Lefties at Salon.com are wondering why their quest to fundamentally transform America has been so difficult.
I suspect that the global failures of communism and socialism of the past 100 years have made an indelible impression on most Americans, but Van Deven and Kazin are looking for less obvious answers (i.e., ones not necessarily based on reality). Their discussion is an interesting example of willful blindness:
...most Americans accept the basic ground rules of capitalist society. The ideas are that if you work hard you can get ahead and that it's better to be self-employed than employed by the people. They believe that the basics of a capitalist society are just or can be made just with small alterations. Americans want capitalism to work well for everybody, which is somewhat of a contradiction in terms since capitalism is about people competing with each other to get ahead, and everyone's not going to be able to do well at the same time. That's simply not possible.
That is possible, actually, and we owe our 21st century standard of living to the fact that it's possible. Fortunately, a great number of Americans have an intuitive understanding of the trader principle, harmony of interests, comparative advantage, etc. In short, we know why capitalism works because we're immersed in it.
We know that life doesn't have to be a zero-sum game and we know from experience that in the effort to create wealth, preserve wealth and spread wealth around, free-market capitalism can't be beaten.
Surprisingly, Kazin seems to come perilously close to admitting that the left has failed to sell its economic agenda because their ideas don't work:
When the economic crisis hit in the 2008, Americans were already primed to believe the government couldn't do anything right because it hasn't been doing anything right for years. Ironically, the conservatives were proved right when the stimulus didn't do what the Obama administration hoped it would do, and clearly the Tea Party has been able to grow on that policy mistake.
On the other hand, Kazin thinks that one of the great successes of the left is in their approach individual freedom, er, social equality:
The left has promoted a lot of the important changes that have occurred in American society, especially in expanding the meaning of "individual freedoms" to include African-Americans, women and homosexuals. The United States says it is committed to individual freedoms, but in practice those freedoms have been either betrayed or not fully realized. The left in this country has always been the vanguard of calling for complete equal rights and social equality.
Folks like Kazin seem to be incapable of accepting the fact that most Americans apparently have no trouble distinguishing "individual freedom" from the left's dreadful substitute for individual freedom, i.e., "social equality."
Why is collectivist egalitarianism unpopular in America? Kazin has an explanation for that:
The myth of the self-made man that emerged in the 19th century wasn't entirely a myth. There were people who came to America and did very well for themselves.
So Kazin is prepared to admit that an exceptionalism of rugged individualism is a cherished part of the fabric of our culture, but he goes on to declare that our exceptionalism is actually one of exceptional oppression, exceptional destruction and exceptional bloodthirst.
Isn't it amazing that the left even has to ask why the rest of America doesn't approach them with warm and fuzzy hugs?
Related: "A progressive laments how they have taken over our culture, yet Americans have still failed to embrace their destructive economic policies. If only we were more like Europe, we’d have found utopia!" Read the rest at the Lonely Conservative.