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“And libertarianism is good because it helps conservatives pass off a patently pro-business political agenda as a noble bid for human freedom. Whatever we may think of libertarianism as a set of ideas, practically speaking, it is a doctrine that owes its visibility to the obvious charms it holds for the wealthy and the powerful. The reason we have so many well-funded libertarians in America these days is not because libertarianism has acquired an enormous grassroots following, but because it appeals to those who are able to fund ideas. Like social Darwinism and Christian Science before it, libertarianism flatters the successful and rationalizes their core beliefs about the world. They warm to the libertarian idea that taxation is theft because they themselves don’t like to pay taxes. They fancy the libertarian notion that regulation is communist because they themselves find regulation intrusive and annoying. Libertarianism is a politics born to be subsidized. In the “free market of ideas,” it is a sure winner.”
Thomas Frank, The Wrecking Crew: How Conservatives Rule
“Corruption is uniquely reprehensible in a democracy because it violates the system's first principle, which we all learned back in the sunshiny days of elementary school: that the government exist to serve the public, not particular companies or individuals or even elected officials. ”
Thomas Frank, The Wrecking Crew: How Conservatives Rule
“For decades, Americans have experienced a populist uprising that only benefits the people it is supposed to be targeting.... The angry workers, mighty in their numbers, are marching irresistibly against the arrogant. They are shaking their fists at the sons of privilege. They are laughing at the dainty affectations of the Leawoof toffs. They are massing at the gates of Mission Hills, hoisting the black flag, and while the millionaires tremble in their mansions, they are bellowing out their terrifying demands. 'We are here,' they scream, 'to cut your taxes.”
Thomas Frank, What's the Matter with Kansas? How Conservatives Won the Heart of America
“...the people at the top know what they have to do to stay there, and in a pinch they can easily overlook the sweaty piety of the new Republican masses, the social conservatives who raise their voices in praise of Jesus but cast their votes for Caesar.”
Thomas Frank, What's the Matter with Kansas? How Conservatives Won the Heart of America
“But such people (Moderate Conservatives) aren't liberal. What they are is corporate. Their habits and opinions owe far more to the standards of courtesy and taste that prevail within the white-collar world than they do to Franklin Roosevelt and the United Mine Workers. We live in a time, after all, when hard-nosed bosses compose awestruck disquisitions on the nature of 'change,' punk rockers dispense leadership secrets, shallow profundities about authenticity sell luxury cars, tech billionaires build rock'n'roll musuems, management theorists ponder the nature of coolness, and a former lyricist fro the Grateful Dead hail the dawn of New Economy capitalism from the heights of Davos. Coversvatives may not understand why, but business culture had melded with counterculture for reasons having a great deal to do with business culture's usual priority - profit.”
Thomas Frank
“When the left party in a system severs its bonds to working people—when it dedicates itself to the concerns of a particular slice of high-achieving affluent people—issues of work and income inequality will inevitably fade from its list of concerns.”
Thomas Frank, Listen, Liberal: Or, What Ever Happened to the Party of the People?
“Regardless of who leads it, the professional-class liberalism I have been describing in these pages seems to be forever traveling on a quest for some place of greater righteousness. It is always engaged in a search for some subject of overwhelming, noncontroversial goodness with which it can identify itself and under whose umbrella of virtue it can put across its self-interested class program.

There have been many other virtue-objects over the years: people and ideas whose surplus goodness could be extracted for deployment elsewhere. The great virtue-rush of the 1990s, for example, was focused on children, then thought to be the last word in overwhelming, noncontroversial goodness. Who could be against kids? No one, of course, and so the race was on to justify whatever your program happened to be in their name. In the course of Hillary Clinton’s 1996 book, It Takes a Village, the favorite rationale of the day—think of the children!—was deployed to explain her husband’s crime bill as well as more directly child-related causes like charter schools.

