Winning an election doesn’t just offer the chance to govern the country. It offers a chance to feel morally and intellectually superior to the party you’ve just beaten.
Sorry, Ross. Thanks to the cluster of f*uck that was the George W. Bush Administration, the right no longer gets to get up on its high horse when it comes to any behavior whatsoever. No matter how hideously liberals might behave (in reality or in Douthat's imagination), the right did it first and did worse. Remember "We have a mandate," Ross? "Elections have consequences"? We sure do, and we are not about to listen to moral scoldings from the morally and intellectually corrupt.
This is an inescapable aspect of democratic culture: no matter what reason tells us about the vagaries of politics, something in the American subconscious assumes that the voice of the people really is the voice of God, and that being part of a winning coalition must be a sign that you’re His chosen one as well.
Perhaps it's the way every US politicians encases each speech in a thick, sickly-sweet, viscous coating of
Jello God blesses. God bless the American people, God bless the US, God bless our endeavors, blah blah blah. Evidently God hates foreigners because according to the US he routinely blesses our wars as well. It's very odd that nobody thanks God when he blessed us with Hurricanes Sandy, Katrina, Ike and Rita, but maybe the drone-blessed Pakistanis are doing that for us while we are cleaning up our mess and burying our dead.
This means the losing coalition must be doomed to wander east of Eden, and liberals have been having a good time with this idea of late. “Those poor, benighted Republicans!” runs the subtext of their postelection commentary. “They can’t read polls! They can’t reach Hispanics! They don’t understand women! They don’t have a team of Silicon Valley sorcerers running their turnout operations!”
Actually, they can't, they can't, they can't, and they don't. Pointing out the sad truth is not triumph, it's pointing out the truth. Which is something that many conservatives are doing as well, in the hope that they will come back to power in their lifetimes. Liberals spent months pointing out that the Republicans were fooling themselves but the fools never listened. It's not our fault they're fools, and if some people happen to point and laugh, well, they asked for it didn't they?
Back in 2011, the Obama White House earned some mild mockery for its “win the future” slogan. But now that the president has been re-elected, the liberal conventional wisdom is that the Democrats have done just that — that Republicans are now Radio Shack to their Apple store, “The Waltons” to their “Modern Family,” a mediocre Norman Rockwell to their digital-age mosaic.
Maybe it’s too soon to pierce this cloud of postelection smugness. But in the spirit of friendly correction — or, O.K., maybe curmudgeonly annoyance — let me point out some slightly more unpleasant truths about the future that liberalism seems to be winning.
You'll be sorry, oh yes you will, liberals. You think you're so cool and hip and modern when you're really just giant poopy-heads and you'll be very, very sorry when your giant poopy-headedness ruins everything for everybody! Poop!
Liberals look at the Obama majority and see a coalition bound together by enlightened values — reason rather than superstition, tolerance rather than bigotry, equality rather than hierarchy. But it’s just as easy to see a coalition created by social disintegration and unified by economic fear.
Consider the Hispanic vote. Are Democrats winning Hispanics because they put forward a more welcoming face than Republicans do — one more in keeping with America’s tradition of assimilating migrants yearning to breathe free? Yes, up to a point. But they’re also winning recent immigrants because those immigrants often aren’t assimilating successfully — or worse, are assimilating downward, thanks to rising out-of-wedlock birthrates and high dropout rates. The Democratic edge among Hispanics depends heavily on these darker trends: the weaker that families and communities are, the more necessary government support inevitably seems.
You think you're all so smart and nice and friendly but you'll be sorry when all those people you want to help need help! Because Hispanic girls are sluts and have lots of babies and Hispanic boys are stoopid and drop out of school and how can a poor, uneducated Hispanic person get a job? They might end up doing physical labor such as building houses and office buildings or landscaping, or become maids and nannies. And that would be a terrible shock if they degenerated to that point, wouldn't it?
