A Second Chance for Liberalism
Partisan hatred in America seems to be hitting poisonous new levels. Yet weirdly, just under the surface, a striking confluence between the right and the left is happening on policy. The public’s near-universal support for U.S. assistance to Ukraine is the most obvious example. But as we explain in the latest issue of the Washington Monthlyout today, this left-right convergence predates Russia’s invasion and goes much deeper—including on fundamental economic issues over which liberals and conservatives were wildly at odds only a few years ago.
You can see it in what is arguably the ugliest, most partisan venue on national TV: Tucker Carlson’s nightly Fox News show. While Carlson himself may be irredeemably racist and authoritarian, his rants against corporate monopolies and in defense of economic regulation—ideas he’s picked up from an increasingly influential cadre of “post-liberal” conservative intellectuals—are often indistinguishable from the rhetoric of people like Elizabeth Warren. “Democrats and progressives, though they loathe Carlson’s positions on Putin and cultural issues, also share his views (often without quite realizing it) on many key aspects of political economy,” write Monthly editor Gabby Birenbaum and senior editor Phillip Longman in their cover story. “And it is just possible that at least some of the self-styled conservatives crowded into Carlson’s head might come around to discovering that they are liberals after all.”
Elsewhere in the new issue, Monthly editor Rob Wolfe documents another sign of this confluence between left and right: state attorneys general, on a bipartisan basis, are taking up the mantle of enforcing antitrust laws in ways the federal government can’t or won’t. Wolfe spoke to AGs in both parties to hear about their lawsuits taking on Amazon, Google, Facebook, and the like in a manner reminiscent of the first Gilded Age, when state cases facilitated the breakup of Standard Oil.
That Americans of profoundly divergent political orientations find themselves agreeing that economic concentration threatens the well-being and liberty of average people shouldn’t be surprising. Indeed, the very idea that political freedom requires broad-based prosperity, and that the lack of the latter threatens the former, is one that America’s Founding Fathers, despite their many differences, overwhelmingly agreed on, as Caroline Fredrickson explains in her review of Joseph Fishkin and William E. Forbath’s The Anti-Oligarchy Constitution.
It would not have surprised the Founders, then, that in our own era of mass downward mobility America has been hit by a wave of anti-liberal populism, one driven in part by identity politics on both the left and the right. The good news is that we are now seeing some aggressive pushback by major intellectual defenders of traditional liberalism, such as Francis Fukuyama and Yascha Mounk, whose new books John Halpin and Colin Woodard, respectively, review in our pages.
Finally, I argue that the current moment, when Americans on both sides of the aisle are standing united with Europe in defense of liberalism against authoritarianism, provides Joe Biden with a splendid opportunity to propose a big new idea: an “Atlantic Alliance.” It would be a sort of economic NATO—a set of agreements among the U.S., EU, and U.K. over antitrust policy, labor rights, climate change, supply chains, technology transfer, and other pressing issues. The aim would be to boost working- and middle-class wages on both sides of the Atlantic (the better to undercut domestic support for illiberal policies) while creating a trading market large and powerful enough to challenge the predations of China and Russia.
You’ll find plenty of other great pieces in the latest Monthly—on how native Alaskans use corporations to support their tribal cultures, how political “prediction markets” suss out the truth, whether Democrats can hold Georgia in 2022, and much more.