All of this leads me to highly recommend that Professor Westen and everyone else read the important op-ed that appeared this same weekend in The Wall Street Journal by one of our most important conservative commentators, the Hoover Institute’s Peter Berkowitz. In his article, Berkowitz deals with what he calls “the panic of the progressive mind,” a panic that actually fits perfectly as a description for the assumptions of Emory’s Professor Westen. He notes first that Obama had in fact favored and enacted an $800 billion plus stimulus package, one that Congress passed in 2009 on a party line vote. Then in April he produced a $3.5 trillion budget, enacted without one Republican vote, “that contained across-the-board funding increases for federal departments and agencies.” In other words, contrary to Professor Westen, the president did favor and enact large federal programs that increased the deficit.
What Obama ignored is the message given to him by the voters. As Berkowitz writes:
The voters’ message was clear: Cut spending, compel the government to live within its means, and put Americans back to work. In short, the president and his party badly overreached in 2009 and 2010; and in 2011 the Republicans, to the extent their numbers in Congress allowed, have effectively pushed back.
These are the facts, which does not mean progressives understand what has happened. Rather than deal with them, they respond to events with hysteria and the kind of rant produced in the Times by Westen. Moreover, Berkowitz points out:
Progressive partisans also displayed economic illiteracy, refusing to recognize the respectability or even the existence of alternative economic views. Instead, they steadfastly insisted that a conservative obsession with reducing debt and curbing spending ignored the real issue, which was putting Americans back to work.
It’s almost as if Peter Berkowitz had read Prof. Westen’s article in advance, he so perfectly gets his mindset.
Of course, there is a connection between controlling the debt and producing jobs, something that progressives do not comprehend. Instead, they engage in name calling and the kind of vituperation about conservatives we see in Westen’s article. My favorite two paragraphs in Berkowitz’s article are the following:
The evident panic of the progressive mind stems from a paradox as old as progressivism in America. Progressives see themselves as the only legitimate representatives of ordinary people. Yet their vision of what democracy requires frequently conflicts with what majorities believe and how they choose to live.
Add to this the progressive belief that human beings can be perfected through the rule of experts, and you have a recipe—when the people make choices contrary to progressive dictates—for generating contempt among the experts for the people whose interests they claim to alone represent. And not just contempt, but even disgust at diversity of opinion, which from the progressive’s perspective distracts the people from the policies demanded by impartial reason.
Like any good leftist (or progressive — as leftists now dub themselves once again), anyone who has a policy view different from the one they subscribe to is seen as either ignorant, wrong, or purposefully serving the wealthy in order to make the poor worse off so they can become even more rich. I am sure that you, like me, know plenty of wealthy people on the political Left who live in the toniest neighborhoods, have homes worth a small fortune, and still think of themselves as representatives of the “real” people.
So Berkowitz’s conclusion, in which he expresses the hope that progressives “cultivate the enlightened virtues they publicly profess and free themselves from the dogmatic beliefs that undergird their political ambitions,” is a forlorn hope for the impossible.
They cannot change, without a serious reevaluation of the philosophy they espouse and the dogma they believe. And such a reevaluation, except in the rarest of cases, will not be coming soon. We may as well be waiting for the leopard to get rid of its spots. The future rests on what the intelligent citizenry does, and the hope that the “real people” will continue to vote as they did recently, and further make the progressive paradigm obsolete.