You can find dozens of examples of this kind of liberal-class virtue-quest if you try, but instead of listing them, let me go straight to the point: This is not politics. It’s an imitation of politics. It feels political, yes: it’s highly moralistic, it sets up an easy melodrama of good versus bad, it allows you to make all kinds of judgments about people you disagree with, but ultimately it’s a diversion, a way of putting across a policy program while avoiding any sincere discussion of the policies in question. The virtue-quest is an exciting moral crusade that seems to be extremely important but at the conclusion of which you discover you’ve got little to show for it besides NAFTA, bank deregulation, and a prison spree.”
Thomas Frank, Listen, Liberal: Or, What Ever Happened to the Party of the People
“There’s a reason you probably haven’t heard much about this aspect of the heartland. This kind of blight can’t be easily blamed on the usual suspects like government or counterculture or high-hat urban policy. The villain that did this to my home state wasn’t the Supreme Court or Lyndon Johnson, showering dollars on the poor or putting criminals back on the street. The culprit is the conservatives’ beloved free-market capitalism, a system that, at its most unrestrained, has little use for smalltown merchants or the agricultural system that supported the small towns in the first place....”
Thomas Frank, What's the Matter With Kansas?: How Conservatives Won the Heart of America
“In its quest for prosperity, the Party of the People declared itself wholeheartedly in favor of a social theory that forthrightly exalted the rich—the all-powerful creative class. For many cities and states, this was the economic strategy; this was what our leaders came up with to revive the urban wastelands and restore the de-industrialized zones. The Democratic idea was no longer to confront privilege but to flatter privilege, to sing the praises of our tasteful new master class. True, this was all done with an eye toward rebuilding the crumbling cities where the rest of us lived and worked, but the consequences of all this “creative class” bootlicking will take a long time to wear off.”
Thomas Frank, Listen, Liberal: Or, What Ever Happened to the Party of the People
“The trick never ages; the illusion never wears off. Vote to stop abortion; receive a rollback in capital gains taxes. Vote to make our country strong again; receive deindustrialization. Vote to screw those politically correct college professors; receive electricity deregulation. Vote to get government off our backs; receive conglomeration and monopoly everywhere from media to meatpacking. Vote to stand tall against terrorists; receive Social Security privatization. Vote to strike a blow against elitism; receive a social order in which wealth is more concentrated than ever before in our lifetimes, in which workers have been stripped of power and CEOs are rewarded in a manner beyond imagining.”
Thomas Frank, What's the Matter With Kansas?: How Conservatives Won the Heart of America
“To the liberal class, every big economic problem is really an education problem, a failure by the losers to learn the right skills and get the credentials everyone knows you’ll need in the society of the future.”
Thomas Frank, Listen, Liberal: Or, What Ever Happened to the Party of the People
“The conservative social critique always boils down to the same simple message: liberalism - meaning everything from racy TV to deconstructionists in the Yale French Department - is an affectation of the loathsome rich, as bizarre as their taste for Corgi dogs and extra-virgin olive oil.”
Thomas Frank
tags: pg-117
“This is modern liberalism in action: an unregulated virtue-exchange in which representatives of one class of humanity ritually forgive the sins of another class, all of it convened and facilitated by a vast army of well-graduated American professionals, their reassuring expertise propped up by bogus social science, while the unfortunate objects of their high and noble compassion sink slowly back into a preindustrial state.”
Thomas Frank, Listen, Liberal: Or, What Ever Happened to the Party of the People
“To put it bluntly, it is not clear that cheering for innovation in the bombastic way we see in the blue states actually improves the economic well-being of average citizens. For example, the last fifteen years have been a golden age of financial and software innovation, but they have been feeble in terms of GDP growth. In ideological terms, however, innovation definitely works: as a way of excusing soaring inequality and explaining the exalted status of the rich, it's the best we've got.”
Thomas Frank, Listen, Liberal: Or, What Ever Happened to the Party of the People
“my purpose here is to scrutinize the tacit Democratic boast about always being better than those crazy Republicans. In truth, what Bill Clinton accomplished were things that no Republican could have done. Thanks to our two-party system, Democratic politicians carry a brand identity that inhibits them in some ways but allows them remarkable latitude in others. They are forever seen as weaklings in the face of the country’s enemies, for example; but on basic economic questions they are trusted to do the right thing for average people. That a Democrat might be the one to pick apart the safety net is a violation of this basic brand identity, but by the very structure of the system it is extremely difficult to hold the party accountable for such a deed. This, in turn, is why only a Democrat was able to do that job and get away with it. Only a Democrat was capable of getting bank deregulation passed; only a Democrat could have rammed NAFTA through Congress; and only a Democrat would be capable of privatizing Social Security, as George W. Bush found out in 2005. “It’s kind of the Nixon-goes-to-China theory,” the conservative Democrat Charles Stenholm told the historian Steven Gillon on this last subject. “It takes a Democrat to do some of the hard choices in social programs.”19”