Likewise with the growing number of unmarried Americans, especially unmarried women. Yes, social issues like abortion help explain why these voters lean Democratic. But the more important explanation is that single life is generally more insecure and chaotic than married life, and single life with children — which is now commonplace for women under 30 — is almost impossible to navigate without the support the welfare state provides.
And speaking of sluts, what about single women, who sometimes have babies and therefore chaos and insecurity? Do you want to support them too? Because single mothers never marry and never support themselves and are utterly incapable of taking care of their children, forcing good, goodly married men like Ross Douthat to support them instead! If Douthat wanted to support a bunch of children he would have sex, which he won't, so he doesn't have to!
Or consider the secular vote, which has been growing swiftly and tilts heavily toward Democrats. The liberal image of a non-churchgoing American is probably the “spiritual but not religious” seeker, or the bright young atheist reading Richard Dawkins. But the typical unchurched American is just as often an underemployed working-class man, whose secularism is less an intellectual choice than a symptom of his disconnection from community in general.
You know, I think I'm detecting a theme here: jobs. People need jobs to support themselves and their kids. Jobs lead to all sorts of things like order and self-sufficiency and morality. Perhaps we might think about that and maybe even do something to help Americans find those elusive, necessary things. Or we can shame and persecute them instead, the proudly conservative way.
What unites all of these stories is the growing failure of America’s local associations — civic, familial, religious — to foster stability, encourage solidarity and make mobility possible.
This is a crisis that the Republican Party often badly misunderstands, casting Democratic-leaning voters as lazy moochers or spoiled children seeking “gifts” (as a certain former Republican presidential nominee would have it) rather than recognizing the reality of their economic struggles.
But if conservatives don’t acknowledge the crisis’s economic component, liberalism often seems indifferent to its deeper social roots. The progressive bias toward the capital-F Future, the old left-wing suspicion of faith and domesticity, the fact that Democrats have benefited politically from these trends — all of this makes it easy for liberals to just celebrate the emerging America, to minimize the costs of disrupted families and hollowed-out communities, and to treat the places where Americans have traditionally found solidarity outside the state (like the churches threatened by the Obama White House’s contraceptive mandate) as irritants or threats.
Little Master Douthat is beginning to blubber, with big, soapy spit-bubbles floating out like in a cartoon. Democrats are never people of faith, never members of a community, never part of a family. The Democratic way is one of dependence, chaos and immorality, because Douthat says so. All virtue belong to Republicans, except maybe that whole helping your fellow man thing that Jesus kept going on about but that doesn't count because the Bible says God helps those who help themselves. Okay, the Bible doesn't actually say that, but Douthat says that in the book he wrote and just happens to have right here for the low, low price of $13.98, which makes it the next best thing.
This is a great flaw in the liberal vision, because whatever role government plays in prosperity, transfer payments are not a sufficient foundation for middle-class success. It’s not a coincidence that the economic era that many liberals pine for — the great, egalitarian post-World War II boom — was an era that social conservatives remember fondly as well: a time of leaping church attendance, rising marriage rates and birthrates, and widespread civic renewal and engagement.
And here is where Douthat depends on the chance that you didn't go to Harvard like him and therefore must never have heard of the New Deal. Nor Social Security and Medicare, which helped older people become self-sufficient and therefore less of a burden on their children, which can only improve family cohesiveness. Or the GI housing and education bills, which created a large middle class that lived in their own stable neighborhoods.
No such renewal seems to be on the horizon. That isn’t a judgment on the Obama White House, necessarily. But it is a judgment on a certain kind of blithe liberal optimism, and the confidence with which many Democrats assume their newly emerged majority is a sign of progress rather than decline.Boo-hoo, Douthat sobs. Liberals will be sorry they won in the future, when the safety net they fought for is available for the people who need it and power is shared with immigrants, women, and the poor. For when wealthy white males lose power it means civilization is declining, dog and cats are living together, and Ross Douthat might actually have to succeed on his own merits.