Atlas Shrugged: The Mocking

Monday, December 21, 2015

Lies My Pundits Told Me

IMORTANT CORRECTION: Downpuppy pointed out that Douthat's column was from 2010. I apologize for my mistake. I can't blame Douthat for not mentioning Trump, although I still blame him for the rest of his lies and whitewashing.

Let us begin with a lie. That is how all good conservative stories begin, for you cannot make up shit without making shit up.
A Return To Normalcy
By "Chunky" Ross Douthat
Over the past three years, American politics has been dominated by a liberal fantasy and a conservative freakout.
Once upon a time, Both Sides Did It.
The fantasy was the idea that Barack Obama, a one-term senator with an appealing biography and a silver tongue, would turn out to be Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Robert F. Kennedy and Mahatma Gandhi all rolled into one. This fantasy inspired a wave of 1960s-style enthusiasm, an unsettling personality cult (that “Yes We Can” video full of harmonizing celebrities only gets creepier in hindsight) and a lot of over-the-top promises from Obama himself. It persuaded Democrats that the laws of politics had been suspended, and that every legislative goal they’d ever dreamed about was now within reach. It was even powerful enough to win President Obama a Nobel Peace Prize, just for being his amazing self.
The reality was that a majority of the voters were excited to vote for the first African-American president. Douthat omits this obvious information because it destroys his Both Sides Do It framing and conservatives can't be honest if they want to win elections.

It is common for low-wattage thinkers to claim the left worships Obama; McArdle claimed that the left declared Obama was the new Roosevelt, one of many statements she just made up for political gain. I am not surprised to see Douthat immediately reach for lies, exaggeration and contempt because he is not a logical or far-reaching thinker and is more comfortable repeating familiar lies.

The freakout, which began in earnest during the long, hot health care summer of 2009, started from the same premise as the fantasy — that the Obama presidency really was capable of completely transforming American society and that we might be on the brink of a new New Deal or a greater Great Society. But to freaked-out conservatives, this seemed more like a nightmare than a dream. So they flipped the liberal script: Where Obama’s acolytes were utopian, conservatives turned apocalyptic, pitting liberty against tyranny, freedom against socialism, American exceptionalism against the fate of Nineveh and Tyre.

If you have read Douthat's book about his years at Harvard you will remember that he expected the school to give him all the tools to be a brilliant thinker and leader of men. (Ordinarily one would add "and lover of women" but this is "Chunky" Ross Douthat so not this time.) Here we can see his education in action; he is able to name-drop quotes and bits of history into his lies and exaggerations to look scholarly and thinker-ly.

But alas, appearances can be deceiving and Douthat's argument stinks like old fish. Douthat clumsily slips his deception in between Nineveh and Tyre: Both sides do it but it's all liberals' fault and conservatives are their helpless victims. Because the left freaked out over Obama, with their creepy cult singing and 1960s-style "hippie" enthusiasm, the right was forced to freak out as well. You made me do it! is a childish and extremely ineffective argument but Douthat can come up with no better. Bless his heart.

It's not that the authoritarian religious right has been feeding them Apocalypse propaganda since Reagan. It's all liberals' fault.

It's not that the corporate right has been feeding them anti-consumer propaganda to convince them that regulation and taxation are communism and tyranny. It's all liberals' fault.

It's not that a fearful, bigoted, manipulated population has demanded we wage constant warfare and annihilate our enemies, the better to impose our will on the world. It's all liberals' fault.

