The Good Old Days: Liberal Version

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Conservatives have their version of the good old days: the years graced by the sainted Ronald Reagan. But liberals are no less nostalgic. They long for the good old days when the American people were public-spirited and their politicians were ever ready to compromise. You know, the days before Rush Limbaugh and the Tea Party spoiled paradise.

A typical example of such liberal hogwash is this article, "What happened to America's community spirit?" by BBC News correspondent Justin Webb. It's an especially delicious piece of nostalgic irony since it comes from the land of soccer hooliganism, race riots, and tabloid hackers.

I have no knowledge of Justin Webb's personal political beliefs, but that doesn't matter much since nostalgia syndrome affects individuals of all known ideologies. And I'm not picking on him specifically, since in 2006 he had the guts to accuse his own BBC of anti-Americanism and treating the U.S. with "scorn and derision." (Maybe Webb liked George W. Bush's cowboy imperialism — I do not know — in which case I would have been on the side of the "anti-American" BBC.) The point is that the poppycock Webb presents in this September 21 article is typical of what we're hearing from every live liberal in the land, from Republican former Sen. Alan Simpson to the denizens of MSNBC.

Webb starts by recounting an auto trip in Florida where he hears, on the car radio, a congressional candidate accusing his opponent of benefitting personally from the bank bailout. "Basically he's accusing his opponent of being a thief."

Well, maybe this candidate's opponent IS a thief. And if he is a thief, he needs to be outed. The problem is how to get the facts, not to bemoan the divisiveness. But to Webb this is "bile," whether or not it is true, and "it has real consequences. It leads, in Congress, to deadlock. A nation beset with urgent issues to confront — of which the size of the national debt is probably the most serious — cannot find the cross-party consensus necessary to act."

Funny, I thought our national debt was the result of a cross-party consensus to spend money we don't have.

Webb goes on to interview people he deems authorities "from across the political spectrum" on what went wrong. Of course all of those authorities agree with Webb's general thesis and assumptions, they just have different explanations.

The first one blames “the sheer number of sources of information on offer to the average American in the digital age….A maelstrom of fact and opinion and sheer nonsense. All mixed up."

Oh, boo hoo. The liberals want to go back to the days where we got our news — and our liberal "consensus" — from three establishment TV networks. I agree there’s a problem today with people choosing to hear only their viewpoint, but that’s less of a problem than being offered only one viewpoint. And actually, most libertarians and conservatives hear plenty of liberal viewpoints every day — from their politicians, the networks (still with us), and most cable channels; they just choose to get refuge among their own media, where they can get “the rest of the story,” as Paul Harvey used to put it.

We are next treated to groaning about the rise of “Americans [who] don’t see us as having basic obligations to our fellow citizens,” versus those who are “public-spirited.”

This is the core of the liberal crap. It’s using semantics to load the deck in your favor before the argument begins. If you don’t agree with my liberal agenda, you are mean-spirited, not public-spirited. We need more “community spirit.”

What is public-spirited about forcing your neighbor to pay for YOUR political and social agenda? What is public-spirited about loading our debt on our children and grandchildren? Hey, while you’re at it, what is public-spirited about calling Tea Partiers “racists” and worse, with no evidence to back it up, as liberals do at every opportunity?

If there is more devisiveness in American politics today than in the past (a debatable proposition in itself), it is because the government has become so gigantic, both dollar-wise and in terms of intruding on our lives. This BBC correspondent is complaining that Americans aren’t totally zombies yet, and are reacting against these intrusions. My complaint, on the other hand, is that far too many Americans ARE zombies. I agree with Thomas Jefferson that “A little rebellion now and then is a good thing.” It’s been far too long since our last rebellion.

Finally, I would warn Webb, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet. The math behind our present contentiousness is that, as more and more of federal outlays are consumed by entitlements and interest on the public debt, less and less is available for the domestic programs that are the subject of most of our political discourse. This becomes even more the case when “defense” spending is treated as an entitlement (for the Military Industrial Complex) and is taken off the table, as most conservatives insist.

That relatively small slice of the pie allotted to domestic programs is only going to get smaller and smaller each year, at least proportionately, meaning that the competition for those dollars will become more and more fierce from all the supplicants for taxpayer bailouts. And there will be more and more resistance from the fleeced taxpayers. That, in turn, ensures that our political discourse will only get louder and meaner, and no amount of liberal nostalgia for the good old days will change that. Only drastically smaller government will restore civility.

David Franke [send him mail] was one of the founders of the conservative movement in the 1950s and 1960s. He is the author of a dozen books, including Safe Places, The Torture Doctor, and America’s Right Turn.

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