Joe Hendren

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Saturday, October 04, 2008

The decline of the left in America

It was great to wake up this morning to hear Jim Flynn on National radio discussing his latest book. Listeners should be aware that Mr Flynn has a good sense of humour and sometimes delves in impish irony.

Emertius Professor of Political Studies at the University of Otago, Flynn new book is called "Where have all the liberals gone? Race, class and ideals in America". He summarised some of his findings in an article in the NZ Herald yesterday.

"Does American liberalism have a future? The question has a simple answer: not as long as liberals allow their opponents to define political reality. Right-wing dominance of American politics is easy to understand: popularise a hysterical image of a dangerous world; devote surplus government revenue to ensure "national security"; thus evade a debate about domestic priorities that you might lose; thus leave a vacuum to be filled by trivia such as prayer and gay marriage. "

"It is hard to tell whether American liberals have lost their voice because they lack courage or because they half believe in the same picture of reality. That they have forfeited their tradition of social reform is shown by the paucity of their hopes for an Obama victory."

Some of this analysis could also be applied to the Labour party here, particularly Goff's proposal to "ban" gangs" and Labour's draconian anti-terror legislation. In New Zealand the vacuum was filled with the so called 'debate' over the so called anti-smaking bill. If Labour lack the will and/or perhaps the money for big social reforms the centre-left may struggle to maintain the Treasury benches in November. I will return to this issue in my next post.

I was pleasantly surprised to hear US Democratic Vice-Presidential nominee Joe Biden say during the debate last night that he believes the 2008 American election is the most important since 1932. Prior to Franklin D Roosevelt's inauguration in March 1933, 32 out of the 48 states had closed their banks. I hope very much the Democrats are looking to resusitate Roosevelt - the current economic situation is making a new New Deal look like America's only hope right now.

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