Ed Driscoll

Where's the Progressive End Zone?

“Some years ago, after his governorship of NY, [the late Mario] Cuomo had a short-lived national radio talk show,” Maggie’s Farm reminiscences:

I phoned in once, on a whim. He was gracious, warm, and pleasant, and I was pleasant to him. I asked him what was on liberalism’s agenda. He said government needs to provide and run medical care in the US. I said “OK, what after that?” He hesitated. I said “How about government car insurance?” He said “That’s definitely something to look into.”

Then I got to my point: I asked him “At what point is the progressive agenda complete – where does it end?”  He hesitated again, then said (approx) “Government needs to assure that all Americans get what they need.” I cheerfully responded “That’s what I thought.” It went on for a brief while.

So Cuomo was basically LBJ minus the ten-gallon hat?

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 question that Cuomo was asked on his mercifully brief radio show: 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.

In the time, as America continues with the aftermath of reaching what was (hopefully!) Peak Left in 2009, “unexpected” repercussions keep occurring, even to the elite leftists who forced these disasters onto the rest of us:

“Seriously: to quote Oscar Wilde’s famous witticism, you would need to have a heart of stone not to laugh at the way Harvard professors are reacting to the news that they now have deductables and out-of-pocket limits and co-pays and all the rest of it.” Plus this is fun:

A smart “Progressive” so baffled by the other side of the aisle. So very, very baffled. To borrow from one of the left’s most oft-repeated phrases they employ to avoid even a hint of doubleplusungood crimethink, “I can’t understand” why that keeps happening so…“unexpectedly.”

Update: James Taranto on Cuomo’s passing and his boosters among the far left “Village People.”