Ed Driscoll

OWS: When The Bridge Collapses

In Jonah Goldberg’s Liberal Fascism, a recurring leitmotif is the notion of replacing a bridge. As you’ve probably seen yourself from time to time, when a highway or railroad bridge is replaced, more often than not, the older bridge isn’t torn down while the new one is built. It’s left standing until, at the last minute, the traffic is rerouted to the new bridge, for a minimum of disruption.

As Jonah noted, what was called the New Left back in the sixties and seventies has been in bridge-building mode since the early 1960s, first banning school prayer, then squelching the religious concerns of those who are pro-life:

More recently, we’ve seen courts rule that the Pledge of Allegiance, displays of the Ten Commandments, and Christmas crèches are unconstitutional anywhere near a public facility. Justice Antonin Scalia had it right in 1996 in the Romer v. Evans case (dealing with the public accommodation of homosexuality in Colorado). “The Court has mistaken a Kulturkampf for a fit of spite,” he declared. He went on to castigate his colleagues for “taking sides” in the “culture wars.”

Why belabor this point about religion? Because it is impossible to understand liberalism’s cultural agenda without understanding that modern liberalism is building its own railway bridge, replacing the bricks and beams of traditional American culture with something else. I do not claim that everything in the new liberal structure is bad or wrong. But I reject the clever argumentation of liberals who claim that their effort is merely “pragmatic” or piecemeal. “Oh, just this one brick. What’s wrong with this brick?” is how liberals argue about every stage of their project. But it’s not just one brick. Nor should conservatives believe it is merely a slippery slope. That image suggests forces outside of our control pulling us in a direction not of our choosing. If society is moving in a direction not of its choosing, it is often because it is being pushed by the self-appointed forces of progress.

In theory, the election of President Obama should have been the final step in that bridge-building phase, hence all of the magazine covers and articles comparing him to FDR, Lincoln, JFK, and the infamous Newsweek “We Are All Socialists Now” debacle, a year before the Washington Post would need its own bailout of sorts to get out from their self-created wreckage.

While President Obama could still win next year, it’s obvious that the happy shiny new socialist era isn’t going to happen; he’s just hoping that 50.00000001 percent of voters can drag his SCOAMF over the finish line a year from now. Though as Conn Carroll writes at the Washington Examiner, his style of class warfare can’t fix income inequality — and was specifically rejected by a much more successful former president:

Defending his 1981 tax cuts, President Reagan told a packed ballroom at the 1982 Conservative Political Action Conference:

“Since when do we in America believe that our society is made up of two diametrically opposed classes — one rich, one poor — both in a permanent state of conflict and neither able to get ahead except at the expense of the other? … Since when do we in America endorse the politics of envy and division?”

America doesn’t have diametrically opposed classes, but it does have a group of self-styled elites who’ve decided to distance themselves from the rest of us — which brings us to Occupy Wall Street:

“Occupy” is running a national chain of makeshift boarding houses for the terminally disaffected, the prerequisite to opening a franchise being only proof of sufficient indignation indefinitely to maintain a lease. This is not to suggest that there is no reason for the dissidents’ disquiet, or to deprive many of the boarders of their legitimate reasons to be upset with their lives (even if, more often than not, their plight has a radically different root cause than the one they have identified). But, justifiable angst aside, establishing exactly who is their problem remains elusive to most. Kevin D. Williamson put this most brilliantly in the last-but-one issue of National Review, in which he described the protesters as essentially being on a “witch hunt,” searching for any explanation of why their crops had failed.

A number of participants may well fancy themselves actors in a glorious revolution, but they nonetheless have their work cut out in identifying their targets, especially given the understandable temptation to issue a waiver to anyone who so much as shows his face. Until OWS not only decides upon a plan of action but agrees on who exactly fills the “1 percent,” the band of shady figures who are allegedly corrupting the sacred principles of our democracy will remain steadfastly in silhouette. Referring to the recent Citizens United case, representatives of OWS frequently tell me that “corporations aren’t people.” As a matter of constitutional law that is debatable. But as the protesters mean it, the statement reveals a fundamental problem for those who are storming Bastilles across the country. You cannot put Citigroup’s head on a stick.

Occupy Wall Street is certainly willing to do it symbolically, though. Substitute President Obama for the image of Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein on a pike from October 8th, and the Tea Party for OWS, and this photo (or this one) would have been on the front page of every newspaper on the planet:

All of which illustrates, even beyond the above photo, what it looks like when the bridge collapses.

Related: At the Tatler, Bryan Preston links to a manifesto for OWS written by Salon’s Alex Pereene, which as Bryan writes, sounds like pretty indistinguishable from the last 20 years of bridge-building by the left — and in many ways is simply a bailout from all of its excesses:

So here’s what they want: Debt relief for the poor and students and college graduates and a more heavily subsidized higher education system, a “substantial” jobs program, a healthcare “public option,” more regulations on Wall Street, an end to the war on terrorism, repeal of the Patriot Act, action on “climate change,” an end to the drug war, gay rights, and a “fix” for the tax system so that there’s a millionaire’s bracket along with various hikes on capital gains and the death tax.

How is this indistinguishable in any way from the left’s standard dogma over the past few years? I don’t see that it is. They want another stimulus to go along with the ones that already failed, they want government-run healthcare, they want to go on pretending that the terrorists didn’t attack us and don’t want to kill us, and they want government to come down hard on banks and on energy producers, tax the rich, etc etc etc. This is pretty much the DNC’s platform, is it not? It’s the details of “hope and change.” It’s everything they have wanted to do forever, but didn’t get to when the Democrats held all the power. It’s that, plus removal of consequences for those who made bad choices resulting in personal debt. The flip side of that is that those who made responsible choices and avoided debt get to pay for the irresponsibles’ escape hatch. That’s not in the declaration, but it’s certainly implied. Somebody has to pay for it, and there isn’t enough money in all those big banks and in the accounts of the so-called 1% to pick up the tab. And then there’s the little matter of collecting what gets redistributed.

Every request for more regulations and more government subsidies is a request for more government intrusion and less individual freedom. These freebird occupiers are asking, in the end, to be slaves to the system.

And as I’ve asked before, who launches a protest movement before figuring out what exactly it is that you’re protesting? But then as the Fourth Checkraise blog notes, “‘Occupy’ is just ‘Burning Man’ for young white liberals who are not wealthy enough to travel and stay in the ‘playa’ with their social betters.”

If that wasn’t how it began, it’s certainly what it’s morphing into. And from coast-to-coast, workaday folks with nearby businesses (many of whom presumably vote straight-D on the ticket, but probably don’t drape the same sense of smug elitism over themselves as the OWS gang) aren’t exactly enjoying their new neighbors.