Free Markets, Free People

Matt Taibbi

The elitists among us are found in progressive ranks

It’s simply that they  think they’re head and shoulder’s smarter than the average voter and – the “and” is critical – know what is best for them.  Now certainly there are likely those on the right that feel that way too, but I’m talking about a whole movement on the left.  Progressives are of the opinion, especially given their dedication to nanny-state measures, that we simply are unable to take care of ourselves.  That belief, driven by their activism translates into a further belief of inferior intellect among the masses.  Think about it – if you truly believe that most everyone else can’t make the proper decisions for themselves and it takes the wise progressive and a benevolent government to guide them through their life and ensure they’re looked after, are you going to actually try to argue that those people are as bright as you are?

Of course not.  In fact, you may consider them to be stupid.  And, if you’re really arrogant, you might let the mask slip and blurt it out every now and then as did University of Wisconsin political scientist Charles Franklin in an interview about the midterm election results (Byron York reports):

Franklin was responding to a question from Bill Lueders, news editor of Isthmus, a weekly alternative newspaper in Madison, Wisconsin.  In an account published Thursday (H/T Ann Althouse), Lueders says he asked Franklin why "the public seemed to vote against its own interests and stated desires, for instance by electing candidates who’ll drive up the deficit with fiscally reckless giveaways to the rich."

"Franklin, perhaps a bit too candidly, conceded the point," Lueders writes.  "’I’m not endorsing the American voter,’ he answered. ‘They’re pretty damn stupid.’"

Lueders writes that he responded, "Thank you, professor.  That’s the answer I was looking for."  The rest of Lueders’ account explains that smart voters support things like high-speed rail and higher taxes for the rich, while dumb voters support "an obvious phony like [Republican senator-elect] Ron Johnson over Russ Feingold."

It’s instructive to note that Franklin blurted out the truth as he conceived it and Lueders got an apparent affirmation of his belief on the matter.  And note how Franklin has also adopted the subtle but evident principle that the money of the rich doesn’t really belong to them.  Words like “giveaways” give the clue.

Shocking?  Hardly.  In fact pretty main-stream for progressives.  Think back about how the progressives among us tried to label the Tea Party.  In fact, that’s still going on as witnessed in this exchange between progressive Matt Taibbi of Rolling Stone and David Gergen and Peter Hart in the wake of the midterm election results:

Taibbi: To me, the main thing about the Tea Party is that they’re just crazy. If somebody is able to bridge the gap with those voters, it seems to me they will have to be a little bit crazy too. That’s part of the Tea Party’s litmus test: "How far will you go?"

Gergen: I flatly reject the idea that Tea Partiers are crazy. They had some eccentric candidates, there’s no question about that. But I think they represent a broad swath of the American electorate that elites dismiss to their peril.

Hart: I agree with David. When two out of five people who voted last night say they consider themselves supporters of the Tea Party, we make a huge mistake to suggest that they are some sort of small fringe group and do not represent anybody else.

Taibbi: I’m not saying that they’re small or a fringe group.

Gergen: You just think they’re all crazy.

Taibbi: I do.

Gergen: So you’re arguing, Matt, that 40 percent of those who voted last night are crazy?

Taibbi: I interview these people. They’re not basing their positions on the facts — they’re completely uninterested in the facts. They’re voting completely on what they see and hear on Fox News and afternoon talk radio, and that’s enough for them.

Gergen: The great unwashed are uneducated, so therefore their views are really beneath serious conversation?

Taibbi: I’m not saying they’re beneath serious conversation. I’m saying that these people vote without acting on the evidence.

Gergen: I find it stunning that the conversation has taken this turn. I disagree with the Tea Party on a number of issues, but it misreads who they are to dismiss them as some kind of uneducated know-nothings who have somehow seized power in the American electorate. It is elitist to its core. We would all be better off if we spent more time listening to each other rather than simply writing them off.

