An interesting interview in today's Salon with former Hyde Parker and editor of The Baffler, Tom Frank. His subject is a familiar one: how the American right has been more successful in mobilizing grassroots anger and energy than the American left.
But what's interesting about this piece from an HPP perspective is that you can easily read Frank's interview as one Hyde Park liberal intellectual - Thomas Frank - critiquing another - Barack Obama - about the menu of political possibilities available to the nation - possibilities that have also developed and been brought into sharp contrast within Hyde Park itself. Grassroots anger and mobilization versus the cool-headed and technocratically-inclined Becker-Posner school of law and economics embodied in Barack Obama.
That's my spin. How Frank puts it, with reference to the populist anger channeled by various Occupation Movements and the Tea Party, is this:
The liberals had their leader in Barack Obama … they had their various people in Congress. But these people are completely unfamiliar with populist anger. It’s an alien thing to them. They don’t trust it, and they have trouble speaking to it. I like Barack Obama, but at the end of the day he’s a very professorial kind of guy...
The main thing that has to change is that Democrats and liberals have to be able to speak to the outrage, and that requires a complete change in the way they look at the world. The problem is that they’ve been going the other direction for 30 years. Ever since the right-wing backlash began, liberals have been making their own move to professionalism...
Their message was: The technocratic way is going to solve our problems. Just leave it up to the experts who are going to figure a way out.
The grassroots anger and mobilization that Frank sees as missing have long traditions in Hyde Park, certainly, but seem to have run aground for want of new ideas and successful outcomes. Their renovation has occurred outside of the traditional frameworks of Hyde Park activism. Meanwhile, the cool expertise of neo-liberal managerialism is dominant in the University of Chicago's professional schools, and while palatable to many middle class intellectuals, are remote from the grassroots for just these reasons.
It's a dualism that you feel in the neighborhood everyday. In a sense it represents the gulf between institutions of governance and masses of citizens, in this country and globally, but with a whiff of Hyde Park terroir.