Last week, Farhad Manjoo of the NY Times had an article which was given the online headline of “America’s Cities Are Unlivable. Blame Wealthy Liberals” and a print headline of “Nimby Liberals Make Cities Unlivable.” Interestingly, Manjoo himself doesn’t use the word liberal at all in his piece, instead referring to “wealthy progressives” and “wealthy progressive Democrats.” (are there wealthy progressive Republicans? Dunno).
Around the same time, the Washington Post published an article in a similar vein, which was given a headline of “Berkeley loves its sanctuary label, but a housing crisis is testing its liberal values.” Here too, the writer never used the word liberal. Both articles are worth a read, especially since the articles are more subtle than the headlines would suggest (clickbait is not a Buzzfeed-unique phenomenon).
As you might imagine, discussions online quickly referred to the perfidy of liberals–even though, in 2019, it’s absolutely unclear what that term means anymore. At the risk of entering No True Scotsman territory, I think this demonstrates just how screwed up our political landscape is (if Il Trumpe weren’t enough evidence already). When Republicans have become a theocratic, white nationalist, hyperlibertarian party, Democrats become the party of ‘everyone else.’ While we can laud ‘big tents’ all we want, the reality is some people who are voting Democratic, and who currently might even be identified as liberal–largely because they aren’t overtly racist Christian evangelicals–are fairly moderate or conservative on economic issues. A friend who grew up in wealthy and very Republican Orange County, California, was shocked when he visited in 2016 and Democratic signs, something that would have never happened ten, never mind twenty years ago.
I realize economic class is The Identity That Shall Not Be Named™, but it is still relevant to how people vote and what policies they support. If we had a healthier politics, where one party wasn’t the Blud und Boden Party, we would see a different sorting of ‘political descriptors’ by policy, including NIMBY policy.