

By (author) Thomas Frank.

By (author) Thomas Frank.

From the bestselling author of What's the Matter With Kansas, a scathing look at the standard-bearers of liberal politics -- an audiobook that asks: what's the matter with Democrats?

It is a widespread belief among liberals that if only Democrats can continue to dominate national elections, if only those awful Republicans are beaten into submission, the country will be on the right course.

But this is to fundamentally misunderstand the modern Democratic Party. Drawing on years of research and first-hand reporting, Frank points out that the Democrats have done little to advance traditional liberal goals: expanding opportunity, fighting for social justice, and ensuring that workers get a fair deal. Indeed, they have scarcely dented the free-market consensus at all. This is not for lack of opportunity: Democrats have occupied the White House for sixteen of the last twenty-four years, and yet the decline of the middle class has only accelerated. Wall Street gets its bailouts, wages keep falling, and the free-trade deals keep coming.

With his trademark sardonic wit and lacerating logic, Frank's Listen, Liberal lays bare the essence of the Democratic Party's philosophy and how it has changed over the years. A form of corporate and cultural elitism has largely eclipsed the party's old working-class commitment, he finds. For certain favored groups, this has meant prosperity. But for the nation as a whole, it is a one-way ticket into the abyss of inequality. In this critical election year, Frank recalls the Democrats to their historic goals-the only way to reverse the ever-deepening rift between the rich and the poor in America.


Comments: (7)

FLIDER
There is one (horrifying) theme in Listen Liberal. It is that the Democratic Party has betrayed its natural constituency of labor, and is constantly trying (and succeeding) to outrun Republicans by doing more damage to the social structure than Republicans profess, thus stealing their thunder. “It has become Democratic thinking that the common people are at last being treated as they deserve to be.” They do it with “professionals”. Frank has filled this entire book with evidence of this one point.

The difference between Republicans and Democrats ain’t what it used to be, according to Frank. The Democrats have decided to put all their eggs in one basket: professionals. They staff their offices with them, just like the Republicans use only lawyers from the Federalist Society. Their backers are Wall Streeters, because the Democrats are at least as generous to Wall Street as the Republicans when in power. For the wealthy, it’s a win-win. Doesn’t matter who gets in. So while Republicans consider their base the uneducated, bootstrap entrepreneurs who create jobs, the Democrats consider their base the highly educated, networked professionals who create jobs. Two sides of the same coin. And neither one can be bothered with the rest of the population except when vote-gathering. Then, for a brief period, it’s all about inequality and jobs.

Frank focuses on the last two Democratic presidents, Clinton and Obama, and the upcoming contender – Hillary Clinton. He autopsies their administrations (and Hillary’s part in them) and finds them all the same – mouthing platitudes to gain votes from the electorate, then reverting to type and removing any and all support for them so they can to deliver on promises made to the rich. It was Bill Clinton who dismantled welfare and Glass-Steagle, not either Bush.

I particularly appreciated Frank’s discussion of glass ceilings – in terms of floors. While the Hillary Clintons of the world rail about glass ceilings, it was her Democrat husband president who removed the floor for mothers on welfare, creating extreme poverty where once there was a safety net. While Hillary grandly supports microloans for women (which do not work, other than to create more debtors and richer bankers), when in power, it’s all about supporting the rich at the expense of the poor. Garden variety hypocrisy, but coming from a Democrat, and about Democrats, it’s supposedly shocking.

Frank is overwhelmed by the Democrats’ adoption of professionals. Democrats think professionals can solve any problem, and every position is filled with one. Every event showcases them. Doesn’t matter that they have no real world experience; the fact they are professionals means they are highly educated creatives. That’s all that matters in a Democratic government. So to be disappointed in the Obama Administration is to show yourself as not being a professional.

It wasn’t always so. Frank shows that FDR’s Democratic cabinet had poorly educated secretaries who had street smarts, real life experience, and ideals. They could propose innovative programs that addressed real problems. And if they didn’t work, they had another idea waiting. His VP Harry Truman never went to college. Truman couldn’t even get an interview today. The Democrats’ solution to every problem is go back to school, preferably Harvard, Yale or Stanford, and every door will open for you. All you laborers – you’re fooling yourselves. Get an education and become professionals, because America doesn’t need or want anyone else.

