Free Markets, Free People
And it is all because of the “radical right”. We’ve seen the left try to establish this meme before. We heard a few, early on as Obama’s presidency began to slide toward negative numbers, claim that it was because America had become “ungovernable”.
Nine years later, the main fact of our lives is the overwhelming force of unreason. Evidence, knowledge, argument, proportionality, nuance, complexity, and the other indispensable tools of the liberal mind don’t stand a chance these days against the actual image of a mob burning an effigy, or the imagined image of a man burning a mound of books. Reason tries in its patient, level-headed way to explain, to question, to weigh competing claims, but it can hardly make itself heard and soon gives up. ….
This is why Obama seems less and less able to speak to and for our times. He’s the voice of reason incarnate, and maybe he’s too sane to be heard in either Jalalabad or Georgia. An epigraph for our times appears in Jonathan Franzen’s new novel “Freedom”: “The personality susceptible to the dream of limitless freedom is a personality also prone, should the dream ever sour, to misanthropy and rage.”
Then Andrew Sullivan.
…yet now, especially, that unreason seems to have taken an almost pathological turn. It is as if America is intent on destroying itself, its civil society, its fiscal future, and its next generation in an endless fit of mutual recrimination, neurotic nationalism, and religious division.
As Smith points out:
A couple of influential writers broadly in sympathy with Obama today float the same notion: That we’re living in a fundamentally unreasonable age, that voters basically can’t be trusted, and that democracy is just barely muddling through.
Anyone who spends much time covering American politics feels this sometimes. At the same time, it’s a lot easier to think this when your side is losing politically.
I think the last line is probably the most important point. When your ox is being gored, it is rarely the fault of your ideas or agenda, it is because the other side is “ungovernable” or “unreasonable”.
Let’s take Sullivan first. “Yet now” he says, “unreason has taken an almost pathological turn”. This from the guy who spent months a couple of years ago trying to prove Sarah Palin’s newborn child was her daughter’s.
While there’s some truth in his charge of “mutual recrimination”, there’s nothing neurotic about most of the nationalism if one takes the time to dig down to its source and the religious division Sullivan imagines is one that is mostly whipped up by the news media doing things like paying any attention whatsoever to a pastor in Florida with 50 church members, much less the overwhelming coverage he got.
Yet apparently the “Truthers” escape analysis as neurotic and all of the talk about blue secession and how Bush would declare martial law to hold on to power, or that he “stole the election” was just political happy talk signifying not much of anything. Only “now” has “unreason” taken a “pathological turn”.
Yes, Sullivan’s attempt is easy to dismiss.
As for Packer, he too attempts the same sort of useful forgetfulness that Sullivan tried. “Nine years later” – obviously referencing 9/11 – our lives are now impacted with the “overwhelming force” of “unreason”.
Only now? If one thinks about Packer’s assertion as written, it would have to mean one of three things: he has no knowledge of the left’s “unreason” or irrationality during the Bush years, he doesn’t find what the left did to be an example of “unreason” or irrationality, or he agrees with the left’s fringe of those years and doesn’t find anything they said or did unremarkable and certainly not unreasonable.
I find it hard to believe it is reason one, so it has to be either two or three. And that speaks to Ben Smith’s point and why Packer too can be dismissed as another partisan who doesn’t like the fact that his ox is not only being gored but trampled by the herd.
As for Packer’s assertion that Obama is the “voice of reason incarnate”, none other than Digby at Hullabaloo takes that canard apart:
Yes, let’s all pretend that Obama is the Voice Of Reason Incarnate and that the problem is that those who believe in freedom are prone to puerile tantrums when they don’t get their way while ignoring the fact that the VORI promised shallow, pie-in-the-sky, post-partisan utopia, with ponies and unicorns for everyone, and his followers are now disillusioned and apathetic because it was utter bullshit. Different side of the same coin, I’m afraid.
Couldn’t have said it better if I tried.
As one commenter on the POLITICO site said, this is just your typical "pity party” this time being thrown by the left. The reason for it is they really honestly don’t want to face the real reasons things have gone to hell in a hand-basket so quickly for them. So it’s the other guy’s fault. I mean it can’t be your problem if the other guy is “unreasonable” can it?
Nate Silver is someone I’ve come to enjoy reading when it comes to election analysis. He knows his business. But he too seems to have missed the significance of the New Hampshire and Delaware senatorial primaries, casting them only as elections – if they go to the “insurgent” Tea Party backed candidates – that could cost the GOP a majority in the Senate if the insurgents win.
