Democratic left faces a daunting, but not insurmountable, obstacle
By THOMAS B. EDSALL, NYT
The argument of the political commentator Walter Russell Mead that the United States has reached an end-stage death match between liberal constituent groups has received widespread attention, especially in the conservative blogosphere.
Mead, who teaches at Bard College, contends that
The core institutions, ideas and expectations that shaped American life for the sixty years after the New Deal don't work anymore. The gaps between the social system we inhabit and the one we now need are becoming so wide that we can no longer paper over them.In many respects, liberalism is a fat target. Dozens of city and state public employee pension plans are on the verge of bankruptcy - or are actually bankrupt - from Rhode Island to California; in 2010, a survey of 126 state and local plans showed assets of $2.7 trillion and liabilities of $3.5 trillion, an $800 billion shortfall. The national debt exceeds $16 trillion.
Mead labels the "institutions, ideas and expectations" of contemporary liberalism the "blue model":
In the old system, most blue-collar and white-collar workers held stable, lifetime jobs with defined benefit pensions, and a career civil service administered a growing state as living standards for all social classes steadily rose. Gaps between the classes remained fairly consistent in an industrial economy characterized by strong unions in stable, government-brokered arrangements with large corporations-what Galbraith and others referred to as the Iron Triangle. High school graduates were pretty much guaranteed lifetime employment in a job that provided a comfortable lower middle-class lifestyle; college graduates could expect a better paid and equally secure future. An increasing "social dividend", meanwhile, accrued in various forms: longer vacations, more and cheaper state-supported education, earlier retirement, shorter work weeks, more social and literal mobility, and more diverse forms of affordable entertainment. Call all this, taken together, the blue model.(More here.)