Others have termed this "reactionary liberalism." It is more the protection of accumulated interests than the application of creative reform to new problems. In the place of idealism, there is often anger. When Obama failed in his first debate, liberals were generally not critical that he lacked idealism. They were angry that he wasn't sufficiently angry. The fondest hopes and dreams of many on the left were apparently fulfilled in Joe Biden's sneer.
As a conservative, I can't endorse every policy of the Great Society — some were essential, others counterproductive. But America was better off because liberals called attention to those in the dawn, the twilight and the shadows of life. And American politics is worse off because liberalism has become a shadow of its former self.
Michael Gerson's email address is email@example.com.