To borrow from R. Emmett Tyrrell, the illustrious founder of this publication, I have the sense that liberal America is headed for a huge crack-up.
Mid-term elections are less than a year away. A Republican blowout is in the making. That will leave President Obama without his majorities and a lame duck in his first term.
Yet the President isn't the type that can handle this well. Bill Clinton had conservative tendencies and was able to triangulate between his Republican Congress and the public. Some of our best governing came in those years -- welfare reform and balanced budgets.
Obama isn't likely to do this. He comes from a liberal tradition that doesn't even understand conservatism but thinks of it as a bunch of country yahoos, anti-abortion fanatics and fat capitalists trying to hang on to their bank accounts. His advisors believe the same, not to mention the panoply of cheerleading bloggers and newspaper columnists. All this is going to make it difficult for liberals to accept the idea that they have squandered their "once-in-a-generation" chance to impose a socialist agenda.
Health care will probably make it through Congress. Something will emerge from all the pushing and pulling. When people realize what they've gotten, however, the opposition will crescendo. Wait until young people realize the "solution" to their lack of insurance is that they are now forced to buy insurance under threat of fines and imprisonment.
Even if they regain control of Congress, however, Republicans won't be able to repeal healthcare reform. The protests will go on for a few years, I suspect, until it will finally be overturned by the Supreme Court on the grounds that forcing people to buy health insurance is unconstitutional. Like the National Recovery Act of 1933, Health Care Reform of 2009 will have lost popularity and will die a quiet death.
As far as the rest of the agenda is concerned, liberals simply don't seem to realize there is a vast American middle class out there that enjoys its freedoms and isn't looking for handouts from the government. Take an article that appeared two weeks ago in the "Outlook" section of the Washington Post, headlined "What if conservatives ran health care?"
If you're a progressive like me, and you're upset by the Stupak amendment, which bars federally subsidized insurance from covering abortions, consider this: What if we had a single-payer health-care system and someone like Jeb Bush or Sarah Palin were running the country?… [A] single-payer system would have put us at the mercy of whomever happened to take control of Washington.
The author, Maggie Maher, thinks the only issue at question is which party gets to run the healthcare system. She doesn't seem to realize the third option -- that nobody run healthcare but that the principal players -- doctors, patients, insurance companies -- run it themselves. The idea that there is an "American people" capable of taking care of themselves is alien to the liberal mind.
Or take New York Times' columnist Gail Collins' recent column on "2012," which has apparently replaced the Y2K crisis as the latest version of the apocalypse:
This seems to be the fault of Nostradamus, the Mayan calendar, angst on the left about global warming and angst on the right about the election of Barack Obama. Or the health care bill. Or government bailouts. Or the repositioning of "In God We Trust" on the nation's coinage.
Really, for ultraconservatives, the last year has been one sign of the apocalypse after the other. Soon, the rivers will run red with Starbucks Raspberry-Flavored Tazo Passion Shaken Iced Tea. Owls will give birth to two-headed frogs who shriek the lyrics to Lady Gaga songs.
2012 is a movie made by the director of The Day After Tomorrow, who was looking for a sequel to Al Gore's version of Armageddon. It has the usual liberal fingerprints all over it. Yet Collins has to come up with some fantasy that attributes it all to the "religious right." If somebody makes a movie of "Left Behind," then we can start blaming conservatives for apocalypse mongering.
And speaking of the religious right, have you seen this month's Atlantic Monthly? The cover story -- I'm not making his up -- reads as follows: "Did Christianity Cause the Crash?" Hanna Rosin, whoever she may be, has made the rounds of some Hispanic evangelistic churches in Charlottesville, Virginia, and discovered that they were preaching -- are you ready for this? -- self-reliance and upward mobility!
Every Sunday, the parishioners drive slowly into the parking lot, never parking on the sidewalk or grass -- "because Americanos don't do that," one told me -- and file quietly into church. Some drive newly leased SUVs, others old work trucks with paint buckets still in the bed. The pastor, Fernando Garay, arrives last and parks in front, his dark-blue Mercedes Benz always freshly washed, the hubcaps polished enough to reflect his wingtips.