Booman at the BooMan Tribune says of the exchange:

What’s ironic is that Gergen is dismissing the Tea Partiers by taking them seriously. People like Matt Taibbi take them much more seriously, as they should, but they don’t ascribe any merit to their views. They take them seriously because they are .going to do grave damage to the nation.

I have no idea what he means by his first sentence, however it is irrelevant whether or not Matt Taibbi ascribes any “merit” their views, their views are the views, as David Gergen points out, of “40% of those who voted”. So you can throw all the pissy little elitist hissy fits you want, call Tea Partiers every name in the book, but that fact remains true and is obviously incredibly relevant to the electoral future.  And the progressive answer to that truth isn’t to attempt to engage and persuade, it’s to call them crazy and dismiss them.

That is arrogance.  That is elitism.  It’s also not very smart.  But, at the moment, that is the progressive movement in a nutshell.  Naturally they’re unable to see that, as demonstrated by Booman as he concludes his post (and joins the new progressive narrative I pointed too the other day):

The GOP may not want to help the economy while a Democrat is in the White House, but they don’t know how to help the economy regardless. We saw this during Bush’s two terms in office. And when Bush finally faced reality and took the obvious steps to save the economy, the Republicans went Full Metal Teabagger in response.

David Gergen thinks it is elitist to dismiss the threat presented by this rise in Know-Nothing foolish ideology. What he forgets is that our government will no longer work starting in January. If elites like Gergen are good for anything, they should be good at protecting our institutions. They didn’t. And now we have a really big problem.

Those two paragraphs are a case study in progressive elitism and filled with enough logical fallacies for a semester’s worth of work in a logic class, not to mention classic projection.  But you have to hope this incredible cluelessness continues if you’re at all interested in returning fiscal sanity to this country.  As long as the Taibbis, Boomans, Franklins and Lueders of the progressive world believe that everyone who votes for the other side is “crazy” and/or “stupid”, they’ll make no attempt to engage and persuade.   And that leaves a pretty open field for their opposition.

You’d think, as smart as they claim to be, they’d have picked up on how, well, stupid that approach is in electoral politics.  They used that approach frequently and vocally prior to the midterms and 60 seats plus went to the opposition.  A smart person would analyze that outcome and modify their approach.  But not progressives.  Those smart guys are doubling down instead.

But remember you’re the dumb one.



Medicare Queens, Matt Taibbi and the cluelessness of the left

First recognize that we’re talking about "Rolling Stone" here, so in reality, the cluelessness should come as no real surprise. Well, apparently it shouldn’t come as any real surprise when associated with "political strategists" and "political commentators" on the left either, but I’ve already covered that today.

"Rolling Stone", however, is more of a cultural zine. Or was. But recently it put a scalp under its belt with the story it did on Gen. Stanley McChrystal. Never mind the general was an Obama pick, voted for Obama and was of a liberal mindset, a general is a general to the left. One down many to go.

But hey, in a world where the dead tree media is withering on the vine, it was a scalp that promised survival for a while. Ever ambitious, "Rolling Stone" has since decided to go after bigger game – the Tea Party. The new bête noire of the left, the Tea Party was an irresistible target.

And so off to Kentucky galloped "Rolling Stone’s" pick to handle this important assassination journalism project – Matt Taibbi. Three whole times Taibbi made the trip. And at its conclusion, based on what he’d observed there, felt qualified to tar the entire movement as a bunch of hypocrites and welfare recipients. And as you might imagine, it isn’t a flattering picture.

Taibbi then "validates" his entire premise in this excerpt that David Freddoso has helpfully clipped:

A hall full of elderly white people in Medicare-paid scooters, railing against government spending and imagining themselves revolutionaries as they cheer on the vice-presidential puppet hand-picked by the GOP establishment. If there exists a better snapshot of everything the Tea Party represents, I can’t imagine it.

After Palin wraps up, I race to the parking lot in search of departing Medicare-motor-scooter conservatives. I come upon an elderly couple, Janice and David Wheelock, who are fairly itching to share their views.