Thomas Frank, Listen, Liberal: Or, What Ever Happened to the Party of the People?
“It’s striking that so many of the great economic initiatives of the Clinton presidency led eventually to catastrophe. But what really makes this story poisonous is that liberals by and large convinced themselves for many years that nothing had gone wrong at all. Everything Clinton’s team had done was an act of professional-class consensus. Because most of the fuses lit by Clinton and Co. didn’t actually detonate until after he had left office—and by then some science-denying Republican was in the Oval Office—they found it easy to absolve the Democrat from blame. When”
Thomas Frank, Listen, Liberal: Or, What Ever Happened to the Party of the People?
“Professionalism is “postindustrial ideology,” and today the Democrats are the party of the professional class. The party has other constituencies, to be sure—minorities, women, and the young, for example, the other pieces of the “coalition of the ascendant”—but professionals are the ones whose technocratic outlook tends to prevail. It is their tastes that are celebrated by liberal newspapers and it is their particular way of regarding the world that is taken for granted by liberals as being objectively true. Professionals dominate liberalism and the Democratic Party in the same way that Ivy Leaguers dominate the Obama cabinet. In fact, it is not going too far to say that the views of the modern-day Democratic Party reflect, in virtually every detail, the ideological idiosyncrasies of the professional-managerial class.
Liberalism itself has changed to accommodate its new constituents’ technocratic views. Today, liberalism is the philosophy not of the sons of toil but of the “knowledge economy” and, specifically, of the knowledge economy’s winners”
Thomas Frank, Listen, Liberal: Or, What Ever Happened to the Party of the People
“Then there are disturbing reports like the recent study showing that, in terms of wealth, black and Hispanic college graduates actually “fared significantly worse” in the late recession than did members of those groups who hadn’t gone to college. The people in question were the ones who did everything right, who went through life the way our society instructs us to, and they were punished for it.28 And”
Thomas Frank, Listen, Liberal: Or, What Ever Happened to the Party of the People?
“We’re all free agents in this noncoercive class system, and Brooks eventually concludes that worrying about the problems faced by workers is yet another deluded affectation of the blue-state rich.”
Thomas Frank, What's the Matter With Kansas?: How Conservatives Won the Heart of America
“he saw in Populism the first glimmerings of some of the great intellectual upheavals of the twentieth century—naturalism, muckraking, and hard-hitting social satire—which would eventually topple the genteel tradition of the nineteenth century. In a peculiar way, Parrington seemed to think, Kansas was one of the birthplaces of literary modernism.”
Thomas Frank, What's the Matter With Kansas?: How Conservatives Won the Heart of America
“In 1991, though, began an uprising that would propel those reptilian Republicans from a tiny splinter group into the state’s dominant political faction, that would reduce Kansas Democrats to third-party status, and that would wreck what remained of the state’s progressive legacy. We are accustomed to thinking of the backlash as a phenomenon of the seventies (the busing riots, the tax revolt) or the eighties (the Reagan revolution); in Kansas the great move to the right was a story of the nineties, a story of the present.”
Thomas Frank, What's the Matter With Kansas?: How Conservatives Won the Heart of America
“Professional-class liberals aren't really alarmed by oversized rewards for society's winners; on the contrary, this seems natural to them -- because they are society's winners. The liberalism of professionals just does not extend to matters of inequality; this is the area where soft hearts abruptly turn hard.”
Thomas Frank, Listen, Liberal: Or, What Ever Happened to the Party of the People
“Innovation liberalism is "a liberalism of the rich," to use the straightforward phrase of local labor leader Harris Gruman. This doctrine has no patience with the idea that everyone should share in society's wealth. What Massachusetts liberals pine for, by and large, is a more perfect meritocracy--a system where everyone gets an equal chance and the truly talented get to rise. Once that requirement is satisfied--once diversity has been achieved and the brilliant people of all races and genders have been identified and credentialed--this species of liberal can't really conceive of any further grievance against the system. The demands of ordinary working-class people, Gruman says, are unpersuasive to them: "Janitors, fast-food servers home care or child care providers--most of whom are women and people of color--they don't have college degrees."

