To the barricades, liberals: according to former Secretary of Labor Reich, your hour is at hand.
Americans, Reich (The Future of Success, 2001, etc.) argues, tend to be socially moderate, if not liberal; certainly they are not “radcons,” or radical conservatives, by inclination. In support of this assertion, Reich offers a series of public-opinion surveys showing that a majority of people favor a woman’s right to choose, America conceived of as a secular nation, environmental protection over short-term economic gain, and liberty and justice for all. Yet—and here’s the rub—even though Americans “have had enough of the radical conservatives—their intolerance, their mean-spiritedness, their moral righteousness, their arrogance toward the rest of the world”—Americans seem to have no problem putting such people in office. This, by Reich’s account, is because the progressive or liberal wing of the Democratic Party has failed to provide any kind of agenda that speaks to the “large, anxious middle and lower-middle class” and has instead stood by as others within the party have pushed it rightward toward an imagined center. “Centrism is bogus,” Reich thunders. “The ‘center’ keeps shifting further right because Radcons stay put while Democrats keep meeting them halfway.” Thus Clinton’s embracing an economic boom that benefited only a few; thus the Democrats’ having so little vision that the only thing they could think of to do with the budget surplus of a few years’ back was to retire the national debt early. Stuff and nonsense, Reich argues; it’s time to unfurl the liberal flag and proudly own the name, recognizing that the largest political group in the country is not Republicans or Democrats or “swing voters,” but those Americans who, out of apathy or disgust, just don’t vote at all. That’s the audience to court, Reich insists, for winning it will bring on a liberal restoration.
All remains to be seen. But Reich offers a persuasive, and spirited, view of the present political landscape and how it might be remade.