“Liberalism Is Eating Itself,” Jon Gabriel writes at Ricochet, adding that it’s always “a grand time sticking it to The Man until the moment when The Man is you:”
As President Obama assumed power, his Alinskyite past served as the template for a renewed politics of envy, personal grievance and payback. The One Percent must be punished for their wealth. Traditional marriage supporters are hateful bigots on the wrong side of history. Mitt Romney gave old women cancer and locked the younger ones in binders. “The Cambridge police acted stupidly” and “if I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon.”
As one blogger notes, “Barack Obama thinks his job is to lead the mob, not the country.”
But as is often the case with politics, the Left’s success bore the seeds of its own destruction. Any ideology that stokes anger and neo-Jacobin tactics is innately unsuited to popular governance. It’s a grand time sticking it to The Man until the moment when The Man is you.
And The Man isn’t only in charge of the White House and Senate. He owns a controlling interest in the television industry and movies and technology and classrooms and music and art and sports. What’s a self-styled revolutionary to do once he has eliminated his most prominent enemies?
Create new enemies, of course.
Read the whole thing; I believe it’s outside the Ricochet 2.0 paywall.
Of course, this isn’t the first time that Democrats devoured themselves and took plenty of innocent bystanders with them in the process. With the exception of Barry Goldwater’s stillborn candidacy in 1964, virtually all of America’s internal conflicts in the 1960s were Blue Versus Blue, starting with the Vietnam War and its later discontents, as David Gelernter wrote in his 2012 book America-Lite:
That the liberal establishment came to oppose the war bitterly makes it hard to remember that America in Vietnam was a liberal idea—especially the militarily disastrous first phase, before Abrams replaced Westmoreland in command and Nixon replaced Johnson as president. But more than that, America in Vietnam represented just the same kind of heedless intervention by intellectuals in real life that was vigorously pursued by left-liberal intellectuals at home.
And as Gelernter wrote elsewhere in America-Lite, the antiwar movement actually preceded Johnson’s escalation; it was a creation of the nascent new left, about to devour the staid old left, which birthed the New Deal and Great Society:
What caused the American mood to crumble [in the period between the mid 1960s through the 1970s]? The civil rights struggle couldn’t be the answer; for one thing, it united rather than divided the country, except for the segregationist Old South. Maybe the bitter split over the war in Vietnam explains it. But that can’t be right; can’t be the whole truth. Antiwar protests were powered by the New Left and “the Movement,” which originated in Tom Hayden’s “Port Huron Statement” of 1962, before the nation had ever heard of Vietnam. And the New Left picked up speed at Berkeley in the Free Speech Movement of 1964 and early ’65, before the explosion of Vietnam. Bitterness toward America was an evil spirit shopping for a body when Vietnam started to throb during 1965.
The ’60s was leftism at war with itself all the way down: The Civil Rights movement was the New Left versus Democratic National Committeeman Bull Connor. Center-left JFK was assassinated by Communist true believer Oswald. Bobby Kennedy ran ads in 1968 repudiating his brother’s New Frontier optimism before he in turn was assassinated by a Palestinian nationalist. The riots in Detroit happened on the watch of Democrat mayor and Kennedy acolyte Jerome Cavanagh; the riots at the Chicago Democrat National Convention were, again, the New Left versus the last gasps of the New Dealers.
The GOP’s Richard Nixon understandably became synonymous with the words “Law and Order” that year, but again, upon election, in terms of domestic policy, governed as a continuation of FDR and LBJ’s alphabet soup bureaucratic-birthing New Deal and Great Society. Under his administration, the EPA, OSHA, the DEA, CPSC, and Amtrak were all spawned, and Nixon would attempt to curb inflation by — disastrously — attempting to institute wage and price controls, and was quoted as proclaiming “I am now a Keynesian in economics.” (Hence the recent, albeit grudging reappraisal of RMN by those who once hated his very existence, such as uber-Keynesian Paul Krugman, in-between calling for alien invasions and a rerun of World War II.)
