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Ed Driscoll

Friedman, Orszag, Perdue, and the Totalitarian Temptation

September 28th, 2011 - 12:36 pm

Judging from when my late father was president of his local chapter 35 years ago, the Rotary Club was a place for businessmen to network and to enjoy speeches from local business leaders and politicians. My memories of the topics discussed is hazy to say the least, but presumably, back in the day, calls for fascism were rather rare. Which makes Democrat Governor Bev Perdue’s comments yesterday at such a venue all the more curious:

The solution to the nation’s jobs crisis: suspend congressional elections?

That was the proposal put forward by North Carolina’s governor, who was trying to make a point at a Rotary Club event that political considerations are hindering efforts in Washington to tackle unemployment and economic stagnation.

“I think we ought to suspend, perhaps, elections for Congress for two years and just tell them we won’t hold it against them, whatever decisions they make, to just let them help this country recover,” Gov. Bev Perdue, a Democrat, said, according to a report by the Raleigh News & Observer. “You want people who don’t worry about the next election.”

It wasn’t clear how serious Perdue was about giving lawmakers a get-out-of-an-election-free card — especially considering that Congress’ approval rating is in the gutter — but Republicans quickly pounced on her remarks.

Naturally, she and her handlers tried to play the botched joke defense, the left’s favorite get out of jail free card, but as Ed Morrissey notes, with a link to the audio from her speech, ” The News-Observer produced the audio of Purdue’s remarks, and it doesn’t sound as if she’s aiming for a spot on HBO’s next comedy jam.”

Kevin Eder, the White House’s favorite tweeter — even before Attttaaaack Waaaatch! — linked to Perdue’s now infamous plea to suspend elections and said, “By the way, ONLY a politician would say something like this. Only a politician.”

As I replied to him last night, it’s not just politicians, Thomas Friedman has been calling for a suspension of democracy for quite sometime now. So have some of the president’s more fevered supporters in Hollywood.

As Mark Steyn wrote in After America: Get Ready for Armageddon:

The New York Times’ Great Thinker Thomas Friedman regularly channels his inner Walter Duranty: “What if we could just be China for a day?” he fantasized. “Where we could actually, you know, authorize the right solutions. . . .” Ah, yes. “Authorize” the “right” solutions without all that messy multi-party democracy getting in the way: why, in Beijing, where they don’t suffer the disadvantages of free elections, they banned the environmentally destructive plastic bag! In one day! Just like that! “One-party autocracy certainly has its drawbacks,” wrote Friedman. “But when it is led by a reasonably enlightened group of people, as China is today, it can also have great advantages. That one party can just impose the politically difficult but critically important policies needed to move a society forward in the 21st century.”

Ooooo-kay. But, pardon my asking, forward to where?

When the New York Times’ most prominent writer comes out in favor of dictatorship, and no one else in the smart set calls him on it, you get a glimpse at the very least of the scale of elite contempt for popular sovereignty and the republic’s animating principles. In breaking faith with the American idea, the political class got everything wrong: they exported millions of low-skilled jobs but imported millions of low-skilled workers; they fund both sides of the war on terror out of a wanton hostility to domestic energy production that leaves us dependent on noxious oil dictatorships that use their profits to wage civilizational warfare. And, having gotten us into this mess, the way to get us out is “China for a day.” This is the logical endpoint of a cocooned conformocracy: Big Government having “imposed” the problems in the first place, only Even Bigger Government can “impose” the solutions. Never underestimate the totalitarian temptations of the smart set. We’ll hear a lot more of that in the years ahead.

Exactly. In addition to Gov. Perdue yesterday, just a couple of weeks ago, former Obama economic adviser Peter Orszag wrote a piece for the “liberal” house organ The New Republic headlined, “Too Much of a Good Thing — Why we need less democracy:”

FACING THIS PROBLEM is crucially important because our current legislative gridlock is making it increasingly difficult for lawmakers to tackle the issues that are central to our country’s future—issues like climate change, the hard slog of recovering from a financial slump, and our long-term fiscal gap. It is clear to everyone that a failure to act will lead to undesirable outcomes in these areas. But polarization means that little action is possible. This is why I believe that we need to jettison the Civics 101 fairy tale about pure representative democracy and instead begin to build a new set of rules and institutions that would make legislative inertia less detrimental to our nation’s long-term health.

Let me be more specific in the context of fiscal policy, which was at the heart of the debt-limit debate. Virtually all responsible economists agree that we should be aiming to reduce the deficit in the long-term but not in the short-term. We need an even larger deficit in 2011 and 2012, to support a weak economy—but a much smaller deficit in 2020 and 2050, to put the nation back on a sustainable fiscal course. Yet our polarized political system has proved incapable of reaching a consensus on this common-sense approach.

What we need, then, are ways around our politicians.

Frank Burns once said on TV’s M*A*S*H that “individuality is fine, as long as we all do it together.” For the left, democracy is fine, as long as it’s moving the left’s agenda forward. When democracy isn’t working in their favor, it’s remarkable how quick self-described Democrats are willing to junk the notion for which their party is named. (And they wonder why Republicans are quick to leave the “ic” off of “Democratic.”)

With Obama tanking in the polls, and articles circulating that suggest that Republicans will hold the House and possibly capture the Senate, Steyn is right, but his time frame should be slightly accelerated: “Never underestimate the totalitarian temptations of the smart set. We’ll hear a lot more of that in the years ahead.”

Make that last sentence, the year ahead, in particular.

Update: Actually a flashback, via Drudge to a video from this past July at Real Clear Politics: “Obama: ‘The Idea Of Doing Things On My Own Is Very Tempting.’”

We know Barry, we know.

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