Eric Alterman, Liberalism in America

Eric Alterman  (@Eric_Alterman) on the state of Liberalism in America today.  What this Democratic President is doing to Liberal politics and how cultural successes such as the growing acceptance of same sex marriage conjoin with backsliding on issues of economic equality to form the current Liberal profile.  His latest book is, The Cause: The Fight for American Liberalism From Franklin Roosevelt to Barack Obama.  Click thru for Eric Alterman’s bio, for links and for updates.  Use this post as today’s thread.  Eric Alterman is a Distinguished Professor of English, Brooklyn College, CUNY, Professor of Journalism at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism and a regular columnist for The Nation, The Daily Besast.  He is also a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress, the Nation Institute and the World Policy Institute.

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8 Responses to Eric Alterman, Liberalism in America

  1. Hard to hear Eric. Is there a way to turn volume up on his side?

  2. craig9001 says:

    Obviously there’s a lot more annoying about Alterman than his habit of eating on air.

  3. Madchen Vapid says:

    When Alterman says, “Reagan was right about bureaucracy,” and then goes on to support it with examples like “cell phones” and “health care,” he seems to confuse PUBLIC bureaucracy with PRIVATE bureaucracy. It’s astonishing that he makes that claim and supports it with evidence that is utterly antithetical to Reagan’s statement which was directed squarely AT government (public bureaucracy).

  4. Seth Hurwitz says:

    Wow, I didn’t realize Alterman was so full of crap.

  5. Madchen Vapid says:

    This discussion was muddied by the fact that several concepts were insufficiently defined from the beginning. Liberalism (in sum) is a fairly well researched topic, and its definitions are many. There is big-L “Liberalism,” small-l “liberalism,” “political liberalism,” “economic liberalism,” and “social liberalism,” to name but a few. As well, distinguishing any or all of these from the several definitions of “conservative,” would also have been helpful.

    Also, regarding how liberalism is tied to economy necessarily (ex ante, sumil, ex post) obviously begs those “pie” discussions; growing, shrinking, rate and percentage), which are always tricky. If we trust economic data that shows slowing American growth much further back than first believed (almost never reported), and greater distributional disparities (almost never reported), then how can one explain why politically liberal Americans continued to purse inclusivity (diversity) and other forms of legal, social, and economic equality despite our worsening economic outcome? At what magic point did we (in the liberal majority or the racist minority) decide that it was time to dial back on quality of others’ circumstance? Was it well after we had lost equality of opportunity; in this example, economic equality?

    Regarding the difference between presidential and parliamentary systems, it seems that Alterman needs to bone up a bit. While each system has its own legal and political idiosyncrasies (not to mention differences within structural and functional class), the differences in terms of legal and political stability — especially for well established parliamentary regimes (like France) — is not really that great. And, we all know how well both the current Obama administration and the past Bush administration work to get changes made quickly — by working behind closed doors through executive fiat and by ignoring (not enforcing) existing laws.

    As for Alterman’s solutions, they all seemed fairly conventional; get money out of politics, challenge anti-government messaging (media), rebuild civil society through support of non-political (or not explicitly political) institutions. Unfortunately, there are plenty of (capital-L) Liberals (on the left and the right) who have been instrumental at (a) accepting money and accepting its status as speech, (b)attacking government by privatizing everything public and advertising it on a supplicant media, and (c) undermining civil society (by not supporting or attacking civic institutions).

    Sam, I think you did a fine job of revealing some of the holes here (by asking some great questions) left by this interviewee. And, the Majority Report does yeoman work submerged in soup of mainstream media. It seems to me that the biggest controversy with this book is that Alterman criticizes “his own,” and, no doubt, the targets of his criticism will certainly howl at having been attacked by their brother. But, fratricide is always a successful formula for boosting book sales — especially for political ones.

    • Madchen Vapid says:

      Of course, France is a parliamentary (legislative) system with a President as the head of state. So, NOT purely one or the other — rather, a bit of both. Which is yet another reason why, it was NOT a good example for Alterman to use to distinguish the American system from the French one. One other structural difference is that France is a unitary state whereas the United States is federated one. So, this comparison is probably not apples to apples or even apples to oranges, but perhaps Apples to Figs?

  6. Kurt Canova says:

    So, let me get this straight. Poor, un- and under-educated people are racists, when they should really be considering class distinctions. These people would consider the importance of class, but they lack the skill and experience to formulate these ideas and articulate them politically. Yet our media, an educated lot (we are told), regularly dispels notions of class in America. In addition, business reportage seldom considers financial or economic issues in terms of the labor perspective; that is, except in the negative, to criticize labor (leaders or members) as being expectant, inefficient, lazy and corrupt. And finally, when class-based opposition coalesces, emerges, and mobilizes politically, Professor Alterman expresses skepticism at the movement’s importance or (expected) success, with no support of his point of view?

    Springsteen’s relevancy to recent music is what Alterman’s is to current politics. This was a total drive-by interview. Perhaps he’d have sounded less like an asshole with a mouthful of food — or of my cock.

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