14 min read

Everyone Thinks Liberalism Hates Them, That’s Why Biden’s Losing and Democracy’s Dying, Plus, What Stopped the Future From Being Created

Everyone Thinks Liberalism Hates Them, That’s Why Biden’s Losing and Democracy’s Dying, Plus, What Stopped the Future From Being Created

I’m Umair Haque, and this is The Issue: an independent, nonpartisan, subscriber-supported publication. Our job is to give you the freshest, deepest, no-holds-barred insight about the issues that matter most.

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Hi! How’s everyone? I hope you’re all doing astonishingly well. Welcome new readers, introduce yourselves in the comments if you feel like it, and many thanks to all who’ve joined this little beacon of light in a sea of darkness so far.

Today we’re going to discuss…something that’s been on my mind. A set of interconnected issues, really. Here we are, watching Biden’s bid for the Presidency falter. Watching liberalism around the world crash and burn. And sort of experiencing this catastrophic sense of a double…bind. 

We know that the bad guys hate us, the authoritarians, etcetera. But to me, it often feels like…liberals hate us, too.

So I did a little informal research. And what I found kind of surprised me. And enlightened me. 

(I Think) We All Feel Like Liberals Hate Us





These are just a few of the kind, wonderful terms of respect people have thrown at me over the years. I bet you’ve experienced much the same—haven’t we all? Yet as I reflect on that, something becomes clear to me. I expected this kind of thing from the other side. But…these were all things liberals called me. Ways they dehumanized, humiliated, and disgraced me. Over and over again, in a sort of insane frenzy and mania.

And I didn’t expect that. But maybe I should have. Because…I’ll come to that.

Now, we’ve been talking about this a lot, about how I think I failed, what it all means, what the future holds. But bear with me. I think this essay might just clear up a little bit for some of you.

And “liberal” in this sense, doesn’t mean your kind old grandma, who’s a Very Nice Person, by the way, I like her, too—it means more the liberal establishment, which, from the Dems to numerous publications to think tanks and pundits and so on, is a very real thing, an institution, a system. In organizational theory, we speak of the core and edge, or periphery of an organization. The core isn’t what I mean here—sure, you don’t feel hated, if you’re a White Dude with an Ivy League Degree Named Matt or who have you, because you’re in the core. But the edge? Which is the rest of us, aka a whole lot more people? I think, maybe, that we do.

Do feel hated. Lately, I’ve come to the sort of understanding that it…feels a whole lot like…liberals hate the rest of us.

Or, if that’s too strong a word, have contempt and disdain for us, and barely sort of think us as intelligent people at all, just maybe bargaining chips to be disposed of the moment they temporarily win us over, and our use to them is done.

What do I mean by that? Who’s “the rest of us?” Anyone that they don’t see as enough of one of them, and I’ll come back to that, because that’s the nub of this sort of thing. But because we all feel like liberals hate us, of course, liberalism’s fragile coalition is now falling apart, its paradigm is dying, and the world is in serious, deep, dire crisis.

So I did what I do. I asked around. In a kind of…different way. As I realized that it was liberals—not even the other side—who’d sort of been ripping away at me for so long now, and maybe you too. I asked. Beginning with my…kid sis. Just kind of…what do you think liberals think about you?

My kid sis, and her friends, the feminists: “Liberals? Lol. You defend them, but they hate women. We’ve had this conversation before! You don’t get it! They had every chance to actually defend women’s rights, but they didn’t. They didn’t codify Roe. Instead, they used it as a strategic bargaining tool, to kind of keep women in line. Hey, Vote For Us and Give Us Your Money, Or Else. They didn’t actually protect us. They never do.”

They said this with a sort of red sheen of fury that hung in the air. And they were right—we had had this conversation before, and stupidly, there I was, defending liberals, while they were…leaving women…like my kid sis…all her friends…her generation…feeling hated.

Now. I’m a Brand Guy. I reinvented marketing. I put things in plain, emotive terms, for a reason, because that’s how I think we must understand them if we want to connect and make sense of the world. And in this case, “the rest of us” means the sort of thing “tout le monde” does in French. When we say that in a sentence in French, we don’t mean it literally, but more just in a sort of human way, generally. 

