Ed Driscoll

When 'Liberals in a Hurry' Reach the Endzone

No, this is isn’t a post about the president’s strange, sudden praise for Michael Vick — though I wonder if Bo is looking a bit worried these days.

Back in the 1930s, American liberals excused the communists of the Soviet Union as being simply “Liberals in a Hurry.” Doug Ross spots a Timesperson visiting North Korea, retching at the horror before her and quips, “New York Times visits North Korea, unintentionally reveals the endgame of the Democrats’ unchecked authoritarian agenda.”

Responding to the Gray Lady, Doug writes:

The Constitution purposefully and carefully set limits on the powers of the federal government. But if government ignores those limits to control more and more aspects of our lives, what prevents this society — our society — from descending into the same, nightmarish central planning endgame?

Is there a successful model that Democrats can point to? Cuba, Zimbabwe, North Korea and the Soviet Union are authoritarian societies that represent the failed “progressive” model taken to its inevitable conclusion.

‘But those models are too extreme,’ the progressive might retort, ‘Democrats would never descend into a totalitarian, unchecked political regime of that sort.’

Fine. Then what are the limits on the Progressive Democrat Party? What amount of taxation would be sufficient? How many people should be categorized as “rich”? How many more aspects of our lives — besides health care, energy, automobile design, carbon dioxide emissions, credit card interest rates, education — must be controlled before Democrats say ‘enough’?

Democrats never have — and never will — offer an answer to that question. And their view into the tragic, failed society of North Korea is a simple error: unintentionally revealing their endgame for all to see.

Well, they’ll always have Detroit. Not to mention Greece.

In a 1964 campaign rally in Providence, RI, Lyndon Johnson, standing on the hood of a car and armed with a bullhorn, summed up the Great Society for the assembled masses: “I just want to tell you this — we’re in favor of a lot of things and we’re against mighty few.”

40 years later, in the Wall Street Journal, later reprinted by the Claremont Institute, William Voegeli attempted to narrow things down a bit, and ask the same questions Doug asks today: what’s the end game? How much control, how much regulation is enough? This of course was back in 2004, when the federal government under then-President Bush was merely gigantic, not yet leviathan:

The Democrats’ problem is not that they, like “Seinfeld,” are a show about nothing. It’s that they are a show about everything, or anything. (At one point, the Kerry-for-president Web site referred to 79 separate federal programs he wanted to create or expand.)

Ruy Teixeira says that after 2004, “the bigger question is: What do the Democrats stand for?” Here’s a better and bigger question still: What do the Democrats stand against? Tell us, if indeed it’s true, that Democrats don’t want to do for America what social democrats have done for France or Sweden. Tell us that the stacking of one government program on top of the other is going to stop, if indeed it will, well short of a public sector that absorbs half the nation’s income and extensively regulates what we do with the other half. Explain how the spirit of live-and-let-live applies, if indeed it does, to everyone equally–to people who take family, piety and patriotism seriously, not merely to people whose lives and outlooks are predicated on regarding them ironically.

Until those questions are answered, until Americans have confidence about the limits liberalism will establish and observe, it’s hard to see when the Democratic narrative will again have a happy ending.

Well, the narrative certainly had its happy moment in November of 2008, but as we’ve seen in the years since, to govern is to choose — though these days, that’s increasingly difficult; given how much they’ve either banned or regulated, the modern left would invert LBJ’s saying from almost 50 years ago quite nicely. They’re in favor of mighty few things and they’re against everything else.

Last year around this time in the American Spectator, Quin Hillyer attempted to square the circle, before hilarity ensued.