The Current Crisis

The Lost Liberals

They're in a fog, but for everyone else the political air couldn't be more clear.

By 1.21.10

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WASHINGTON -- With Scott Brown's election to the senatorial seat held by Edward Kennedy for 47 years, a few things are suddenly clear. Americans in large numbers fear a further government encroachment on our private healthcare system. There are other means of reforming it. Americans do not want to bear higher tax burdens, more profligate government spending, and crushing deficits to be borne by future generations. One other thing is clear. For the most part, the American press is not very informative.

When Bill Clinton went up to Massachusetts to campaign for the Democratic candidate, not one mainstream news organization reported what is a matter of cold fact, to wit, when Bill Clinton campaigns for others they lose. In fact when Clinton was president the Democratic Party mostly lost. In 2004, as I reported in my 2007 book on Clinton in retirement, of the 14 Democrats Clinton campaigned for 12 lost. He was not even able to campaign successfully for his pal, Terry McAuliffe's gubernatorial bid in Virginia last year. Equally unhelpful is outside campaigning from the Prophet Obama. He was no help for Democratic candidates in the recent midterm elections in New Jersey and Virginia. Right now Obama's presidency is a failed presidency. Nowhere in the mainstream media is that reported in their one-year assessments of his presidency. Yet it is now thunderously clear.

There are still wisenheimers out there who will say that this very clever president will now recalculate and change course. He will steal to the center. His Democrats will follow. Truth be known, the Democrats led by Obama, Nancy Pelosi, and Harry Reid, are no more likely to change course than the artistes of the Grateful Dead were ever likely to take up aerobics, join Alcoholics Anonymous, and resort to golf before they all died years short of the average longevity for an adult American male. The Democrats vote the way they do because they are captives of a culture, the youth culture of the 1960s, a culture that has endured, aged, but never smartened up.

This week in a very funny segment of his radio show Rush Limbaugh made a very pertinent point. He did so after playing what he called "patriotic music," in this case the Venezuelan national anthem, which sounded as though it were being performed by a large orchestra of kazoos. Then Rush referred to the "1960s hippies who govern us." Given to amusing hyperbole as he is, El Rushbo was not far off. Most of the real 1960s hippies are either doddering around in early retirement (retirement from life spent on a park bench) or long ago they served as crepe suzettes for the worms. Sure one or two of the left-wing Democrats in Congress might have once been hippies -- one can envisage a long-haired Henry Waxman shuffling through Haight Ashbury in bell bottoms and Jesus sandals -- but today's dominant Democrats in Congress, for a certitude, were hippie fellow-travelers since their troubled youths in the 1960s and early 1970s. They have ever since lived in a closed society, closed to the realities of the Reagan and post-Reagan years.

The Prophet Obama may be a bit too young to have joined what in the late 1960s and early 1970s was called the New Left, but his mentors, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright and the late Saul Alinsky, were true believers. They saw America as a failed state years ago, and the president agrees. Remember his extraordinary statement last April to 2,000 Europeans at his Strasbourg Town Hall: "In America, there's a failure to appreciate Europe's leading role in the world. Instead of celebrating your dynamic union and seeking to partner with you to meet common challenges, there have been times where America has shown arrogance and been dismissive, even derisive." This is vintage 1960s left-wingery. Just as Jimmy Carter was the first former president to speak ill of a sitting president while on foreign soil. Obama has now surpassed him. He is the first sitting president to speak ill of America while on foreign soil, and he has done so repeatedly.

Most probably the president sees nothing wrong with this sort of diminishment of his country. Most probably the Democratic leadership sees nothing wrong with it either. Liberals like them get elected not because they understand Americans but because they understand American journalists, who also are part of their 1960s culture. Yet it is a culture from an America of long ago. As even Massachusetts demonstrated this week, most Americans believe Americans know how to solve their problems through initiative, limited government, and hard work, not through the nanny state.

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About the Author
R. Emmett Tyrrell, Jr. is the founder and editor in chief of The American Spectator. He is the author of The Death of Liberalism, published by Thomas Nelson Inc. His previous books include the New York Times bestseller Boy Clinton: the Political Biography; The Impeachment of William Jefferson Clinton; The Liberal Crack-Up; The Conservative Crack-Up; Public Nuisances; The Future that Doesn't Work: Social Democracy's Failure in Britain; Madame Hillary: The Dark Road to the White House; The Clinton Crack-Up; and After the Hangover: The Conservatives' Road to Recovery.