So…I know there’s going to be a White Guy Named Matt who’ll cry: but I don’t feel like liberals hate me. Congratulations, Matt. Sure, liberals Don’t Hate Matt—and that’s precisely because we all feel like they hate the Rest of Us, and I’ll come to that distinction shortly.

I asked a Black friend. How do you think liberals feel about you. He chuckled. Then went silent. He was trying to put it…nicely…I think. “For us? Life isn’t…life hasn’t gotten…improved…since the era of civil rights…as much as it should have. In some respects, it feels like it’s barely improved at all. Racism’s not just endemic, it’s systemic. We know how hard it is get a degree, a job, forge a career, and that they always think of less of us, no matter what we achieve or do or create. We still feel…unwanted. And come on, by now? We know they just want our votes. Look at Biden’s sort of pathetic statement at Morehouse, which didn’t really speak to us at all. What was he even doing there? Just making a spectacle, for headlines.”

Like I said, he was being polite. I’d say all that’s shorthand for: hated. Now, it’s not up to me to speak for any community, but I kind of get the sense that there’s a problem here. 

And the statistics, of course, bear all this out. Liberalism’s support is sort of collapsing at light-speed. So don’t think of this as some sort of idle chatter. Groups that liberals should have won over are defecting, and that defection’s accelerating. And if you ask me, the simplest way to understand that is also the most powerful: we all feel hated by liberals.

I asked an Arab-American friend. He was…angrier than I think I’d seen him, and told me something I didn’t know. “Do you know that Blinken met with ‘Arab-American leaders’—we can never just be Americans, after all—and do you know what he said? Instead of hearing a single one of their concerns, he threatened to starve the world unless they shut up. He intimidated them.”

I sort of frowned in disbelief. I’m not kidding, he said, and showed me the bizarre story on his phone. And then he continued. “They just want our votes. They don’t care about us. They certainly don’t like us. They need us, but they treat us with utter contempt. And it couldn’t be clearer by now that they barely think of us as people.”


He felt hated, too.

So. That’s three groups—four, in fact, if you want to include young people and women, by way of my kid sis and her friends. All of whom are crucial in a democracy—who make up way more than 50% of it. And it seems to me that a whole lot of people in those groups feel hated by liberals. 

Which is why they’re sort of walking away, rolling their eyes.

I did a little informal research, in the examples above. It emphatically isn’t just “anecdata.” Rather, we should all be trying to understand how on earth Biden can be losing, how democracy can be dying, etcetera, around the globe, this fast, and in that sense, this is mini-proto-qualitative research, and just asked people what they think liberalism thinks about them.

And that leaves “the rest of us” in a difficult place. Because of course, so does the other side, probably even more, that’s true, but that’s hardly the basis of an appealing anything, from a bar to a politics: “hey, come on over here, we hate you a little less! And we’re going to throw you away when we’re done using you!”

Why We’re Watching Liberalism Die

We’re watching liberalism die. It’s sort of an open secret, that by now, economists and think tank types will speak about openly. There’s Biden, rolling back free trade, there’s Trump, poised to take power, ready to shred half a century of global order, there’s Biden again, making a mockery of international law. Liberalism’s dying a swift…

It’s choking to death on the fumes of its own blunders.

There’s a point I raised recently that I want to talk about a little bit more, so that you can understand how egregious and foolish my failure really was. There I was, defending liberals, while they’d call me all these incredible names—literally, “animal,” which is exactly what Trump thinks of people like me. So…where’s the difference?

If both these “sides” think of me as an “animal,” in what sense are they even “different” to me? You can answer that in a sophomoric way, and talk about policy differences, or you can get the point, which is about moral injury and betrayal.

The reason I did that was that philosophically, I’m a liberal. Narrow politics? Let’s forget about those, because this isn’t about them, really. Liberalism was about liberation. From subjugation, tyranny, and…hate. Of all kinds. The liberation of the peasant from feudalism. The liberation of the serf from the noble. Of the working class to become the middle class. Of the average person from centuries of folly, in which some people thought others weren’t human beings at all, whether we called that fascism or feudalism or empire.

I believed in all that. And I still do. I believe it deep in my bones.

But do liberals? Where? When? How? 

