Close to the election I had a chat with one of my liberal colleagues. He was defending almost everything to be found in post-New Deal (indeed, post 1960’s) liberalism. It became an interesting conversation only when I noted--for his benefit--that he was defending the status quo. He was defending massive government expenditures for just about anything, the centralized welfare state, a more progressive tax system, etc. I pointed out to him that much of these core issues had been in the political arena for a while now (that is, my life-time!) and that his political opponents had not only won the theorietical battles, but had actually put some of the new ideas to work. Even Clinton had to assert that the era of big government is over, and signed off on the greatest reform of the New Deal/Great Society welfare programs. My interlocutor was not amused. Michael Barone says that all Liberals have left is nostalgia.
Right on, Peter. The intellectual left has had no truly "new" ideas in several decades. It is important that we remember, however, that to a large degree the earlier liberal movements you mentioned (i.e., the New Deal and the unfunny joke known as the 1960s) were themselves devoid of new ideas, and were based primarily on the re-emergence of old, bad, previously discarded ones. Was big government really a new idea even in the 1930s? Of course not. It was repackaged European statism disguised by the rhetoric of liberal policy wonks who claimed to understand economics. But you are right - now they fail to even do that much.