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June 18, 2007


John Savage

Wow, PoMoCo, you’ve made some strong statements here. Basically you end up saying that Taibbi has cut all ties to “liberalism” except for the issue of sexual morality, which would become the only thing that clearly distinguishes Taibbi from a traditional conservative. I do see the parallels between the malaise on the Right and the malaise on the Left, but I’d say that Taibbi has rejected awfully little of the substance of liberalism. For Taibbi to become anything resembling a traditional conservative, he’d have to do a lot more than change his ideas about sexual morality. Sure, rejecting the commercialism of neoliberals is a big step, but it’s more likely to return someone like Taibbi to hippie-era liberalism, than make him anything essentially non-liberal.

Taibbi would still have a tough time talking to working-class traditionalists in this country. He still appears to be on the Left with regard to the social issue broadly construed, which would include not just sexual morality but race, immigration, and the role of religion in public life. I would guess he still believes in something akin to “white guilt”, while only criticizing the modern Left for an obsessive interest in PC, which he finds a distraction from issues such as Iraq. He shows no evidence of rejecting the longstanding leftist faith in government action to reduce inequality and provide extensive services, such as universal health care. He does not indicate that he would feel comfortable opposing globalization and war from a Buchananite nationalist position, as opposed to a socialist perspective.

I agree with Daniel Larison’s argument that political realignment in this country should eventually produce an elitist, interventionist, neoliberal party, and a traditionalist populist party. Yet Taibbi has made only a modest step toward the traditionalist populist party, while you seem to be saying he’s almost there. As I discuss at greater length at my own blog, he’s likely to keep trying to defend an older liberalism, even if it makes it much harder for him to deliver a coherent message than if he became a traditional conservative. I wish I were as optimistic as you about the prospects for a realignment in the near term. However, Taibbi has made only a small break with the Left, and only figures to detach a small fragment from the Left even if he moves away from it.


So, James, if you have a moment, please tell us how you really feel about our current political/cultural situation...

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