And that part’s easy to see. What part of liberalism now is about…liberation? Do you feel free these days? Does anyone? Liberalism now seems to be about a super-set of rights for a tiny handful of people, at the expense of everybody else. So for example some super rich dude has the “freedom” or the “right” to “earn” a mega-billion dollar “bonus” that could pay for fighting climate change for half the world, which is what’d really…liberate people…from the horrors already descending. Or maybe the “freedom” for a class of ultra rich to keep getting ultra richer, and stash that money in mansions and penthouses they’ll never live in. Or maybe for the biggest corporations to forever grow their profits, even while middle classes implode into penury.

What part of any of that is about liberation? For anyone? If the only person you’re liberating is the world’s richest dude, and from what even, what even is that philosophy? None of it’s much about liberation anymore. Not in any realistic or just common sense way. It’s a kind of…is scam…too impolite a word? Too Trumpy? Then maybe nihilism is more appropriate. Whatever you want to call it, the point is that liberalism’s failure is real.

And we see it in all the indicators in the world around us, from economic ones to social ones to psychological ones. You know the score on those, I’ve discussed them so much. Suffice it to say that liberalism doesn’t seem to care one whit about liberating any of us from climate change, inequality, the predations of capital, or any of the rest of it, including authoritarians and fascists, whom it puts fighting a distant second to putting us in our place.

So what happens next? When we raise any of those sets of criticisms, as many of my friends have told me over the years, that’s when it begins to hate us.

So, for example, when women observe how the Democrats used not codifying Roe as a bargaining chip to make them perpetually vote, to keep them in line, something to hang over their heads…when they say that, Democrats chide them for it. Hey! At least we did this for you!

Or Biden goes to Morehouse, ignores Gaza, sort of brushes the issue that minorities feel a sense of betrayal and despair under the rug, and if anyone says that out loud, hey, liberals will go on the attack against them. You ungrateful wretches! Haven’t we done enough for you? 

Or Blinken goes to meet with Arab-American leaders, because, fair enough, they’re incredibly concerned and worried, and incredibly, threatens to starve the world.

The second that we raise criticisms of liberalism that aren’t just fair or relatively mild—but also true—it goes on the attack, against us. And it never really seems to attack the fascists and authoritarians very much, or at least enough, because it’s way too busy fighting…the rest of us.

Which is completely insane at this juncture in history.

I Hate Writing This Stuff. Why? Liberalism Thinks Everyone’s Who’s Not a Fascist is a “Leftist”

So call me a fool. Because there I was, defending liberalism, while this cycle played out. Maybe not defending it tooth and nail, but certainly sort of…giving it time…to maybe come to its senses. It hasn’t. And I made a Big, Stupid Mistake, which is that I ignored what it did to me, dehumanizing and disgracing me, over nothing, even and especially as a microcosm of what it’s done to all of us. The…rest of us…in the way I’ve been using that term here.

So the old criticism is true. The communists are a greater threat than the fascists kind of thing. But in a new sort of twist. Liberals hate us, the rest of us, and increasingly, we all feel that way. Certainly way more than liberalism worries about the other guys, the real bad guys, the ones who don’t want democracy at all, because, like I said, it fights us way, way more than them. 

So…what the…why does that happen?

Well, liberalism paints everyone who criticizes it as a leftist. But none of us are leftists, in the examples above, and few of us are in any meaningful sense out there in the world, too, anymore, given that there are few institutions of any kind of left…left. I’m not—I could care less, really, about politics in that narrow sense. My kid sis isn’t, she’s just a pretty typical young feminist. My friends I polled aren't—some have corporate careers they're very happy with. One friend runs a chain of businesses, for Pete’s sake.

None of these people are “leftists.” And there’s nothing wrong, by the way, with being a leftist. What’s wrong—foolish, fatal, and ignorant—is that liberalism’s instant retort to any criticism’s been to paint those critics as leftists, as if all of us are card-carrying members of The Party and go home and singe praises to portraits of Lenin, and then light candles at Marx’s grave in Highgate. That’s…almost…none of us. A tiny, tiny fraction, if even that anymore.

Yet this tactic’s been incredibly successful. Because it allows liberals to circle the wagons. It goes like this: one outlet calls someone a leftist, then the next one does, and on it goes, or they all hint at it, anyways, enough, like they did with AOC and who have you. That’s what they did to Bernie, and he is a leftist, but in the way of a mild European social democrat, hardly Vermont’s very own Che Guevara. And yet that’s how he’s been painted. Hell, they did it to Liz Warren, who’d be on the European or Canadian right.

