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Ed Driscoll

Jonah Goldberg Discusses The Tyranny of Cliches, Part II

May 8th, 2012 - 12:00 am

If you enjoyed Part I of our interview with Jonah Goldberg concerning his new book, The Tyranny of Clichés, yesterday, here’s the concluding half. In this segment, Jonah discusses how the left uses phrases such as “diversity” and “social justice” to shortcut debate, and how Bill Clinton used the phrase “the middle class” to position himself as a very different Democrat than those of the George McGovern-era:

GOLDBERG: This is one of the more interesting ones to try and think through, you know.  You have—Bill Clinton’s—the genius of Bill Clinton’s 1992 campaign was that—and it’s really shocking how forthright he was—he talked about how he basically was going to be the president for the middle class.  And he used “middle class” in this really sort of brilliant dog whistle way.  Because he was relying on survey data from Stan Greenberg and others that showed that something like ninety-five percent of Americans consider themselves middle class.  Right?

So he’s basically appealing to the vanity of pretty much all of Americans, while seeming like he is doing something special for them.  And in the process, he talks about middle class as if—in this sort of dog whistle way, where as if it’s—you know, middle class of Middle America, traditional values and all of the rest, about bourgeois, hard-working, Horatio Alger work ethic middle class.

And that was a code that was a way for him to appeal to the white working class in a way that Democratic candidates for several elections before him had failed to do; that he was a different kind of Democrat.  You know, the whole welfare needs to be reformed as we know it; the government needs to give a hand up not a hand out; and all the rest.  This was language coded towards appealing towards constituencies that the Democrats had been losing.

But at the same time—and ever since then, this has been the path that liberals have taken.  You know, Al Gore; John Kerry; Barack Obama, they’ve all used the same argument, the same sort of language to appeal to the middle class.  But in fact, what they’re doing is they’re proposing policies that undermine the middle class, that sort of sap the independence, the entrepreneurial spirit, the moral capital of the middle class.

We now live in a country where sixty percent of the households get more from the federal government than they put in.  We now live in a country where the Democratic Party has gone a long way towards fulfilling its long-term dream of turning citizens into clients of the state.

And so they talk about middle class as if they’re appealing to sort of homespun cultural values and all of the rest, but the economic agenda that they’re selling is really one basically of widespread institutionalized bribery.

Crony corporatism, you might say — which brings us to Jonah’s previous book, Liberal Fascism. Jonah discuses how it was received by liberals, historians, and liberal historians, near the conclusion of our interview:

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A transcript of Part II of our interview begins on the next page. (Part I’s transcript can be found in that segment’s blog post.)

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