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Liberal Angst - November 2010


Imagine the agony of liberal Democrats, the inexplicable fall from the heights of glory, only two years before, when all the world was flush with the excitement of progressivism's long march to unchallenged dominance.  With the ascension of Barack Obama, in 2008, America's first black President (have you heard?), and two super majorities in the House and Senate, all the world, it seemed was aglow with the arrival of triumphant liberalism , the growth of the administrative state, an ever increasing repertoire of governmental functions, the pure and delectable imminence of undeterred state supremacy.  What joy took hold in the liberal universe, in the media, the academy, in Hollywood, the Democrat party, and among croissant-lovers everywhere.

Now, just vengeance would fall on the pariahs of society, the peddlers of heartless capitalism, those responsible for the collapse of the economy, of income disparities, of all matter of inequity and wickedness; the "fat cats," the "rich," "Wall Street," bankers and corporations, and that most hated of country club preserves, the Republican Party.  For the desperate and the destitute, working families and the middle class, their star was now rising along with the good fortunes of their friends in the Democrat party.

Internationally, the world would applaud the rebirth of enlightened collectivism and the "transnational" approach of the Obama administration.  Now, through the offices of the UN and other esteemed international bodies we would work respectfully with the international community; we would reach out to the Muslim world and others; we would "engage" our most hardened enemies, mollify our severest critics and opponents, and comity and understanding would descend upon the wounded planet, after eight years of the cowboy, who had soiled our good name and reputation. 

Now we would "discuss" differences with adversaries, use "soft power" to persuade hostiles.  We would befriend Iran and Venezuela, China and Russia, Syria and North Korea, plead before the Muslim world, scrape before dictators and monarchs, and apologize for wrong doings and transgressions; by all this, we would restore our "image" and inaugurate a new era of global peace and prosperity. 

Governed by liberals armed with the purest of intentions and large helpings of Western guilt, we would convince everyone, even our most inexorable foes, of our goodness and decency.

Why even the climate would comply: the temperature and sea levels would fall (praise be to Obama), the planets would allign themselves, and carbon footprints would shrink everywhere; such was the power and benevolence of the aquarian age of Obama, Pelosi, and Reid.

Yes, 2008 was a high water mark for liberalism, the inevitable consequence of the last 75 years, the long march of liberalism through our institutions, through the veins and vital organs of the nation, from the New Deal, the Fair Deal, the Square Deal, Great Society, and now Obamaism.

And then, puff, as if a bubble, it vanished.  So sudden.  So abrubt.  So tragic.  What killed it? 

Why, liberalism itself.  The implausibility of its schemes; the failure of its own policies; the grandiosity of its dream.  What, after all, is the end point of liberalism? 

There is none.  Utopia is an everchanging vision.  No matter the assets and resources directed at the nation's failings and deficiencies, at poverty, at racial and income disparities, at individuals and communities falling between the cracks, at the aged and infirm, the homeless and the unemployed, it will never be enough.  There will always be some crisis, some inequity, some unresolved pocket of misery to repair.

What's a poor liberal to do?  Why, start another program.  But, alas, are there really the resources available to do all the utopianists want?  Current deficits, debt, and unfunded liability levels for the various entitlements and retirement plans suggest not.  There is also the question of whether progressive approaches do not, in fact, make matters worse.  Liberalism does, after all, run counter to human nature: rewarding failure and punishing success will inevitably produce greater failure and less success, an unsustainable paradigm.

But liberals when unchecked, as they have been the past two years, saw their natural radical tendencies take flight.  Despite overwhelming popular resisitance, which elitest liberals dismissed as either ignorant or racist, they crammed through the most ambitious legislative agenda since Great Society, if not the New Deal. 

The parade of horribles is by now the stuff of legend: stimulus, cap and trade, Obamacare and any number of new programs and spending gushers that did nothing to improve the economy but rather added $3 trillion of new debt.  Unemployment remains high.  The economy sputters along.  Utopia, indeed, has proven elusive.

For their trouble, despite the successful passage of so much of their agenda, the nation rewarded them not with greater affirmation but rather a severe spanking: the loss of 60 plus House seats and another six in the Senate, not to mention a bushel of state houses and governorships.  All told, some 750 Democrat seats were lost in the last election, an historic rout.

Liberals proved remarkably deft at concocting any number of strained explanations for their defeat.  But in the end, Americans decided overwhelmingly to remove them from power, at all levels, before they could do any more damage.

For the liberal, America must be a profoundly disturbing place, one that remains remarkably resistant to their progressive vision.  But of course liberals do not understand their country.  Do not understand that which is unique about the American project, and if they do, more often than not, reject it. 

They wish we could be more like Europe.

But America is not Europe.  America was born in freedom.  It fought a long war against tyranny when it first emerged on the stage of history.  It eyed with suspicion any movement toward centralized power.  It created a Constitution that deliberately sought to enhance freedom and confine government through enumerated powers, competing branches of government, states rights, and a bill of God-endowed rights. 

This was unprecedented: nations, empires, and civilizations have always based themselves not on freedom but tyranny.  American exceptionalism arises from this system, its emphasis on constraining the state, and leaving a wide swath for the individual and the private sector to flourish. 

This is the reason for America's unparalleled success, which liberalism threatens, and, even, actively seeks to undermine.  For leftists like Obama, indeed, America is too powerful and needs to be trimmed down to create greater global fairness and equity. 

But it is not just America that recoils against the liberal project.  Other bastions of socialism, no less, have pushed back against the Obama agenda.  Shouldn't Obama and co-religionists have taken a hint when the Red Chinese began lecturing them about deficits?  Or when the Euro-socialists pushed back against Obama-stimulus proposals or more recently against QE2, the Fed's attempt to monetize our fiscal profligacy and devalue our currency?  It is a remarkable state of affairs when the US, formerly the epicenter of world capitalism and the free market, runs to the left of communists in China and socialists in Europe.

But do not spend too much time pitying liberals or expecting them to have a change of heart.  Not this crowd.  Obama is a leftist ideologue.  He and his merry crew will pursue the same goals as before, using other methods.

First: the Dream act.  If current trends in the electorate are unfavorable, then change the demographics.  The lesson in California was learned.  While republicans painted the map red, it stopped at California.  The reason: the Hispanic vote (and public sector unions).  Democrats will try to find a pathway for citizenship for illegal immigrants: bringing undocumented Democrats out of the shadows.

Obama will govern by executive order.  Why bother with normal democratic channels especially with an unfriendly Republican House: the administrative state, the czars, the various independent agencies, the massive federal bureacracy, more or less peopled with liberals, will govern the nation, beneath the radar screen and away from legitimate legislative oversight.

The liberal leviathan cannot be brought down by a single election.  Liberals do not fade away quietly. 

For true conservative ascendancy, and a rolling back of the massive administrative state, there must be ongoing, consecutive electoral victories until a critical conservative mass has been achieved.  The battle has only just been joined. 


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