Friday, September 3, 2010

Yet Another Post About My “Not Getting It”

A main preoccupation of this blog is exploring my gnawing sense of estrangement from the liberal community. I can usually be counted on to support nearly all of the left-liberal policy agenda. Yet that doesn’t change the fact that a lot of what passes for “common sense” among liberals makes less sense to me all the time. The idea (on which I’ve commented here and here) that Obama’s unpopularity is some sort of mirage generated by Republican disinformation is a case in point. To most liberals that's too obvious to require an argument. To me it’s virtually unintelligible.

So I’m grateful to Scrooge McDuck for restating, in two comments to the latter post, the mainstream liberal view in terms that are more lucid, and will surely struck most liberals as more persuasive, than anything I’ve managed to say so far. I don’t think you’ll find a much better argument in behalf of liberal common sense on the point at issue. So read the whole thing.

What, exactly, are Scrooge and I disagreeing about? It’s not that I don’t appreciate his/her observation that a lot of Republican partisanship over the last twenty years has been underhanded. But I’m much less invested than Scrooge in the idea that Republican politics has been more underhanded than Democratic politics because, for me, nothing much turns on the point. We’ve been arguing about ObamaCare, Cap-and-Trade, Card-Check, Immigration Reform and etc., throughout the Obama presidency. Voter preferences about the Obama agenda seem to have hardened in a way that will cost Democrats control of the House and maybe the Senate in the next election.

Republicans have undoubtedly said some crazy and irresponsible things along the way, but Democrats have had ample opportunity to rebut them and to say some irresponsible things of their own. At this point, in my judgment, there has been more-than-enough public discussion for us to feel confident that voter preferences are as well-informed, and therefore as reliable an expression of voters’ best perception of their own interests and ideals, as they’re ever going to be. If that means Democrats are going to get wiped out in the mid-terms, that’s how representative democracy works. It isn’t for partisans to impugn the legitimacy of the process in the middle of the game just because they think their opponents aren't measuring up to the partisans' standards of civic rectitude.

Scrooge isn’t willing to concede the reality of popular opposition to Obama’s agenda because he/she’s convinced it’s largely an artifact of Republican disinformation. Why, s/he asks, has Obama gotten in political trouble for trying to fulfill the campaign promises that helped get him elected less than two years ago?
“The primary answer is simple. Raging rivers of bullshit, undermining the need and perceived integrity of the administration and its agenda. An irresponsible opposition party that systematically spreads outright falsehoods about the Obama bills, and potential alternative policy options (Death Panels, government "takeover" of 1/6 of the economy, the "abject failure" of the stimulus to improve the economy, allegations that the banking bill will *increase* the likelihood of future bail-outs, and on and on and on).”
Scrooge ably defends his/her position as if s/he and I are having an empirical disagreement about the genesis of anti-Obama voter preferences. But I think of acknowledging their reality, and therefore the legitimacy of electoral outcomes dictated by them, as a matter of applying norms of democratic citizenship.  In my view, democratic citizens owe each other enough respect to treat their preferences as an authoritative expression of their interests and political ideals. When liberals dismiss anti-Obama voter preferences as the residue of unscrupulous Republican partisanship, they’re expressing civically corrosive contempt for fellow democratic citizens (and then acting surprised when their fellow citizens take offense).  If you ask me, that’s a civically irresponsible way of deploring Republican civic irresponsibility.

I don’t expect Scrooge or most other liberals to agree with me in this respect. But maybe we can agree that it’s not the facts, but the content of democratic norms, that we’re disagreeing about.

3 comments:

jmchez said...

"When liberals dismiss anti-Obama voter preferences as the residue of unscrupulous Republican partisanship, they’re expressing civically corrosive contempt for fellow democratic citizens (and then acting surprised when their fellow citizens take offense)."

That has been happening since the Reagan administration, if not even earlier. It seems painfully obvious to me but so many liberals can never even contemplate that other people may have different viewpoints or desires and strenuously disagree with the Liberal group-think, for whatever reason.

Impugning evil, stupidity and gullibility to your opponent will never convince them to come to your side. Saying, as the Mass. Governor said, that you'd wish that this weren't a free country so you could impose your will on the lesser masses is. . .

Well, enough to make Lenin beam and Orwell sigh.

jmchez said...

By the way, I came to this site based on your great observations on Mad Men. I subscribed to the RSS feed based on your thoughtful, uninsulting explanations of the Liberal view.

That's something that I rarely get a chance to experience because all that I ever hear about are the condescending views from politicians (Reid, Pelosi, Rangel), Pundits (Olbermann, Dowd, Madow) and bloggers (Huffington Post, Daily Dish). Frankly, I've tuned out those a long time ago but I've never given up the desire for a mature sober discussion from the other side.

Oluseyi said...

"Scrooge isn’t willing to concede the reality of popular opposition to Obama’s agenda because he/she’s convinced it’s largely an artifact of Republican disinformation."

Scrooge concedes the reality of popular opposition just fine. Scrooge just attributes it to deliberate disinformation, rather than innate conviction born of ideological difference. This does not absolve the "left" of ineffectiveness, nor in any way blunt genuine criticism of its/their policies, but the two issues should not be conflated.

I like your Mad Men reviews. I was digging back through your archives looking for more perspectives when I happened on this trio of posts. Thanks for sharing.