The Paranoid Style of American Liberalism

Liberals, to put it mildly, are not dealing well with their declining political fortunes. For some reason, liberals seem surprised that Americans have not warmed to the Obama administration’s policies, like government takeover of health care; bailouts and government ownership in multiple industries; wasteful and ineffective “stimulus” spending; unheard of deficits; massive tax increases slated for next year; and a foreign policy that perversely alienates our allies and caters to our enemies. There has never been a time in our history when most Americans would have approved of such policies, yet liberals are somehow convinced that today’s manifestation of longstanding voter attitudes represents a unique and sinister animus against Barack Obama and his administration.
That conviction is frequently expressed with a hysteria that is downright funny. Today’s example comes from Time’s Joe Klein, who, like many of his fellow leftists, has descended into self-parody. His post is titled “Know-Nothing Watch”:

The anti-Obama forces, it seems clear, are rooted in classic American know-nothing populism–nativist, isolationist, paranoid.

Hmm. Speaking of paranoid…the “anti-Obama forces” consist of a majority of American voters; currently, 52 percent of likely voters disapprove of his performance. Note that many of these people voted for Obama. They have been surprised and disappointed by his leftist agenda; maybe they shouldn’t have been, but they are. Did these millions of Americans become “nativist, isolationist [and] paranoid” overnight?
And what does opposing government control over health care, unprecedented deficits, bailouts, etc. have to do with being “nativist” or “isolationist,” let alone “paranoid”? Nothing. I think what Klein has in mind here is that Obama’s policies would make the U.S. much more like western Europe, so it is “nativist” or “isolationist” to oppose them. But the United States has done far better than western Europe in nearly every way over the last 50 years, precisely because we have not adopted the generally-liberal and often-socialist policies that those countries have pursued. Klein evidently thinks that is a bad thing, but it is hardly “nativist” to prefer successful policies to unsuccessful ones. Nor is it “isolationist” to think that U.S. foreign policy should promote American interests and should be loyal to American allies. Indeed, for most of the postwar era Klein’s Democratic Party would have endorsed those principles.
So what drives this particular fit of the vapors? The new hundred dollar bill:

Today’s Exhibit A is from the Drudge Report, in which the newly designed $100 bill is slagged for, as the headline has it, “looking European.”

Whew. Klein is on the trail of a powerful issue, all right! His ensuing comments are meant to be satirical, I think:

But…reasons? Rationality? Greater security against counterfeiters? Feh! It looks like a freakin’ Euro, which means it must be a precursor of socialism. That Obama is one sneaky crypto-muslim.
But then, the same sort of cosmopolitanism was suspected of Ben Franklin–one of our most secular humanist playboy founders–after he sampled the bright lights, and women, of London and Paris. I mean, isn’t it, like, suspicious that Obama would want this Christian Nation to continue to feature someone as insidious as Franklin on its $100 bill? Why not Billy Graham or Ronald Reagan? Or Tom Tancredo? Can’t we get some real reform around here?
And, when you think about it, Independence Hall is pretty suspicious, too: it is a classical colonial building, clearly inspired by European building styles of the 18th century (one of the more suspicious and licentious periods in European intellectual history and arts).

Good Lord, man, get a grip! Who, exactly, is paranoid here? Conservatives are making, every day, serious public policy arguments on issue after issue that resonate with most Americans. Liberals like Klein, meanwhile, can’t formulate an argument to save their lives, but fulminate impotently against conservatives, with invective substituting for analysis at every turn. For the last fifteen months, Klein’s Democrats in Washington have pursued policies that are ill-advised and deservedly unpopular. They will pay, to a degree as yet unknown, at the polls in November. No amount of hysterical snark by liberal journalists will change those facts.

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