Ed Driscoll

Whatever Your Ideology, Your Opponents' Worldview Is Officially Dead

Matt Welch has a great piece in Reason titled, “The Death of Neoliberalism:”

Our grandchildren won’t believe our stories about the 1990s. Yes, there really was a time before the World Wide Web and ubiquitous portable communication devices in sub-Saharan Africa. Yes, you really could travel to some foreign countries without a passport, without a return ticket, without a credit card, and without entering multiple government databases. Yes, the Pittsburgh Pirates really did once play winning baseball.

But as the Bush-Obama era of bailout economics and Keynesian rehabilitation settles into something like cruising speed, perhaps the most fantastic fact to swallow will be that once upon a time the United States had a president who restrained government spending, balanced the budget, argued forcefully for the benefits of free trade, and declared that “the era of big government is over.” And he was a Democrat.

I come here not to mourn Bill Clinton, nor to give him sole credit for accomplishments that would not have happened without a hostile Republican Congress, but rather to lament the mostly unremarked passing of the political movement that made his economic successes possible. Its disappearance has meant the biggest expansion of the federal government since World War II.

Fair enough. But the man who benefited from Democrats shifting left during the naughts has now reached his own “Obsolence,” according to Fouad Ajami in the Wall Street Journal:

Not long ago Barack Obama, for those who were spellbound by him, had the stylishness of JFK and the historic mission of FDR riding to the nation’s rescue. Now it is to Lyndon B. Johnson’s unhappy presidency that Democratic strategist Robert Shrum compares the stewardship of Mr. Obama. Johnson, wrote Mr. Shrum in the Week magazine last month, never “sustained an emotional link with the American people” and chose to escalate a war that “forced his abdication as president.”

A broken link with the public, and a war in Afghanistan he neither embraces and sells to his party nor abandons—this is a time of puzzlement for President Obama. His fall from political grace has been as swift as his rise a handful of years ago. He had been hot political property in 2006 and, of course, in 2008. But now he will campaign for his party’s 2010 candidates from afar, holding fund raisers but not hitting the campaign trail in most of the contested races. Those mass rallies of Obama frenzy are surely of the past.

On the other side of aisle, those who aren’t enamored with the right can find sources saying that its component parts are also in deep, deep trouble. For example, C. Bradley Thompson and frequent PJTV contributor Yaron Brook of the Ayn Rand Institute have a new book out titled Neoconservatism: An Obituary for an Idea.

But the overarching ideology that neoconservatism is a part of was itself considered DOA as recently as last year, as a result of the now obsolete post-neoliberal president’s election in November of 2008. A few months later, the left had their heady period of “We Are All Socialists Now” euphoria as the then-Washington Post-owned Newsweek declared. That was the period in which Sam Tanenhaus of the New Republic and the New York Times Book Review drafted a book titled The Death of Conservatism. (Which made some curious assumptions about both ideologies.)That’s a topic that I explored in a video interview in September of 2009 with James Piereson of the Manhattan Institute:

And a year prior that, Jacob Weisberg of the Washington Post-owned Slate declared “The End of Libertarianism.”

But way back at the start of 2008, Hillary and Obama were still going neck and neck, and the brief window of the “Obama is God” meme had yet to open up (though it was already rapidly starting to coalesce, even then).  That was when Noemie Emery explored the topic of lead time in the Weekly Standard, and how the pace of the Blogosphere and the 24-hour news cycle has accelerated far beyond what the glacial deadlines of the book publishing world could cope with. As we’ve seen, this has wreaked havoc with pundits who want to have broad sweeping statements about the state of the culture show up at their local Barnes & Noble. As Emery wrote back then, that pace risks making every book built around the assumption that “your ideology is dead/my party’s leader is a permanent political God” dead on arrival:

The first sign of this trend appeared after the 2004 election, when books were commissioned describing the newly re-elected President George W. Bush as a master strategist, who had established a model of dominance for the next generation. These books appeared near the end of 2005, just in time for Katrina, and Bush’s big slide in the polls. On a similar note, a flood of books were published a little bit later about how the Republican party was in for a period of permanent dominance, with titles such as One Party Country, suggesting the entire country was about to turn red. These came out shortly before the slide that led to the loss in the 2006 midterms, after which pundits declared that if there was a one-party state, it would be run by the Democrats. This was before the 2007 session, in which the Democratic leadership lost all of its battles, and saw its approval ratings sink into the teens.

Only to rebound by November of 2008, with the help of a media in collusion to elect a charismatic if untested presidential candidate. Who was declared obsolete less than two years later.

Along with every other ideology.

Speaking of which, have I missed anybody? Is everybody’s ideology dead now? If so, where do we go from here?

(Of course, no ideology is ever truly DOA. Just ask Van Jones, who declared himself a Communist — in 1992, the year after the Soviet Union fell.)

Update: But wait, there’s more! “How A GOP November Victory Could Bring Its Death.”

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