Janet Daley, an American ex-pat and ex-liberal living and writing in England, had an op-ed out in the Telegraph today. It might just be the best articulation of what the Obama presidency has meant for the American political landscape yet written.
For America has learned, thanks to Barack Obama’s crash course in European-style government, about the titanic force of class differences. The president’s determination to transform the US into a social democracy, complete with a centrally run healthcare programme and a redistributive tax system, has collided rather magnificently with America’s history as a nation of displaced people who were prepared to risk their futures on a bid to be free from the power of the state.
Daley explains that the “enlightened” class and the poor and destitute have become strange bedfellows in a coalition of intellectual snobbery against the middle class – the torchbearer of traditional American values.
What is more startling is the growth in America of precisely the sort of political alignment which we have known for many years in Britain: an electoral alliance of the educated, self-consciously (or self-deceivingly, depending on your point of view) “enlightened” class with the poor and deprived.
America, in other words, has discovered bourgeois guilt. A country without a hereditary nobility has embraced noblesse oblige.
It’s an absolutely fascinating explication of the state of American politics today, one that feels far more palatable than the analyses that American commentators have been coming up with. It would also explain the increasing geographical division of the parties, with the South – the bastion of traditional values blue-collar voters – drifting away from the Democrats.
We might just be seeing a fundamental realignment in our party system. Unfortunately, it might be one that is increasingly drawn along class lines. A true testament to the fact that a coalition that views the world through class lenses is likely to promulgate policies that self-fulfill their prophecy.
Daley ends on an interesting note:
What is most depressing about this – apart from the injustice of it – is that the people who have been disenfranchised and disowned are the very ones on whom both countries’ economic recovery depends.
In other words, The Forgotten Man.