The main idea here is that liberals and their democratic party lost their meaning as protector and supporter of lower classes and turned into elitist movement, which, while still using the same rhetoric, acts in the interest of educated elite and quite often doing it to the detriment of lower classes.
Introduction: Listen, Liberal
The liberals and their political organization – Democratic Party was losing its original position as defender of large masses of laborers, unions, and poor for a while, with Obama’s leadership being a big disappointment. Instead of reversing this process this administration had been increasing its speed. Author calls on liberals to listen to his warning because alternative will leave them in minority and away from political power when majority eventually understand that they become an elite party.
- Theory of the Liberal Class
Here author presents his understanding of Democratic Party, as Party that should be “Party of the people”, but turned into “Party of High born and Well Educated” that claims right to rule mainly based on their superior knowledge and expertise. Unfortunately it is more pretense than reality, which author quite convincingly demonstrates by analyzing track record of failures of the Best and Brightest.
- How Capitalism Got Its Groove Back
This chapter represents a brief history of change in Democratic Party that resulted from its failures in 1960s and 1970s that left country with ailing economy, defeat in Vietnam, racial riots, and overall doom and gloom. These failures gave opening for Reagan Republicans to restore some sanity and improve situation practically in all areas.
- The Economy, Stupid; 4. Agents of Change; 5. It Takes a Democrat
This part retells story of Clinton’s New Democrats who moved to supporting international capitalism, free market, and even declared the end of Big Government. Author clearly considers New Democrats as traitors of the liberal ideology and to working population that was traditionally democratic base. The treason in author’s opinion, also includes Clinton’s support of Law and Order that together with Welfare reform practically amounts to racism because it forced many blacks to work even if wage is so low that would not significantly exceed amount of handouts, plus many blacks were incarcerated for previously ignored or lightly punished crimes. Overall author characterizes Clinton presidency as “The Disastrous Success”.
- The Hipster and the Banker Should Be Friends
Here author looks at the current Democratic Party that lost its working class roots and become party of Blue Billionaires, Hipsters, and Artists. He discusses work of Richard Florida and his ideas of deindustrialized, “creative” economy based on financial services. Needless to say, that this vision went down the drain with crisis of 2008.
- How the Crisis Went to Waste
This is another aggrieving narrative of lost opportunities that author believes leftist had with crisis of 2008 when democrats had all legislative and executive power, but failed implement massive change on the scale of New Deal. The key problem here in author opinion was Obama and democrats become too cozy with Wall Street and practically betrayed working class in the interests of elite.
- The Defects of a Superior Mind
The “superior mind” is obviously Obama. Here author reviews main achievements of Obama’s brief (2 years) period of nearly complete control: Obamacare, Dodd-Frank and Stimulus. Quite surprisingly for the leftist, author seems to understand that government regulations normally created mainly in interest of big business and are pretty much negotiated deals from which democratic politicians get cover to present themselves as defenders of their voter’s interest, while established and well-connected business interests get opportunity to suppress competition. Author also complains that Obama and his administration were too “smart” to bring decisive changes and limited themselves to marginal tinkering.
- The Blue State Model
Here author responds on democrats’ claim that they do all that is possible at federal level where they are limited by republican opposition by looking at some states where democrats have unlimited control such as Rhode Island, Chicago, New York, and such. He does not really look at disaster of inner cities that are controlled by democrats for at least half of century, but rather concentrates on small upscale, elitist and very prosperous “innovative” part of population: people linked to elite universities, high tech enterprises and such. However he also points out to formerly prosperous, but now devastated manufacturing and services communities of low-tech middle class. Under democratic rule that these people voted for, they practically get destroyed.
- The Innovation Class
Here author looks in a bit more detail at “the innovative class” that become so prosperous under democrats and concludes that this prosperity came at the expense of old middle class because huge raise in productivity kills jobs. The interesting example is Wal-Mart that killed small retailed shops substituting middle class shop owners with low working class employees, which now in turn seems to be getting killed by Amazon that moves retail on line and substitutes low class retail employees with even lower class cheaper warehouse employees and robots.
- Liberal Gilt
Here author looks on seems to be standard pattern of democrats: enthusiastic idealism turning into disappointing results. He also goes a bit into psychology, pointing out liberal’s need to feel good about self and in this line he analyses Hillary as typical representative of this need. The interesting thing about it is that do-gooders are pretty good in convincing poor masses to vote for them, then do well by enriching themselves, feeling even more good, but in reality leaving poor masses even more poor after all said and done.
Conclusion: Trampling Out the Vineyard
Author restates the main objective of this book by picturing Venn diagram of interests’ intersection between Democrats, Plutocrats, and Meritocrats. He refers to Martha’s Vineyard as real live representation of this intersection of people and their interests. There is no place in Marta’s Vineyard for regular Americans either of middle or lower classes and this could doom the party and liberal movement. Author wants to change it, but could not come up with anything other then: “ Let’s strip away the Democrats’ precious sense of their moral probity” to force them understand how “starkly and how deliberately Democratic party political leaders contradict their values”.
MY TAKE ON IT:
It is a painful book for any liberal because it nicely shows that Democratic Party is just a corrupt machine, mainly serving needs of political bosses and connected to them plutocrats and meritocrats. I personally do not like term meritocrats applied to people main merits of which are credentials from top-level colleges, but it is not an important point. I also think that author misses on the very core constituency of Democratic Part that in reality provides most important support and controls it more than anybody else – bureaucrats. However putting this aside, it is a nice demonstration of the first part of revolutionary formula: the people at the top cannot rule as usual. The other part, mainly left outside of the scope of this book, is that people at the bottom do not want to tolerate it as usual any more. However there are quite a bit of evidence that it could be a situation that we are moving to. Historically speaking, thanks to democratic system of rule, America did not know violent revolutions (original revolution was against foreign power and civil war was actually a war between two societies with different cultures and economic systems). So I would take this book as another evidence that we are coming closer to typical American peaceful revolution in ballot box when election of significant majority of representatives of the new power nearly completely changes rule and function of the state, while maintaining formal structure of the system. Last time it was successful revolution of the new powerful class of bureaucracy against declining class of plutocracy known as New Deal. This time it could be a revolution of new increasingly powerful class of independent market participants against declining bureaucracy supported by desperation of lower classes whose quality of live dramatically deteriorated, similarly to the period just before the revolution of New Deal.