By Thomas Frank.
The 2016 USA presidential election has made me much more interested in politics. I moved to the US in 2006 at the age of 15. I was apolitical and the election of Obama made that an easy stance to keep. However, with the election of Trump I suddenly feel like politics are something I need to pay attention to. So I’ve been reading.
I don’t think Listen, Liberal is an amazing book, (it’s been rightly called polemic, as opposed to informative,) but for someone with a poor grasp on recent US history I found it helpful. Frank’s basic tenant is that the Democrats have lost their interest in the working class and replaced it with an interest in the professional class. This means their policy decisions tend to be bad for the working class. There are a couple of interesting ideas within this framework: Professionals, especially those coming from a working class background, think that the best way to improve the plight of the working class is to give them more education, i.e. that way they can become professionals. Wall Street is filled with professionals, so courting professionals is essentially courting Wall Street.
It was a great reminder of all the shit Bill Clinton did which I would not consider liberal or progressive at all: repealing the Glass-Steagall Act, enacting ‘three strikes’ prison laws, repealing welfare programs.
What frustrated me about this book is that Frank complains and complains about the policy and ideology of the Democrats but never gives much sense of what would be better. When he complains that the Democrats haven’t brought jobs back to the working class, my immediate question is ‘How can we do that?’ and he doesn’t even bother to try. I don’t think he ever intended it to be a book that dialogued with policy. He just wants to point out flaws in the Democrats, which he does well. Definitely not the end of my edification.