Twenty years after the birth of the Great Society, as President Reagan liked to say, “In the sixties we waged a war on poverty, and poverty won.” And since then, we’ve recorded numerous doomsday global final countdowns having expired without the sky falling. But what happens when so many leftwing policies all come a cropper at the same time? That’s the topic — after a lengthy warm-up referencing the dreaded word “diverticulitis” (I feel your pain, brother), Jonah Goldberg explores in his latest G-File, titled, “When Liberalism Fails:”
I read some reviews of Jody Bottum’s new book (which I’ve now ordered). In, An Anxious Age: The Post Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of America, Bottum argues that today’s liberal elites are the same liberal elites that we’ve always had. They come from the ranks of mainline Protestants that have run this country for generations (with some fellow-travelling Jews and Catholics, to be sure). But there’s a hitch. They champion a
social gospel, without the gospel. For all of them, the sole proof of redemption is the holding of a proper sense of social ills. The only available confidence about their salvation, as something superadded to experience, is the self-esteem that comes with feeling they oppose the social evils of bigotry and power and the groupthink of the mob.
This strikes me as pretty close to exactly right. They’re still elitist moralizers but without the religious doctrine. In place of religious experience, they take their spiritual sustenance from self-satisfaction, often smug self-satisfaction.
One problem with most (but not all) political religions is that they tend to convince themselves that their one true faith is simply the Truth. Marxists believed in “scientific socialism” and all that jazz. Liberalism is still convinced that it is the sole legitimate worldview of the “reality-based community.”
There’s a second problem with political religions, though. When reality stops cooperating with the faith, someone must get the blame, and it can never be the faith itself. And this is where the hunt for heretics within and without begins.
Think about what connects so many of the controversies today: Mozilla’s defenestration of Brendan Eich, Brandeis’ disinviting of Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the IRS scandal, Hobby Lobby, Sisters of Mercy, the notion climate skeptics should be put in cages, the obsession with the Koch brothers, not to mention the metronomic succession of assclownery on college campuses. They’re all about either the hunting of heretics and dissidents or the desire to force adherence to the One True Faith.
It’s worth noting that the increase in these sorts of incidents is not necessarily a sign of liberalism’s strength. They’re arguably the result of a crisis of confidence.
Which brings us to the other story of the week that’s been making the rounds, particularly on the Drudge Report: the Federal government siccing 200 armed agents on Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy. As to where that stands now, Rick Moran has you covered at the PJ Tatler.
Apparently, this front in the left’s ongoing Cold Civil War deescalated before becoming hot, but if so, do you get the feeling it’s only because the Obama administration (or perhaps Harry Reid) is having flashbacks to Ruby Ridge and Waco as distinct mile markers on the road to the GOP controlling both houses of Congress in 1994, and they want to avoid firing up a Republican base even more, one that’s already pressed to crawl over broken glass in November?
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And speaking of leftism devouring itself, there’s also the slow-motion continuous train wreck of Obamacare, personified by legendary Internet maven Kathleen Sebelius’s metaphoric farewell speech yesterday: President Nixon had his symbolic 18 minute audio gap — Sebelius has the 180 word gap, as seen in the schadenfreude-overload video above.
In his perch at Time magazine, which offers a rare dollop of sanity within the otherwise monolithic establishment left palace guard Time-Warner-CNN-HBO empire, Nick Gillespie of Reason writes, “We Deserved Better Than Kathleen Sebelius:”
But whether you’re among the 36 percent of Americans who have a favorable view of Obamacare or among the 53 percent who do not, it’s important to underscore the lessons of her tenure. Her widely acknowledged incompetence in overseeing the implementation of a major new program is one of the reasons why record numbers of Americans think the government has too much power and have low and declining levels of trust in government to do the right thing. Whether you’re liberal, conservative, or libertarian, that’s not a good thing.
Last fall, when Healthcare.gov went live and crashed again and again, Sebelius’s response was not to take responsibility or explain why the job was botched so badly but to plead for slack from customers. “Hopefully [website users will] give us the same slack they give Apple…. If there’s not quite the operational excellence right away, we’ll continue to press for that,” she told the press. “Apple, you know, has a few more resources than we have to roll out technology, and a few more people who’ve been working on the system for a while, and no one is calling on Apple to not sell devices for a year or to, you know, get out of the business because the whole thing is a failure.”
