is going to peter out. The Senate is going to
let the bonus tax die—cooler heads have prevailed. In New York, the state attorney general, Andrew Cuomo, has persuaded nine of the top 10 bonus babies, all of them mightily rich, to give back
the dough—meaning everybody will claim victory and shortly get on about their business.
For better or worse, mob anger, when coming from the left, is pretty lame. The economic world as we know it may be ending, but the left can’t summon the kind of furies that got us into Iraq, declared war on terrorism,
made the nation crazy about abortion, and gave gay marriage
its buzzword name.
This is partly because the left’s outrage is centered around economic issues. And economic issues are too complicated for bankers to understand, let alone earnest social studies teachers and anarcho college students. The fight against abortion has a lot more oomph and clarity than the fight against derivatives. What’s more, the middle-class fist that needs to be raised in support of left-wing anger goes limp as soon as the stock market goes up. Five hundred points quells a lot of outrage.
There’s probably a formula: Liberals, being an optimistic bunch, need at least double the loss to undo half as much gain (or something like that).
But it may be, more to the point, that liberal leaders are at fundamental odds with lefty outrage. The conservatives managed—on the strength of their religious convictions or Rush Limbaugh’s rantings or their great parochialism or their odd, but effective, logic—to elect among a generation of officials many true believers. The US, at least up until now, has been too traumatized by the sixties to elect real lefties.
The liberals who have, of late, been elected are in a sense the opposite of lefties: They’re PR types.
They’re all about identifying outrage, benefiting from it, defusing it, and moving on. The Senate worked up a great commotion about taxing the AIG rich, knowing full well the notion would die an easy death. Likewise, nobody really thinks Andrew Cuomo
is a dedicated economic populist—they think he’s a man making a publicity score.
And liberal leaders are too moved by the money. They continue to believe their job is not reform, but profit. If the Dow starts going back up again, they’ve delivered. The Dow, they understand, is their real poll number. If along the way they have to pander to a populist uprising, they will. But only until they can get the damn economy humping again. The only thing is if they can’t… No, no. Don’t go there. There’s still time, lots of time, to keep the lefties down.
More of Newser founder Michael Wolff's articles and commentary can be found at VanityFair.com, where he writes a regular column. He can be emailed at email@example.com