Support First Things by turning your adblocker off or by making a  donation. Thanks!

On a number of ocassions I've thumped my conservative friends on the head, trying to convince them that progressives likewise feel that things are going against them. Given the Left's dominance of higher education and the media, as well as our defeats in the culture wars, my remarks are always met with disbelief.

All the more reason to read James Kwak's recent blog post, “Yes, I'll Vote for HRC. No, I'm Not Happy About It.”

Kwak's unhappiness does not stem from Hillary Clinton's less-than-scrupulous conformity to the law when it comes to emails. Nor is he concerned about the Clinton Global Machine, er, Initiative. Instead, Kwak draws attention to a structural fact about Democratic presidential politics over the last generation. It has been center-left, not left. And it seems to have encouraged, or at least failed to stem, a steady shift toward the right in American elections as a whole.

Kwak also points out that when it comes to economic issues, the center-right of the Republican Party tends to win. Taxes on dividends and capital gains have fallen, even though Democrats have occupied the White House for sixteen of the last twenty-four years. Capital keeps winning.

The signature achievements of center-left Bill Clinton and (in Kwak's estimation) pseudo-progressive Barack Obama are almost all center-right in spirit. Welfare Reform under Clinton enacted conservative ideas. Obamacare is a modified version of an earlier Heritage Foundation proposal. Gay marriage? It succeeded without support from the Clintons and Barack Obama, who waited until all the political liabilities of leadership on the issue had dissipated.

Given this generation-long experience, Kwak concludes that more of the same from the Democratic Party won't advance progressive ideals. “What we're doing isn't working. It needs to change.” Again, Clinton is “the candidate of the Democratic status quo, and the Democratic status quo isn't working.”

Kwak is a man of the Left, and so it's obvious to him that Clinton is a better option than Trump. He thinks she'll be a decent, competent President. But his dissatisfaction with the status quo should be noted. Harvard grad, UC Berkeley Ph.D., J.D., McKinsey consultant, and now law professor: Kwak is hardly a bomb-throwing, anti-establishment radical. Yet he feels stymied by our current political system.

I'm unhappy as well. In my view, the system is rigged in favor of rich progressives who compliment themselves on their multicultural inclusiveness while dismantling the moral culture for working people and the poor. I, too, am hardly a bomb-throwing anti-establishment radical. But like Kwak, I'm increasingly convinced that the Republican status quo isn't working. It has done little to stem the cultural dominance of the Left. Which is why I'm anti-anti-Trump. His success in the primaries dramatizes the fact that the Republican status quo isn't working. It can't even win Republican primaries. Anti-anti-Trumpism refuses to ignore this failure.

The convergence of disgruntlement—in spite of the ideological divide the separates me from Kwak—is important. And I don't think we're outliers. On the contrary, the dissatisfaction seems to run deep and wide. Our postwar political order is losing its currency. An earthquake is coming.

R. R. Reno is editor of First Things.

Comments are visible to subscribers only. Log in or subscribe to join the conversation.



Filter First Thoughts Posts

Related Articles