Actually, as Iowahawk replies on Twitter, “Sebelius is exactly what we deserved.” She’s merely the latest manifestation of the magical thinking that led a nation in 2008 to vote for a handsome young tyro politician with brilliant stagecraft (as long as his own scripts were working) who dropped by the Senate for a cup of coffee, over a former Navy POW with four terms in the Senate and a state governor for his vice president in 2008. Who then repeated the same process over again in 2012, despite the wreckage their choice caused — is still causing — the economy.
But as Erick Erickson wrote at Red State on Thursday when news broke that Sebelius was being pushed out, her resignation, coming in April, is the White House tacitly admitting that Democrats will likely lose the Senate:
They have been standing with her since last October. They stood with her when the President’s polling was nosediving and throwing her under the bus could have stopped the bleeding.
They are doing so now. Sebelius actually resigned last week and the President already has a nominee ready to roll out tomorrow.
Their internal polling must be terrible and they want her gone and the issue treated as “old news” before the GOP takes the Senate in November.
Sebelius leaving now is a pretty direct admission against interest that the Democrats expect to lose the Senate and do not see any events on the horizon to change that momentum. Now, they’re just trying to slow the momentum down.
Expect Republican senators to throw plenty of rhetorical punches in Sylvia Burwell’s face during her confirmation process as Sebelius’s replacement. (Particularly since, as this NBC News article from October is headlined, “Meet Sylvia Burwell, the woman who ordered the government shutdown.” If you wondered 85-year old vets couldn’t visit DC’s World War II memorial in October, Burwell and Barry are to blame.)
But just imagine how much more bruising the hearings for anyone Obama nominated to replace Sebelius would have been next year, if the GOP does regain majority control of the Senate.
Oh, and what happens if the Obamacare Krell Machine goes on devouring America? The left are hoping for a sort of Cloward-Piven two-step into single payer. Perhaps they might want to first see how that fever swamp dream is playing out for the citizens of tiny socialist Vermont. No wonder heroin seems so tempting a painkiller to its residents.
As to the rest of America’s left devouring itself between now and November, responding to Jonathan Chait’s early “pre-postmortem” for his fellow leftists in the New Yorker this past week, at City Journal, Fred Siegel proffers “A Glimpse into the Political Future:”
Despite a welfare state roughly as generous as Europe’s, American society is increasingly divided between those from two-parent families, who do okay or better, generally speaking, and those forced to struggle against the odds because of the absence of fathers. Today’s liberalism has little to say about how to help people rise from the bottom into the middle class. Rather, its proposals—like raising the minimum wage—are designed to make the already-working poor more comfortable. That’s perhaps an admirable goal, but it’s also a path to a class-stratified society.
The other great liberal political success story has been the rise of public-sector unions, which fueled both Obama’s reelection and Bill de Blasio’s victory in New York City’s mayoral race. They are now a key component of the liberal coalition. The upshot of Obama’s policies is that he has, Chicago-style, fed the top-bottom alliance of crony capitalists and the social-service state—the government-worker providers and the recipients of aid. This has left the private-sector middle class out in the cold.
Chait’s rhetorical nuance leaves no room for anger at a president whose supervision of Obamacare combines the administrative failings of George W. Bush in Iraq with the underhanded tactics of Richard Nixon. (Like Obama, Nixon tried to use the IRS to attack his enemies.) Obama has also shown no qualms about misleading the public—from claiming that the terror attack in Benghazi was the product of an anti-Islamic videotape to promising that “if you like your health-care plan, you can keep it.”
If the Democrats do take a shellacking this November, they will no doubt attempt to pin blame on the supposed psychological failings of Republican voters. It’s a trope dear to liberals since the 1920s. For the good of the country, though, let us hope that, unlike Chait, they will come to grips with the all-too-material failures of the Obama years.
They can’t. The narrative is fixed: the Progressive road is always bright and shiny and well-lit and Nirvana is always just around the bend. Only the driver and his co-pilots can be blamed for crashing the bus on the way to getting there.
— David Freddoso (@freddoso) April 11, 2014
Update: “HATRED & DIVISION: The Democrat Platform, Illustrated,” at Doug Ross’s Director Blue Weblog.