Monday, May 27, 2013

Liberalism in brief: Me good, you bad

Obama, The Non-Ideologue

I know the promotion phase for The Tyranny of Clichés has long since passed. But come on. The core point of my book is that liberals deny they are ideological. Indeed, ideological is a term they reserve for people who disagree with them. Liberalism is just pragmatic and reality-based. To the extent it is even idealistic at all it’s just that it wants to do good and, conveniently enough, whatever liberals want to do this week is the benchmark for what is good.
So here’s E. J. Dionne in what may be as pristine a distillation of liberal conventional wisdom as any I’ve read in a long while. After helpfully reminding the reader that the ranks of Obama’s opponents are teeming with crazy ideologues and racists and dismissing the IRS scandal(s) as wholly unrelated to the conservative brief against Obama, he writes of the president:
He’s an anti-ideological leader in an ideological age, a middle-of-the-road liberal skeptical of the demands placed on a movement leader, a politician often disdainful of the tasks that politics asks him to perform. He wants to invite the nation to reason together with him when nearly half the country thinks his premises and theirs are utterly at odds. Doing so is unlikely to get any easier. But being Barack Obama, he’ll keep trying.
What would be so terrible about simply admitting Obama is an ideologue (just like E. J.)? Making that concession doesn’t require saying Obama is wrong about anything. Dionne et al. could still say Obama is right. They could make the case that his policies are the best. They could still champion — or condemn – his compromises or his “pragmatism” (Ideologues can compromise, too).
But it’s not to be. For liberals, ideology is only something the other guys have. Liberalism is just doing the good and smart thing. If you think the good and smart thing is ideological, that’s just proof you’re a rightwing ideologue (or a racist!). The fact that doing good nearly always requires more government is just a coincidence.

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