“I’m anti-spending and anti-government,” crows David, as scooter-bound Janice looks on. “The welfare state is out of control.”

“OK,” I say. “And what do you do for a living?”

“Me?” he says proudly. “Oh, I’m a property appraiser. Have been my whole life.”

I frown. “Are either of you on Medicare?”

Silence: Then Janice, a nice enough woman, it seems, slowly raises her hand, offering a faint smile, as if to say, You got me!

“Let me get this straight,” I say to David. “You’ve been picking up a check from the government for decades, as a tax assessor, and your wife is on Medicare. How can you complain about the welfare state?”

…Vast forests have already been sacrificed to the public debate about the Tea Party: what it is, what it means, where it’s going. But after lengthy study of the phenomenon, I’ve concluded that the whole miserable narrative boils down to one stark fact: They’re full of sh–. All of them.

Frankly, I can’t imagine a more clueless argument. And it sends Freddoso into rant mode:

Of all the arguments liberals bring up against the Tea Party, this has to be the stupidest. Not only have millions of seniors and their employers paid billions of dollars into the Medicare system — 2.9 percent on every dime they’ve worked for in their entire life — but the program’s very existence has dried up whatever market there once was for old-age medical insurance. Our Medicare system, as President Obama never fails to point out, is unsustainable, and yet thanks to the government, very few senior citizens have any alternative.

Exactly so – you don’t pay into "welfare", nor are you in the Medicare system because you want to be. You’re there because at age 65, for the vast majority of Americans, you are given no choice! That’s a part that the left always forgets. If given a choice, would they be as "happy" with Medicare as the left likes to claim they are? Is their reticence to change in Medicare because they like it or because there is nothing else available to them? Those questions go unanswered because government has ensured there’s no viable option to its program.

Secondly, I don’t find most of what I read and hear from the Tea Party as "anti-government" as it appears Taibbi defines it (i.e. "no government"). I understand the Tea Party to represent those who want the return to Constitutional government in the strictest sense. That necessarily means a smaller, less intrusive and less costly government. But I’ve never understood it to mean "no government". Freddoso also rifts on the supposed hypocrisy Taibbi implies:

Taibbi also implies that conservatives have no place working for the government. (Hypocrisy! You believe government shouldn’t exist!) That’s basically all you need to know about the tone of his way, way longer than it’s worth reading piece, which is at various points just a stream of profanity. (He also predicts the inevitable co-opting of Rand Paul by the establishment GOP — he’ll sell out, just like his dad, right?)

If you’re still wondering if you ought to read Taibbi’s piece, Freddoso drops this last nugget to consider at your feet: [I]t isn’t young [libertarian] intellectuals like Koch who will usher Paul into the U.S. Senate in the general election; it’s those huge crowds of pissed-off old people who dig Sarah Palin and Fox News and call themselves Tea Partiers. And those people really don’t pay attention to specifics too much. Like dogs, they listen to tone of voice and emotional attitude.

Why is it every time I see a lefty say something like this my first thought is the almost Pavlovian reaction most of the left had to the "hope and change" mantra? As Palin would say, "how’s that hopey-changy thing working out", hmmm Mr. Taibbi?

Freddoso answers with a wicked jab at Taibbi’s cluelessness:

Oh, I see. So who does Taibbi think votes for Democrats? Do they win on the back of the college professor vote? Or is it on the back of ominous, threatening and false rumors that Republicans will take away Social Security, let old people die in the streets, then bury them in segregated cemeteries so that their bodies can be covered in toxic sludge until the oil companies decide they want to drill there?

Love it. Every lefty canard wrapped up in a single sentence. Read Taibbi’s piece if you must (unlinked here), but trust me, you’ve seen its thrust above and, unsurprisingly, it misses pretty badly. Freddoso concludes:

Perhaps next time Taibbi writes he can apply a few more facts and less uninformed, vulgar liberal smugness.

Yeah, I doubt it – that would require actual journalism.