Why Are Liberals Always So Upset?

Yesterday on our VIP live webcast, we talked briefly about the sources of Trump Derangement Syndrome (TDS), which I argue predates Trump and would likely be present if any other Republican, even mild-mannered Jeb Bush, were in the White House right now. TDS has its roots in the lazy presumption that liberalism represents “the side of history,” as though “History” is a self-conscious thing with only one direction. This presumption is, in fact, a secular version of divine Providence. Hence for liberals, when they lose elections, the fault is not theirs or their candidate’s, but represents some kind of ghastly mistake if not a fraud against history. Cue up Russians, dirty tricks, hanging chads, whatever. A large portion of the left has not accepted the legitimacy of each Republican president starting with Nixon.

If you want to see this at work, I refer you to a book out in March from Ruy Tiexeira of the Center for American Progress, The Optimistic Left: Why the 21st Century Will Be Better Than You Think. I’ve met Ruy a couple of times, and unlike many people on the left he is a pleasant human being to know. In fact we once had a long lunch discussing some ideas for a conference we might do together, but both got too busy to follow up. I think Ruy is on to something in this book, namely, that liberalism became a dark and pessimistic creed starting in the 1960s and 1970s, and that this has been debilitating to liberalism. His publisher sent me the advance galleys of the book last fall, which I put in my reading stack and didn’t get back to, until I saw Damon Linker of The Week take after Teixeria in a recent column, saying that “Because his optimism inspires such complacency, Teixeira is a dangerous man for Democrats to have around.”

Well now. I decided to pick up the galleys and have a look. And while I think much of the book is creditable even if mistaken on policy, there were two early sentences that brought me up short, starting with this one on page 1: “. . . Democrats have won three straight presidential elections. . .” Wait, what the hell is he talking about? Is he talking about FDR in 1940? I thought this book was about current times.

Then, page 3: “Barack Obama’s two presidential victories were followed by routs in the Congressional elections of 2010 and 2014, and new president Hillary Clinton. . .” (Emphasis added.) Ah—now I get it. Of course books have to be written with long lead times and anticipate events to some extent, but if you’re a liberal and you think History is on your side, and you believe the polls (I did) that Hillary was a lock to beat Donald Trump, then the comedown after losing to Donald Trump must be the psychic equivalent to withdrawals after you run out of heroin.

Once upon a time, liberals like John Stuart Mill understood that the progress of civilization was not necessarily an irreversible process, and today’s left is doing it’s best to prove Mill was right.

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