Twice in recent years pleasant social events have been shattered by rage-filled outbursts when liberal men of a certain age learned that I disagreed with their views. In each case the rage with which perfectly polite disagreement was expressed suggested to me that more than political differences were involved. As time has passed, I have come to believe that the reactions I received represented a rage at the dying of all that which these men had embraced in the absolute certainty of the righteousness and soundness of their views, and their right to have them automatically accepted as the approved model for all right thinking people.
In the first instance, some years ago, I was a guest at the lovely Maine lakeside lodge of a relative of a college roommate. At the conclusion of a perfectly pleasant dinner in which the conversation was not at all political, my host asked quite unexpectedly what I thought of (then) president George W. Bush. I said I loved him. (And I do. I think that he is a decent gentlemen who tried in every way to perform his responsibilities honestly, no small matter in such a thoroughly base age in which he was unremittingly slanderously vilified.)
My host rose red-faced from his seat, and smashed his fist on the table, shouting, "How could you be so close minded?" As I recall, I could only laugh at the absurdity of his response. His wife , a proper hostess, tried to smooth it over, but I had seen first hand the tyrannical face behind the mask of a liberal urbanite. I had not raised the matter. I had merely answered honestly and succinctly his question in a way he found intolerable simply because my short reply so challenged his own views that all decent, educated people shared his opinion. Hold a different opinion and you are by definition "close minded."
This scenario with slight differences, occurred more recently this year, when a fellow dinner guest, a professor of public policy at a major university who had just completed a federal appointment by Obama, asked me what I thought of Sarah Palin ( whom I said I liked) and anthropogenic global warming (about which I indicated extreme skepticism), he, like my Maine host, exploded in a fury. " I can't believe a nice, educated Jewish woman like you would hold such views," he said. "I suppose you don't believe in natural selection either," he sneered.
I might have thought these two were outliers, petty tyrants used to brooking no disagreement, but James Taranto brought to my attention another example and then there's John Kerry's foolishness this week, which leads me to hypothesize as I have that the elite liberal of a certain age is experiencing a major life crisis as the march of history leaves them as but rather laughable footnotes -- believers hanging on to 20th century versions of phlogiston and spontaneous generation.
Here's the James Taranto piece about Jacob Weisberg that reminded me of the first two incidents:
It is hard to remember a more dismal moment in American politics," Weisberg moans in a column originally written for the Financial Times. It starts out as a standard partisan attack on Republicans for failing to fall into line with liberal dogma--excuse us, "science":
President Obama is trying to push a jobs agenda. But for the federal government to spur growth or create jobs, it has to spend additional money. The antediluvian Republicans who control Congress do not think that demand can be expanded in this way. They believe that the 2009 stimulus bill, which has prevented an even worse economy over the past two years, is actually responsible for the current weakness. . . .
Some of the congressional Republicans who are preventing action to help the economy are simply intellectual primitives who reject modern economics on the same basis that they reject Darwin and climate science.
Darwin is a red herring here. Although disparaging people for holding harmless religious beliefs, as "intellectual primitives" is awfully uncivil, we agree with Weisberg that people who "reject" the theory of natural selection are mistaken.
But the comparison between Keynesian economics and global warmism is on target. Both are liberal dogmas disguised, increasingly thinly, as science. Both are supported by circular logic, and thus lack falsifiability, a necessary characteristic of a scientific theory. If the weather gets warmer, that's because of global warming; if it gets colder, that's "climate change" and proves the theory too. Had unemployment stayed below 8%, as the Obama administration promised it would, that would have proved the "stimulus" worked; since it peaked at 10% and has held steady above 9%, that proves the stimulus wasn't big enough. Heads I win, tails you lose.
To Weisberg, the failures of the Obama administration prove not only that Republicans are "intellectual primitives" but that you are stupid: Among the "sobering lessons" that "we" have "learned," he writes, is "that there's no point trying to explain complicated matters to the American people."