And if you don't have a college degree in Boston--brother, you've got no one to blame but yourself.”
Thomas Frank, Listen, Liberal: Or, What Ever Happened to the Party of the People
“Deleting welfare didn't eliminate poverty itself. We might as well have expected to conquer aging by overturning Social Security.”
Thomas Frank, Listen, Liberal: Or, What Ever Happened to the Party of the People
“You can find dozens of examples of this kind of liberal-class virtue-quest if you try, but instead of listing them, let me go straight to the point: This is not politics. It’s an imitation of politics. It feels political, yes: it’s highly moralistic, it sets up an easy melodrama of good versus bad, it allows you to make all kinds of judgments about people you disagree with, but ultimately it’s a diversion, a way of putting across a policy program while avoiding any sincere discussion of the policies in question. The virtue-quest is an exciting moral crusade that seems to be extremely important but at the conclusion of which you discover you’ve got little to show for it besides NAFTA, bank deregulation, and a prison spree.

This book is about Democrats, but of course Republicans do it too. The culture wars unfold in precisely the same way as the liberal virtue-quest: they are an exciting ersatz politics that seem to be really important but at the conclusion of which voters discover they've got little to show for it all besides more free-trade agreements, more bank deregulation, and a different prison spree.”
Thomas Frank, Listen, Liberal: Or, What Ever Happened to the Party of the People
“The fourth estate came together in an unprecedented professional consensus. They chose insulting the other side over trying to understand what motivated them. They transformed opinion writing into a vehicle for high moral boasting. What could possibly have gone wrong with such an approach? [...] Put this question in slightly more general terms and you are confronting the single great mystery of 2016. The American white-collar class just spent the year rallying around a super-competent professional (who really wasn’t all that competent) and either insulting or silencing everyone who didn’t accept their assessment. And then they lost. Maybe it’s time to consider whether there’s something about shrill self-righteousness, shouted from a position of high social status, that turns people away.”
Thomas Frank
“...[I]t doesn't take an advanced degree to figure out that this education talk is less a strategy for mitigating inequality than it is a way of rationalizing it. To attribute economic results to school years finished and SAT scores achieved is to remove matters from the realm of, well, economics and to relocate them to the provinces of personal striving and individual intelligence. From this perspective, wages aren't what they are because one party (management) has a certain amount of power over the other (workers); wages are like that because the god of the market, being surpassingly fair, rewards those who show talent and gumption. Good people are those who get a gold star from their teacher in elementary school, a fat acceptance letter from a good college, and a good life when they graduate. All because they are the best. Those who don't pay attention in high school get to spend their days picking up discarded cans by the side of the road. Both outcomes are our own doing.”
Thomas Frank, Listen, Liberal: Or, What Ever Happened to the Party of the People
“Technological innovation is not what is hammering down working peoples’ share of what the country earns; technological innovation is the excuse for this development. Inno is a fable that persuades us to accept economic arrangements we would otherwise regard as unpleasant or intolerable—that convinces us that the very particular configuration of economic power we inhabit is in fact a neutral matter of science, of nature, of the way God wants things to be. Every time we describe the economy as an “ecosystem” we accept this point of view. Every time we write off the situation of workers as a matter of unalterable “reality” we resign ourselves to it.

In truth, we have been hearing some version of all this inno-talk since the 1970s—a snarling Republican iteration, which demands our submission before the almighty entrepreneur; and a friendly and caring Democratic one, which promises to patch us up with job training and student loans. What each version brushes under the rug is that it doesn’t have to be this way. 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.

“Amazon is not happening to bookselling,” Jeff Bezos of Amazon likes to say. “The future is happening to bookselling.” And what the future wants just happens to be exactly what Amazon wants. What an amazing coincidence.”
Thomas Frank, Listen, Liberal: Or, What Ever Happened to the Party of the People
“above all, intellectual. Anti-intellectualism is one of the grand unifying themes of the backlash, the mutant strain of class war that underpins so many of Kansas’s otherwise random-seeming grievances. Contemporary conservatism holds as a key article of faith that it is fruitless to scrutinize the business pages for clues about the way the world works. We do not labor under the yoke of some abstraction like market forces, or even flesh-and-blood figures like executives or owners. No, it is intellectuals who call the shots,”
Thomas Frank, What's the Matter With Kansas?: How Conservatives Won the Heart of America
“It is a matter of legal record that, for years, the CEOs of Apple, Intel, Google, Pixar, and other Silicon Valley firms operated something very much like a cartel against their own employees. In a scandal that journalists now call “the Techtopus,” these worthies agreed to avoid recruiting one another’s tech workers and thus keep those workers’ wages down across the industry. In 2007, in one of the most famous chapters of the Techtopus story, the famous innovator Steve Jobs emailed Eric Schmidt, demanding that this CEO and friend of top Democrats do something about a Google recruiter who was trying to lure an employee away from Apple. Two days later, according to the reporter who has studied the case most comprehensively, Schmidt wrote back to Jobs to tell him the recruiter had been fired. Jobs then forwarded Schmidt’s email around with this comment appended: “:)”
Thomas Frank, Listen, Liberal: Or, What Ever Happened to the Party of the People?

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