Free Markets, Free People


The left’s zombie “meme” – “we the ungovernable, the unreasonable, the irrational”

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”.

Ben Smith at POLITICO identifies a couple of examples of where the left is again trying to establish that meme.  First George Packer in The New Yorker:

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?

~McQ

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28 Responses to The left’s zombie “meme” – “we the ungovernable, the unreasonable, the irrational”

  • The Democrats are scared. They’ve awoken from a walking sleep and they don’t know what to do.
    The one thing you can’t say is that these guys have “esteem issues”.  They know they are always right.  Being right all the time is a real burden, especially when you’re not right.

    • Well stated. Their quasi-religion of leftism leaves no room for them to be wrong, either by having their philosophy fail to match reality, or by them personally failing.

      In both case, such failure breaks axioms of their worldview. It’s an axiom that leftism is the best political philosophy, and works for the most people. It’s also an axiom that they deserve to tell the rest of us what to do, which means they have to be competent. Any personal failure undermines their competence and violates that axiom.

    • Actually I think they have deep seated insecurity. The big talkers and braggarts usually are insecure.

    • Oh, and talking about being right, anyone hear the news that Cuba was going to privitize (fire) 500k workers.

      • That’s 500k next year, with 1000k total.

      • This seems to be a growing trend.  Just read last week (I don’t have a link) that Orange County CA will reduce it’s workforce by attrition from the current 330 employees to 35 with all necessary functions (except administration and police) outsourced.  For the county, it’s all about pensions.
        The traditional pension is dead, except for government employees.  Back in 2000, Bush talked about “portable pensions’ but nothing happened.  With most people (except public employees) now hopping jobs every 3 to 5 years, this seems obvious.  I personally expect to see most pension funds divide their annuities among the pensioners, and go out of business.

  • I hope Sullivan doesn’t let his opponents’ irrationality distract him from his quest for Trig’s afterbirth.

  • And to think that less than two years ago the electorate was quite rational, reasonable, and eminently governable…

  • The nation’s been ungovernable since the Nixon administration. And that’s only as far back as I personally remember. I’d be willing to bet that the idea of the nation being ungovernable probably first surfaced during the last years  of the Johnson administration. People were rioting in the streets pretty frequently.
    There was even talk during the 1980 Republican convention of appointing Jerry Ford to the VP slot so he could focus on domestic policy, because the Presidency was just too big a job for one man. Well, that was the cover story. The real reason was because there were lots of machers in the Republican establishment who were scared of Reagan and thought the idea having Ford as VP would be a moderating influence. They were actually pretty close to a deal but Ford overplayed his hand and Reagan cut him off at the knees and selected GHW Bush. I always thought it was a foolish idea.
    This idea is based on the false assumption that the President is some kind of uber powerful button pusher. This is a childish view of the Presidency. Almost, a view that the President is a democratically elected king. There’s an Eisenhower quote somewhere about how astonished he was that he had more power and influence as Supreme Allied Commander, than he did as President. Presidential success is dependent on vision, leadership and circumstances. If the current occupant of the office is not up to the job, he’s to blame. Not “the system”.

    • The idea that the pres is uber powerful leads one to think that Bill Clinton was the dude who ballanced the budget, and that LBJ created the 64 Civil Rights Act, etc. The pres gets full credit or blame for what happens on his watch even if he had little to do with it.

      • Actually, the rules are more precise than that.
        Good things happen> is the President a Democrat? Yes. The President made it happen.
        Good things happen> is the President a Democrat? No. Then some magical outside forces made it happen.
        Bad things happen> is the President a Democrat? Yes. Then the Republicans are at fault.
        Bad things happen> is the President a Democrat? No. It’s the President’s fault.
        As an aside, I think LBJ should get the lion’s share of credit for the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Kennedy would never have had the political smarts and arm twisting skill to make it happen. And Everett Dirksen deserves a fair share of the credit as well.

        • You are likely right about the Civil Rights Act. The Republicans were pushing one since the 30s or 40s, but JFK’s agenda was stalled going into the election cycle, which basically means it wasn’t gonna happen.

  •  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.

    >>> BINGO

  • Projection is a standard left-wing tactic. They’ve just advanced past Erb’s normal projection of his actions on to opponents and the lie of being reasonable and pragmatic to actually realizing what their opponents use (evidence, knowledge, reason) and projecting it onto themselves.

    There’s no such thing as an honest, informed liberal; but it may be a good sign that they acknowledge that reason and evidence should actually be used, as opposed to the normal pleas of for ‘fairness’ and emotion as the keys to decision making. If they get more people to actually start paying attention to evidence and logic, liberalism will be put to rest for a generation. (So I don’t expect a consistent call for reason from the left.)

    • liberal ??  There aren’t many liberals any more .. now there are Progressives.  They are about the same only close minded.

      • They even stole the term liberal, which really does not apply.

        It doesn’t matter what you call a leftist, “liberal” or “progressive” or whatever, any more than it matters what you call a toilet (“washroom”, “men’s room”, “head”, whatever, it still smells the same).

  • I don’t like the way you say, “ungovernable”, buddy.  It’s like you think it’s an insult.

  • This isn’t just an excuse for poor performance.

    Its subtle groundwork for granting increasing dictatorial powers and eroding rights and popular rule. 

    • I don’t say that you’re wrong, but if that’s what the lefties have in mind, then I think that they are in for a very unpleasant surprise.

      • Are you saying they’ll find out just how ungovernable we can REALLY be?  heh.

        Part of me wishes them success in their attempt so we can finish the job fast, otherwise we’ll have to go through the whole tedious democratic republic thing to fix it and that will take so dreadfully long you know (something the Democrats don’t want to be bothered with either…ask Woody Allen and numerous others of his ilk – I expect Dear Golfer would be in favor of it too, he’d ‘deplore the necessity’ you know, but, after all, we’re ungovernable…).

  • Well, I guess fair is fair: the left think that the country is “unreasonable” or “ungovernable” because it is rejecting their policies and their messiah.  I, on the other hand, thought that the country was bloody insane for putting these clowns into office in the first place.  Eh… It’s easy and natural to ascribe stupidity / insanity to people who don’t agree with you.

    [V]oters basically can’t be trusted, and that democracy is just barely muddling through.

    I often feel this way.  Then I think of the alternatives!  The nice thing about democracy is that, when you muddle in the wrong direction, it’s usually pretty easy to muddle back.

    PhelpsI don’t like the way you say, “ungovernable”, buddy.  It’s like you think it’s an insult.

    Good point.  Our country was founded by men who were considered “ungovernable”.  Indeed, I would say that it is the birthright of every American to be “ungovernable”.  We are not a people intended to be governed; rather, we elect / appoint people to do the scut work of running the country so we can get on about our own lives.  They “govern” with our consent.  There ain’t a damned thing that says that we must give it.

  • There’s a quote I think a lot of: “I teach them correct principles, and let them govern themselves”.
    Sounds right to me.

  • The “ungovernable” versus the irrational and the delusional.
    Make mine the former.

  • Andrew Sullivan isn’t much of a case study here – he gets hyperbolic about his breakfast cereal.

  • A bunch of silly gratuitous assertions. Well I am making the following gratuitous assertions:  All liberals are stupid, all liberals are motivated by the desire to control and dominate others, all liberals are silly and over emotional, and all liberals fly into a psychotic rage whenever you do not agree 100% with them.

    Gee, I even seem to have more evidence for my assertions than they do.