It can be hard to get used to how much Garay talks about money in church, one loyal parishioner, Billy Gonzales, told me one recent Sunday on the steps out front. Back in Mexico, Gonzales's pastor talked only about "Jesus and heaven and being good." But Garay talks about jobs and houses and making good money, which eventually came to make sense to Gonzales: money is "really important," and besides, "we love the money in Jesus Christ's name! Jesus loved money too!"
From here Rosin arrives at this dazzling insight:
Many explanations have been offered for the housing bubble and subsequent crash: interest rates were too low; regulation failed; rising real-estate prices induced a sort of temporary insanity in America's middle class. But there is one explanation that speaks to a lasting and fundamental shift in American culture -- a shift in the American conception of divine Providence and its relationship to wealth.
Isn't that amazing? While some people might suggest that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac or the FHA -- which is about to experience its bankruptcy -- or the Community Reinvestment Act of 1977 or its implementation by the Department of Housing and Urban Development or ACORN, which broke up Congressional hearings trying to reform it, or Chuck Schumer and Barney Frank who kept it going when all the danger signs began to appear, or Wall Street, which bundled these worthless mortgages, or the ratings agencies, which gave them all AAA ratings -- that any or all of these might have conjured up a housing meltdown. But no, instead Rosin gives us a smug portrayal of some ambitious, churchgoing Mexicans in Charlottesville trying to secure a portion of the American dream.
This calls for some historical revision. Maybe we can blame the Great Depression on Billy Sunday and the recession of the 1970s of Reverend Ike. That some eccentric writer would float this theory at a New York cocktail party is perfectly understandable. That a major magazine would run the story on its cover is a national disgrace.
Then there's Paul Krugman. Now I know there's no sport in knocking Paul Krugman. Even President Obama has put some distance between himself and the Nobel Prize-winning New York Times columnist, whose only solution to everything is for the government to spend more money. But on the subject of U.S.-China relations, Krugman and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner seem to see eye-to-eye. Here's what Krugman has to say about "China's outrageous currency policy":
China's bad behavior is posing a growing threat to the rest of the world economy. The only question now is what the world -- and, in particular, the United States -- will do about it.
What are they doing that's so terrible? They are buying dollars! It seems that, unlike the Fed and the Obama Administration, the Chinese do not want to see America's currency degraded:
If supply and demand had been allowed to prevail, the value of China's currency would have risen sharply. But Chinese authorities didn't let it rise. They kept it down by selling vast quantities of the currency, acquiring in return an enormous hoard of foreign assets, mostly in dollars, currently worth about $2.1 trillion [emphasis added].
Many economists, myself included, believe that China's asset-buying spree helped inflate the housing bubble, setting the stage for the global financial crisis.
By setting interest rates at zero, the Federal Reserve is trying to inflate the currency as fast as possible. What else do you do when you're $12 trillion in debt? That's what we did during the 1970s under Jimmy Carter, isn't it? But China, which owns $1.7 trillion of this debt, is worried about the dollar losing value. So it enters in place of the Fed and offers support. And for this, Krugman and the Obama Administration say China is the problem!
Like fourth-generation heirs to some 19th-century industrial fortune, liberals have long forgotten where money comes from and are spending it as fast as they can with the inbred assurance there will always be more there. They have two simple lessons awaiting them:
a) You can't go on forever spending money you don't have.
b) You can't go on borrowing money to spend what you don't have.
Our economic future is at stake. Republicans know this in their bones. That's why they're opposing just about everything Democrats are doing right now, from healthcare on down. Democrats have nothing to say in response except to ignore the situation and look for scapegoats -- the religious right, China, whoever is at hand. Even with control of the Presidency and both Houses of Congress, they're having a tough time facing reality. Be prepared. When they start losing power, they may become incoherent.