Franklin Foer discusses the founding of TNR and the creation of modern liberalism, asserting that The New Republic "was born wearing an idealistic face:"
It soon gathered all the enthusiasm for reform and gave it coherence and intellectual heft. The editors would help craft a new notion of American government, one that now goes by a very familiar name: liberalism. [...]
For hundreds of years, long before the word was associated with Woodrow Wilson or Franklin Roosevelt, it has meant generosity and tolerance. It's pretty clear how those sentiments have evolved through the ages into a modern political program that champions a social safety net, civil rights, and civil liberties. But they are also hallmarks of an intellectual mode--which is manifested in the manner that liberals read and write as much as what they substantively argue. That approach is cosmopolitan and freethinking, daring to engage ideas that it might not share. (This magazine has a tradition of filling the masthead with socialists, communist sympathizers, English Tories, and neoconservatives.) Our doctrine proudly considers itself an anti-doctrine. That is, American liberalism flaunts its pragmatism. It may have strong moral and philosophical beliefs, but it likes to claim that it derives conclusions from evidence and data, not dogma; its expectations for politics and human nature remain on the hard ground, not up in the utopian sky.
TPM's Josh Marshall sees the Democrats' real problem as their prescriptions for dealing with inequality, observing that "many Democrats look at all this and say this is way the party needs to embrace economic populism whether of the Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders variety or whoever else might be espousing it in more or less watered down ways:"
But I think this misses the point. The great political reality of our time is that Democrats don't know (and nobody else does either) how to get wage growth and productivity growth or economic growth lines back into sync. [...]
Believe it or not, I'm not a pessimist on all this stuff. But you cannot make middle class wage growth and wealth inequality the center of your politics unless you have a set of policies which credibly claims some real shot at addressing the problem. At least not for long.
NYT's David Leonhardt identifies today's era as "The Great Wage Slowdown," opining that "nothing presents a larger threat to the Democrats' electoral fortunes than that slowdown:"
The Democratic Party fashions itself as the defender of working families, and low- and middle-income voters are indeed more favorably disposed to Democrats than to Republicans. Those voters have helped the party win the popular vote in five of the last six presidential elections. But if Democrats can't deliver rising living standards, many voters aren't going to remain loyal. They'll skip voting or give a chance to Republicans who offer an alternative, even a vague alternative. [...] They're looking for simple ideas that can help people immediately.
Meanwhile, Kevin Drum declares that "growing income inequality per se isn't our big problem:"
Stagnant wages for the middle class are. Obviously these things are tightly related in an economic sense, but in a political sense they aren't. Voters care far less about rich people buying gold-plated fixtures for their yachts than they do about not getting a raise for the past five years. The latter is the problem they want solved.
The middle class merely wants the wealth they've produced to wind up in their own pockets--not in the bathrooms of their CEO's yacht. Any liberalism that disregards this core principle is not worthy of the name.