This tactic works. It shreds reputations, and gets not just people, but whole constituencies ignored, just like that, because hey, those guys aren’t just controversial—why, they’re practically communists. Here’s a small list of groups liberals have managed to marginalize and ignore, by way of this tactic. Three generations of feminists and counting, several generations of social democrats, decades of minorities, let me make that sharper, Millenial feminists, Gen Z climate change reformers, Gen X as a whole, more or less, which leans socially democratic, and so on. Poof, all disappeared into this weird vacuum. But there was a price.

Liberalism alienated all of these constituencies, which is a strategic blunder, a mistake of politicking, but there’s a much deeper problem here, too.

How to Alienate Your Friends and Make Your Paradigm Obsolete

What was the paradigmatic effect of this tactic, painting anyone who wanted liberalism to evolve, change, mature, grow, as a leftist, meaning communist, dirty hippie, crackpot, fringe lunatic, Not Serious, Immature, and so on? It let liberalism ignore any criticism, forever, more or less. And because of that, liberalism never grew and matured. Instead, it got stunted and withered into this thing called neoliberalism, which sort of preaches only the freedom to get rich and have power really matters, and life has no point beyond that, and neither does society.

So by controversializing all its critics as leftists, liberalism failed by way of its own success. It was able to circle the wagons—today, the New York Times is way, way more likely to cover a Gen Z fashion influencer than a climate activist, social reformer, or economic critic, etcetera—and successfully paint all of us as…communists, radicals, crazies, lunatics, crackpots, Dangerous People to Be Ignored and Hated.

And what did that create? A vacuum. As liberalism began to fail in material ways—the middle class imploding, economies stagnating, social bonds rupturing—it had nothing new to offer. Precisely because it wouldn’t engage with its critics, who are always the key to paradigmatic reinvention.

So what did middle and working classes do, shaking their heads, at a paradigm that was obviously failing, and was blind even to that much? They turned to the hard right, which was the only choice, really, left open to them, because there was liberalism, telling them how much it hated them, too.

Hey! Sorry we destroyed your town and livelihood and future! Go out and retrain. Learn some new skills! Get a job. What, you’ve been trying for months, years, now? Don’t believe it. What, you took a job that payed 50% less than the old, stable one? So what, not our problem. That’s called freedom, buddy, enjoy it. Your life fell apart? LOL, must be your own fault, not ours.

What did you expect working and middle classes to do, when liberalism was telling them, basically…all this? How would anyone expect them to feel, if not betrayed and abandoned, because the truth is that even if they were ready to give liberalism another chance, it wasn’t ready to give them one.

Who Doesn’t Liberalism Hate, or At Least Have Contempt For, By Now?

So who…who doesn’t liberalism hate? I know there’s going to be the kind of person who’ll say: “but I don’t feel hated!” and be sort of puzzled, a well-intentioned and kind and decent person, too. That person is in a position of relative privilege, probably—maybe a Boomer that got the better end of the golden age of liberalism—because the point I’ve tried to make here is that more or less everyone feels hated by it.

The working class. The middle class. Minorities. Women. People of color. People like me, who dared to criticize it, because hey, we could see it not delivering, and were trying to prevent precisely this meltdown.

Who does that leave? Just sort of a certain shrinking portion of the top of an upper class, really. But that’s not enough to save—or even have—a democracy. It’s only enough to drive home the failure for everyone else, and to leave them asking: why does liberalism hate me? And even if people aren’t sort of asking that question consciously at the moment, unconsciously, they definitely are, from students to women to minorities and more, all of whom are increasingly just contemptuous of a paradigm that treats them like chess pieces, and then throws them away, not human beings.

There’s a lesson here, many in fact, but let me highlight one. When paradigms can’t take criticism, they shatter. Their institutions and systems get ripped apart. This is what Trump, obviously, will do, not just to America, but on a global scale. Liberalism would have been better off listening to us.

Go out and ask your friends—not those in the class we know liberalism still works for, which is a tiny, tiny one, but everyone else. What do you think liberalism thinks, feels, about you?

I’d bet the farm that you won’t like the answer. 

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