Of course, that’s not the point, at least as I see them. While Christine O’Donnell may not be the ideal candidate for the US Senate, she’s at least fiscally conservative. Mike Castle, the GOP choice on the other hand, is described by Silver like this:
… Michael N. Castle, who has held elected office in Delaware for 30 years as its governor, lieutenant governor and lone United States representative. … Mr. Castle — a moderate who is unambiguously a member of the establishment …
Are any lights flashing and horns sounding in your head right now? Silver describes Castle in terms that make him part of the problem, not part of the solution. He’s a perfect plug-in to the Congress the country as a whole seems so unsatisfied with and is on the verge of changing.
Oh sure, he might nominally give the GOP another seat in the Senate – but to what end? Voting with the Snowe/Collins Republicans and the Democrats on bills that expand government and spend more?
When is a seat not really a seat, or a majority not really a majority? When you elect “moderates” of either party who are not averse to expanding the role of government. That’s part of the reason you see more and more polarization within the country. Right now the left is having fun characterizing the right as “radical”. But one only need look at the size of the liberal caucus in the House to know where the heart of leftist radicalism lies.
I continue to harken back to polls which show the vast majority of Americans think the country is on the wrong track – in numbers which haven’t changed much in the last 8 years or so. In other words, the people as a whole are dissatisfied with both parties and their representation. And again, I’ll point back to the Ned Lamont/Joe Lieberman race where the left tried precisely what is happening on the right in states such as AK, NH and DE at the moment.
These movements to effect change are indicators. What is described as “radicalism” from “political activists” are the surface bubbles of a molten core of unrest among the majority of Americans. They’re thrashing around for ways and means of changing something that seems never to change. The Tea Party movement is one of those bubbles. The Daily Kos left was another. But nothing much has changed, has it? And the “wrong track” numbers continue to remain at a constant level. And the frustration builds.
This isn’t about majorities in the Senate. It isn’t about the horserace in November. It’s about fundamental change – and not many seem to understand that. The people in Alaska have said “enough” with the Joe Miller primary win. The fact that the GOP primary races in both DE and NH are as close as they are should be sending unmistakable messages to the GOP leadership – one’s even they can’t miss – that establishment moderates aren’t who the people want in the Senate. Naturally, it seems the Republicans are as tone deaf as everyone else.
If the GOP only wins 7 seats instead of 9 in the Senate, that’s fine, as long as the 7 are of the type that are committed to paring government down – reducing its sized influence and cost. Those 7 are enough to keep the Snow/Collins branch of the GOP from pushing the numbers over to the Democratic side. As it stands, in fact, not having a Senate majority is probably better for the GOP than achieving one right now – they’d just blow it and, as Mitch McConnell once said, being minority leader in the Senate is one of the most powerful positions in Congress. And besides, we’d have to listen to Obama whine for 2 years about the “Republican Congress”.
Nope, the hand writing is on the wall if the GOP (and for that matter, the Democrats) would just pause long enough in the partisan bickering and bomb throwing to read it. This isn’t about either of their parties, or them. It’s about changing the direction of the country. The party that first manages to absorb that message and then elect candidates that actually work toward that end is the party that is going to be in power for quite some time. In principle, that should be the GOP. But as usual, in their normal clueless way, they continue on the same road that put them in the minority two years ago believing instead that all this excitement about the midterms is actually because people are embracing their candidates over the Dems. How they have missed the fact that the Tea Party insurgency indicates they couldn’t be more wrong still amazes me.
So continue on your merry blinkered way, GOP, and fight the movement and candidates who’re all but lighting the way with the platform you should be embracing. Continue to put up your moderate establishment candidates and then wonder why, in two years time, you’re back on the other side of the wave as Democrats are again swept into office while you are pushed out.
It is the usual short term view that drives politics today and drives me crazy. The belief that winning a majority is all that’s important because then the party can act on its agenda. No – it can’t. Not if those it has elected aren’t in tune with the principles of the platform. Not if those elected are “moderates” who have no problem with big government, subsidies, entitlements and high taxes.
If returning to the fundamentals of Constitutional government is “radical” then the GOP needs to become the radical party. Until they absorb that, embraces that “radicalism” and runs candidates who believe in that fundamental principle, the wrong track numbers will continue to remain constant and the GOP will continue to be the clueless lesser of two evils, but not by much.