Listen Liberal is a damning, upsetting polemic from a passionate, experienced insider. You might think it would make excellent fodder for a Republican. But it is actually a sad reflection of what has become of the country and its politics. Two sides of the same coin is not healthy. Someone needs to represent the 99%.

David Wineberg
Frdi
I read this book in one sitting late last night and thoroughly enjoyed it. There's lots of criticism of Bill and Hillary that might cause those "feeling the Bern" to spontaneously combust. For me the most interesting topic was how the Democrats have so thoroughly absolved themselves of any responsibility to the working class by convincing themselves that "Innovation" (e.g. Uber, micro loans, AirBnb, "sharing" economy) is some sort of law of the Thomas Friedman Flat World we apparently now live in that destines those unable to code up an App or get a patent to a life of poverty.

One of my favorite quotes was:

“Economies aren’t ecosystems. They aren’t naturally occurring phenomena to which we must learn to acclimate. Their rules are made by humans. They are, in a word, political. In a democracy we can set the economic table however we choose.”

Let's start choosing how the table gets set!
Mori
In this book the author takes another stab at one of the biggest paradoxes of American politics – why the political parties in the US do not represent the interests of their largest constituencies. The short answer that Frank gives to this question is “betrayal of the working and the middle classes” by the leadership of both parties. His previous work that gained international recognition, “What is the Matter with Kansas?” explores the process of capturing the “angry white voters” by the Republican Party leaders by manipulating anti-elite feelings (anti-liberal elite, to be more exact) of this group of voters. In this book, he extends his exploration to trace how that group of voters was pushed away from the Democratic Party that used to represent their interests under the “New Deal” arrangement.

Frank traces the roots of this process to the Vietnam War era struggles, when the anti-war protests created a rift within the party between the pro-war blue collar labor and their unions and the anti-war students and intellectuals. The loss of the 1968 election to Richard Nixon sent the Democratic Party leadership on a long soul searching quest, in which the new social forces represented by professional and academic elites wrestled the control of the party from the labor unions and tied it to the socio-economic classes created by the “New Economy” – financial professionals and information technology specialists. This process was finalized by Clinton administration that performed one of the most spectacular turn-arounds in modern American history –the open abandonment of social protections favoring the poor and passage of the free trade agreement that eliminated large number of well-paying blue collar jobs (which the Clinton administration called “counter-scheduling”) coupled with deregulation of financial markets that opened the door for financial speculation, and massive subsidies for “innovation economy,” that is, information technology and big pharma.

These policies continued under Obama administration, which abandoned the campaign promise of “hope” for the notion of “pragmatism,” which according to Frank is a subterfuge masquerading policy choices favoring the elites as historical or technological inevitability. Despite his pro-working and middle class rhetoric, Obama filled his administration with experts of one particular mold – graduates of elite universities. In sharp contrast to FDR, who picked experts from various backgrounds, often representing unorthodox opinions, Obama’s “expertocracy” was the paragon of professional orthodoxy and right thinking. Frank explains this selection of experts by Obama, and Clinton’s, own personal histories – both men were of humble origins and propelled to the top of social hierarchy by elite university education.

Social science explanations of historical evens range between two polar opposites – voluntaristic and deterministic. The voluntaristic narratives, also known as “great men history”, attribute the causes of the events they try to explain to the preferences and choices made by individuals, especially those in leadership positions. The deterministic narratives, by contrast focus on impersonal factors – institutions, international relations, modes of production, natural events and the like that set the stage and define the roles for individual actors to play. Of course, in reality both factors must be taken into account. As Karl Marx aptly observed “Men make their own history, but they do not make it as they please; they do not make it under self-selected circumstances, but under circumstances existing already, given and transmitted from the past.”