Certainly, it's no secret that the left regularly attacks those who disagree with them as stupid; still it is surprising that they can continue to hurl these slanders when clinging to two of the most ill-conceived and unscientific of notions: Keynesian economics (and with it, the notion that government can perform better than the free market in meeting our needs) and that there is man caused global warming which requires even more government and tax revenues to right.
Add to the irony of rank unscientific dogmatists posing as free thinkers, a huge dose of arrogance, and you get John F . Kerry, intellectual poseur , font of internationalist elitist conventional wisdom and avatar of effete snobbery, saying stuff like this:
SEN. JOHN KERRY: "And I have to tell you, I say this to you politely. The media in America has a bigger responsibility than it's exercising today. The media has got to begin to not give equal time or equal balance to an absolutely absurd notion just because somebody asserts it or simply because somebody says something which everybody knows is not factual."
"It doesn't deserve the same credit as a legitimate idea about what you do. And the problem is everything is put into this tit-for-tat equal battle and America is losing any sense of what's real, of who's accountable, of who is not accountable, of who's real, who isn't, who's serious, who isn't?"
In fact, the tea party, Sarah Palin, and all of us who eschew bigger government and demand accountability and self-determination are beginning to expand our reach. We are, as reporters in England and Australia note with regard to the debt limit negotiations, showing up worldwide socialism as a foolish and bankrupt notion.
This negotiation has been an astonishing victory for congressional Republicans.
They have won the intellectual and political argument. President Barack Obama, the biggest-spending president in a generation of US politics, has abandoned plans for new taxes, effectively abandoned plans for any significant new government programs and accepted - in principle and in practice - that there must be deep, structural cuts to US government spending.
Of course, it will be difficult for Republicans to enforce this and to keep their pledges to avoid new spending or merely leaving existing programs on a business-as-usual basis of endless expansion.
But Republicans have moved debt and the need to reduce spending to the centre of American life, made it a bipartisan consensus and conscripted the President to their cause.
There is plenty to criticise in the Tea Party and it certainly attracts its share of nuts and cranks. But only in the US could a recession produce a popular movement demanding government cut spending. Thus, the Tea Party has played its part in this debate and that has been a constructive part. [snip]
That US politics is focused on that issue as the centre of the crisis is a sign of political health.
At the Telegraph the suggestion is that the tea party has proven to be the harbinger of a world wide movement to reduce government control and expenditures:
In the European election in June, 2009, the Left took a hammering. In Germany, the Social Democrats polled just 20 per cent of the vote, their worst result since the Second World War. In France, the Socialist Party only mustered 16.5 per cent, its lowest share of the vote in a European election since 1994. In Italy, the Democrats polled 26.1 per cent, seven percentage points less than they received at the last Italian election. As David Miliband pointed out in a recent lecture: "Left parties are losing elections more comprehensively than ever before. They are fragmenting at just the time the Right is uniting. I don't believe this is some kind of accident."
For believers in redistributive taxation and egalitarian social programmes like David Miliband, Obama was the last great hope. Here was a centre left politician capable of building the kind of electoral coalition that underpinned the massive expansions of state power in Britain and America, from Attlee's post-war Labour Government to Lyndon Johnson's Great Society. That is, a coalition of the white working class, minorities and middle class liberals. Yet in spite of sweeping to power in 2008 and ensuring the Democrats won in both the House and the Senate, Obama has proved unable to sustain that coalition. Last night's debt deal represents the moment when he acknowledged that trying to maintain the levels of public spending required to fund ambitious welfare programmes is political suicide. Which is why the deal has been greated with cries of impotent rage by the British Left.
I suppose if I had coasted through my adult life secure in the belief that I was destined to rule others, that my thinking was the height of sophisticated reason and scientific logic, and I began to notice that that game was up, I'd be rude at dinner parties, too. I mean they are just raging at the dying of their light, aren't they?