I got a little surprise today reading John Leo’s NY Daily News column, “It’s ’72 All Over Again for Dems.” Leo focuses on what he believes are the parallels between the failure of welfare liberalism, circa 1972, and the failure of liberalism in the post-9/11 era. He cites Austrian economist and libertarian social theorist Murray Rothbard at one point:
“The McGovernite movement,” wrote Murray Rothbard, a prominent libertarian, “is, in its very nature, a kick in the gut to Middle America.”
Leo argues, in essence, that it was the McGovernite movement that created the current-day phenomenon, the “modern split between red-state and blue-state America.” He adds:
Many members of disfavored groups—Catholics, Southerners and much of the white working class and lower middle class—decamped for the Republican Party, while the Democrats emerged more clearly visible as the party of well-off liberals, the poor, identity and grievance groups, secularists and the cultural elite.”
Leo is correct in one sense that the extreme swing toward identity politics in the late ’60s and early ’70s did create a cultural backlash of sorts. But that backlash has been as inspired by interventionist liberalism as the identity politics it views as anathema. As I have argued here and elsewhere, so-called “religious right” groups are just as enamored of statist intervention on their behalf as the so-called “left-wing” groups they oppose.
Much has, of course, changed since the 1960s, ideologically speaking. Some of these changes Leo ignores completely, like, for example, the emergence of neoconservatism as a political ideology, which integrates some of the worst left-wing and right-wing impulses.
In any event, it’s an interesting read.