Green Room

The root of progressive despair

posted at 9:57 am on August 2, 2011 by

What causes the Democrats and the establishment media to hysterically accuse Republicans of being terrorists?

Perhaps it is the crisis in confidence we see from people like Kevin Drum:

Public opinion is everything. Ronald Reagan was successful because public opinion supported him: he wanted to cut taxes and raise defense spending and so did big chunks of the public. He was leading in a direction that they already wanted to go.


This is why I blame the broad liberal community for our failures, not just President Obama. My biggest beef with Obama is the same one I had three years ago, namely that he’s never really even tried to move public opinion in a specifically progressive direction. But that hardly even matters unless all the rest of us have laid the groundwork. And we haven’t. Wonks, hacks, activists, all of us. We just haven’t persuaded the public to support our vision of government.

If it makes progressives feel any better, Drum is only half-right. Reagan — and other Republicans — have been unable to get meaningful spending cuts or entitlement reform because public opinion did not support them. There are a zillion polls showing that Democrats and Republicans alike only support cuts to space exploration and foreign aid. Those who routinely rely on MediScare in their campaigns should not need a reminder of this.

The problem for progressives is not that they failed to persuade the public to support big government; it is that they failed to persuade the public to pay for it. The pundit class ( James Fallows, Andrew Sullivan, Ezra Klein, etc.) can pass around their seemingly endless supply of “graphs that all budget discussions should start with” among themselves, but they have yet to figure out how to sell the public dramatically higher taxes, low economic growth, in return for still-unbalanced budgets. Instead, they employ a seemingly endless supply of euphemisms — “balanced approach,” “spending in the tax code,” etc., to avoid speaking their agenda plainly.

The problem for progressives is the end of the Cold War and the global financial panic of 2008. The public has seen the slow demise of totalitarian socialism and is now watching the slow demise of democratic Euro-socialism. Seeing Margaret Thatcher’s comment about running out of other people’s money playing out in the daily news leads public opinon to conclude that entitlements need fundamental changes. The public may not actually want to effect those changes; it will be as hard to wean the public off debt as it is to wean any individual debt addict. But enough of the public is starting to recognize that past progressive over-promising is enough of a problem without signing onto another round of over-promising. This is why the public could not be convinced ObamaCare had merit; they (correctly) did not believe it would reduce the deficit. The public did not need to study the CBO’s alternative fiscal scenario to figure this out; they could look at the history of Democrats and entitlements.

The problem for progressives is that the debt ceiling deal occasioning all of this extremist rhetoric from the left will probably not head off a downgrade of the nation’s credit. A downgrade will be yet another step on the path to hitting the one true debt ceiling. There is likely no amount of messaging — however euphemized — that will convince the public to remake our country in the mode of the failing economies of Europe. And every day carries us closer to the point where the opinion of the public matters less than the opinion of our creditors.

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AH_C on August 2, 2011 at 10:07 AM

Gret analysis, Karl. But I think all of this really boils down to one thing: Obamacare. Universal health care is their ultimate dream, but it has proved over and over again to also be their Third Rail. They grabbed it, and it electrocuted them.

I really believe that if they had just kept making incremental changes to health care, along the lines of S-Chip, and expanding eligibility for Medicaid, that were slowly getting us to nationalized health care, they would have been able to get most of the rest of their progressive agenda passed, not lost control of the House last year, and not be miserable losers right now. But they just had to grab it all, and do it in the slimiest and most controversial way possible, which woke America up. They will never, ever admit this, of course.

rockmom on August 2, 2011 at 10:10 AM

Well, progressives got half way there.

There are so many people receiving something from the Government, that walking it back is nigh impossible. Once something is given, the odds are it isn’t coming back. In order to correct this, we need a national transformational moment. Where that tipping point is remains to be seen. But it feels close.

Progressives have prepared the ground with entitlements, and they were so close to sealing the deal. Like a frat boy plying a sorority girl with drinks, the progressive’s moment to close it out was at hand, but the frat boy ran out of drinks. Hopefully, a sober moment might have prevailed.

juanito on August 2, 2011 at 10:22 AM

rockmom on August 2, 2011 at 10:10 AM

Their mistake on health care flowed from the left’s belief that their mistake on health care 16 years earlier was in dawdling too long on the HillaryCare® plan, and not getting the reforms in place immediately after Bill took office in 1993. That’s why they fast-tracked it this time, combining it with the notion that because of Obama’s status as the first African-American president, no politician or major public figure would oppose him out of fear of being Alinskyed into irrelevance by copious playings of the race card. That’s also why liberals are apoplectic about the Tea Party movement, because it’s non-centralized opposition has left them with no one or two leaders to demonize — they’re left calling a large swatch of the American public terrorists, while acting like the exposed bad guy at the end of a Scooby Doo mystery, yelling, “I would have gotten away with it, if it weren’t for you meddling kids!”

Obama’s overly cautious-beta male nature also has the left foaming at the mouth and kicking themselves now, never mind that if Obama was the bare-knuckled, cutthroat alpha male they hoped he’d be against the right, he would have scared off voters during the primary season and never gotten past Hillary, let alone beaten McCain.

That’s what they’re storing in their memory banks right now the next time we have a presidential election featuring the Great New Liberal Hope (preferably not a white male so they can anoint Absolute Moral Authority on that person again, due to his/her historic position), the goal will be to:

1.) Find a candidate who can lie about their personality during the campaign as well as he can lie about his political plans in order to fool moderate voters, and if they manage to win;

2.) Try to take out alternative media voices like Fox News and talk radio via the use of government regulation at the outset, instead of thinking it would just wither away under race card attacks. The goal next time will be to make sure no rants like Rick Santorelli’s on CNBC ever see the light of day to spark another grassroots movement on the right like the Tea Party has become.

jon1979 on August 2, 2011 at 10:32 AM

Good stuff, jon1979.

They are sure going to have tough time finding a progressive Alpha Male. But there is a good chance the GOP might nominate a Beta Male of our own (i.e. Mitt Romney) and let them off the hook.

Oh, and you had better believe they had intended to shut down Fox News and talk radio. They were only derailed by the Citizens United decision, which is why they still foam at the mouth over that. (They were preparing the way to have the FEC define Fox News as a corporation and not a news organization, which would have made their conservative programmimg defineable as an illegal corporate independent expenditure.)

rockmom on August 2, 2011 at 12:38 PM

There is likely no amount of messaging — however euphemized — that will convince the public to remake our country in the mode of the failing economies of Europe.

The left has to be really kicking itself that they couldn’t have gotten to this point Before Euro-Socialism was shown up to be the colossal failure that it is.

If they had just done this 10 – 15 years ago, they could had several blissful years of their own version of National Socialism – just before everything crashed and burned as always.

But now with the failure of their ideas is pretty evident across the pond (and in the Old Progressive Soviet Union, North Korea, Cuba, on and on), it’s kind of hard trying to sell the same unworkable concepts.

Bad timing for them, good timing for Liberty, proof there is a God.

Chip on August 2, 2011 at 2:34 PM

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Allahpundit on August 2, 2011 at 9:53 PM

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