Far-called, our navies melt away;
   On dune and headland sinks the fire:   
Lo, all our pomp of yesterday
   Is one with Nineveh and Tyre!   
Judge of the Nations, spare us yet,   
Lest we forget—lest we forget!
This wasn’t a congenial climate for bipartisanship, to put it mildly. The fantasy ensured that the Democrats would go for broke (quite literally, judging by the budget figures) on domestic policy — anything else, after all, would have been a waste of their world-historical moment. The freakout ensured that Republicans, more or less in lock step, would resist every proposal and vote “no” on every bill. (After all, to compromise with tyranny was no better than surrendering to it.)
They made us do it! They made us vow to block everything Obama did and deny that Obama was a legitimate president (and legitimate Christian and legitimate American). They made us give our followers permission to unleash their fear and racism, made us listen to and enrich a generation of Lonesome Rhodes propagandists and hucksters, and made us elevate one them to a presidential candidacy.
So Democrats hailed the death of conservatism and the dawn of a glorious new liberal epoch and then griped that Republicans wouldn’t lend their support to its fulfillment. Republicans denounced President Obama as a Marxist and shrieked “you lie!” at him in the House chambers, and then they complained that he wouldn’t listen to their ideas.
He's really getting into his fake conservative reality. Why not, it's a lot more flattering that the real one. Obama believed in compromise and cooperation. He was certainly willing to give up on liberal governing to meet Republicans half way. The Republicans, as already stated, utterly refused. That reality doesn't win Republican elections or make Republicans look smarter or more successful, however.
But in the past month of lame-duck activity, we’ve witnessed a return to political normalcy. The Republican midterm sweep delivered the coup de grĂ¢ce to the liberal fantasy by dramatically foreshortening what many pundits expected to be an enduring Democratic majority. But it also dropped a lid, at least temporarily, on the conservative freakout. (It’s hard to fret that much about the supposed Kenyan-Marxist radical in the White House when anything he accomplishes has to be co-signed by John Boehner.)
Obama's "lame duck" activity has been considerable and after the midterm sweep he seemed to be set free.  This era also saw the eventual rise of Trump amidst freak-outs about guns, pasture rights, Muslims, terrorists, ISIS, Ebola, and god knows what else. If conservatives were not so good at denial that era would still be humiliating to conservatives.
In this brave new postelection world, lawmakers on both sides stopped behaving like players in some Beltway version of the battle at Armageddon and started behaving like, well, lawmakers. They cut deals, traded horses, preened (and sometimes whined) for the cameras, and cast their votes on a mix of principle, pique and political self-interest, rather than just falling into line for or against the Obama agenda. 
Partisanship didn’t disappear, but moderation repeatedly won out. Congress cut a big bipartisan deal on taxes and spending and then shot down a more partisan liberal budget. One of the most controversial items on the lame-duck agenda — the Dream Act, offering the children of illegal immigrants a path to citizenship — was defeated by bipartisan opposition. Two of the less controversial items — the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” (supported by some 75 percent of Americans, according to various polls) and the New Start arms control treaty (supported by nearly every Republican foreign policy hand) — passed by healthy margins.
A lame duck presidency is one that is at the end of its terms. The last midterm election was in 2014. Don't Ask Don't Tell was repealed in 2010. Only five Democrats voted against the Dream Act and only eight Republicans voted for it during the 2010 vote. At the 2011 vote, three of those Republicans withheld their vote. And the New Start arms control treaty was popular with most of the right, eliminating the need for moderation during a lame duck session.
This return to normalcy is good news for fans of bipartisan comity and centrism for centrism’s sake. And it might be good news for the country. In the end, some sort of bipartisanship will be required to pull America back from the fiscal precipice, and the productivity of this lame-duck December shows that cooperation between the two parties isn’t as impossible as it seemed just a few months ago.
Something seems to be missing from this article. A word, one simple word. Begins with T, ends with rump. He Who Must Not Be Named, evidently.

No--the right's problem isn't the Frankenstein's monster it's created, cobbled together from the corpses of Nathan Bedford Forrest and George Wallace.  Republicans must rescues the country from the economic disaster Obama is plunging it into. It's the liberals' fault! (Other missing words: Bush. 2008 economic crash. Iraq.)  
But when it comes to the hard challenges ahead, comity won’t be enough. Real courage is required as well. And this month’s outbreak of bipartisanship was conspicuously yellow-bellied. Republicans and Democrats came together to cut taxes, raise spending, and give free health care to the first responders on 9/11. They indulged, in other words, in the kind of easy, profligate “moderation” that’s done as much damage to the country over the years as the ideologies of either left or right.  
If that’s all that the return to normalcy delivers, we’ll be back to fantasies and freakouts soon enough.
Liars depend on politeness and fairness to get way with their dishonesty. Conservatives often complain that liberals are mean and mock those who disagree with them. It's the only way to treat people trying to pass off self-flattering lies for personal gain.