In a 2004 Weekly Standard essay, James Piereson coined the phrase “punitive liberalism” to describe the post-JFK left:
From the time of John Kennedy’s assassination in 1963 to Jimmy Carter’s election in 1976, the Democratic party was gradually taken over by a bizarre doctrine that might be called Punitive Liberalism. According to this doctrine, America had been responsible for numerous crimes and misdeeds through its history for which it deserved punishment and chastisement. White Americans had enslaved blacks and committed genocide against Native Americans. They had oppressed women and tyrannized minority groups, such as the Japanese who had been interned in camps during World War II. They had been harsh and unfeeling toward the poor. By our greed, we had despoiled the environment and were consuming a disproportionate share of the world’s wealth and resources. We had coddled dictators abroad and violated human rights out of our irrational fear of communism.
Given this bill of indictment, the Punitive Liberals held that Americans had no right at all to feel pride in their country’s history or optimism about its future. Those who expressed such pride were written off as ignorant patriots who could not face up to the sins of the past; and those who looked ahead to a brighter future were dismissed as naive “Pollyannas” who did not understand that the brief American century was now over. The Punitive Liberals felt that the purpose of national policy was to punish the nation for its crimes rather than to build a stronger America and a brighter future for all.
Such a mindset is at work in just about every university course, which sees American history as little more than several hundred years of racial bloodshed. So when a leftwing presidential candidate remarks:
“America is.., uh, is no longer, uh.. what it could be, what it once was. And I say to myself, I don’t want that future for my children.”
It begs the obvious question: when does he think the glory days were? As Ed Morrissey notes:
Everyone feels that we can improve ourselves, but we don’t usually cast it in terms of the country no longer being what it once was. Coming from the Obamas, that doesn’t even make sense. They have talked about how difficult it was to break through barriers, not without some justification, to reach this point in their lives and American history.
Doesn’t that speak to the point that we continue to grow and to learn? And if not, which “good old days” did Obama mean? The 1980s? I doubt it, [I think that’s a safe bet–Ed] and if he means the Clinton era, then why did he run against Hillary in the first place?
Once again, Obama got off the teleprompter and put his foot directly in his mouth. He’s not selling Hope, he’s selling Despair, and himself as the snake oil that will cure us of all our ills.
In The Crack-Up, a topic he was expert on, F. Scott Fitzgerald famously wrote:
“The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function.”
Something tells me that Obama has as many opposed ideas on a single subject as can be imagined.
Update: Red State: “Barack Obama shoots Irony in the head, then takes a chainsaw to its limbs.” Heh, indeed.TM