Frank’s narrative falls on the voluntaristic side. His explanation of why the Democratic Party does not represent the interests of its largest constituency is grounded in the moral judgment of its leadership. The judgment that prefers “meritocracy” or social hierarchy built on the claim to superiority based on (actual or claimed) knowledge to social solidarity, which is the underlying principle of organized labor. The remedy that Frank offers is voluntaristic as well – it explicitly denies the possibility of any change in the US political party structure and calls for a moral transformation of party leadership consisting in the abandonment of the sense of moral superiority linked to college credentials.

For someone who spent his entire adult life in the academia, Frank’s analysis certainly rings true. This institution is filled with “stuffed shirts” who raise to the top by becoming adept in what passes for “right thinking” at the moment, hiding their lack of originality under obscure technical jargon, and collecting handsome rent from their credentials, titles, and positions. Allowing this bunch near the halls of power can indeed be risky. As William F. Buckley quipped “I'd rather entrust the government of the United States to the first 400 people listed in the Boston telephone directory than to the faculty of Harvard University.” Yet this moral explanation and moral remedy that Frank offers is somewhat disappointing when we consider the fact that similar transformations occurred in socialist and social democratic parties in many European countries as well. This coincidence cannot be simply explained by the change of heart of the people leading those parties. We must look into the structural determinants.

What structural elements are missing from Frank’s narrative, then? One clue can be found in his bibliography – despite impressive documentation of his claims, his bibliography misses a rather obscure, to be sure, work by Walter Karp titled “Indispensable Enemies”. This book attempts to answer the same question as Frank’s work does – why the US political parties do not represent the interests of their constituents – but the answer it provides emphasizes the structure of the party system rather than preferences of their leaders. Karp’s explanation is a variant of what is known as Robert Michels’ “iron law of oligarchy” which in essence claims that the leadership of an institution is first and foremost concerned about its own power within the institution rather than the power of the institution itself. In case of US political parties, the party bosses are more concerned with keeping their control of their respective parties than with winning elections, and they tacitly cooperate by excluding any challenge to their leadership by dividing up their respective turfs in which they maintain their respective monopolies. Paradoxical as it may sound, such behavior is well known outside politics where it is referred to as oligopoly or niche seeking.

Karp’s thesis offers a much better explanation of the abandonment of the working class and middle class constituents by both parties than the preference for meritocracy claimed by Frank. Even from Frank’s own account of the Democratic Party’s ‘soul searching’ in the aftermath of Humphrey’s defeat in 1968 it is evident that that the emerging party leadership was not afraid of losing a series of elections (McGovern, Mondale, Dukakis) before they could cement their hold on the party under Clinton. Clearly, a party whose leadership’s main goal is to win elections would not make such a cardinal mistake as losing elections for 20 consecutive years by abandoning their core constituency. Likewise, Obama’s abandonment of the “hope” promise led to a spectacular loss of both houses of Congress and numerous state legislatures, but that did not persuade the party leadership to change the course. Au contraire, they are determined to keep the course and undermine any challenge to the party leadership (cf. Sanders). This is not the behavior of a general who wants to win a war (cf. Robert E. Lee), but of one who wants to keep his position in his own army (cf. George Brinton McClellan).

Taking into account Karp’s explanation of partisan politics would also offer a far more dramatic finale for Frank’s book. Instead pleading for a moral change in the existing party leadership, a more effective solution would be to replace that leadership with a new one by using the same gambit of counter-scheduling as Clinton did against labor, and voting against Hillary Clinton in November. That would surely result in the electoral loss for the Democrats in the coming election, but it would certainly help to wrestle the control of the party from the leaders who “betrayed” their main constituents. Perhaps this is not the road that Frank, and many life-long Democrats for that matter, are willing to travel, but it certainly makes a better and more uplifting story - one that gives the downtrodden masses, whose side Frank takes, a promise of doing something about the problem instead of pleading their superiors, hat in hand, for a change of heart.
Listen, Liberal: Or, What Ever Happened to the Party of the People? download epub
Politics & Government
Author: Thomas Frank
ISBN: 1427267987
Category: Politics & Social Sciences
Subcategory: Politics & Government
Language: English
Publisher: Macmillan Audio; Unabridged edition (March 15, 2016)