Reactionary liberalism

Today’s liberals, George Will argues, are strangely oblivious to history and resistant to change.   After giving some examples and examining the apocalyptic objections to Paul Ryan’s plan to cut the deficit, Will says this:

The hysteria and hyperbole about Ryan’s plan arise, in part, from a poverty of today’s liberal imagination, an inability to think beyond the straight-line continuation of programs from the second and third quarters of the last century. It is odd that “progressives,” as liberals now wish to be called, have such a constricted notion of the possibilities of progress.

Liberals think Medicare and Social Security as they exist are “fundamental” to the nation’s identity. But liberals think the Constitution — which the Framers meant to be fundamental, meaning constituting, law — should be construed as a “living” document, continually evolving to take different meanings under whatever liberals consider new social imperatives.

The lesson of all this is that one’s sense of possibilities — and proprieties — is shaped by what we know, and often do not know, about history. The regnant ideology within the Obama administration and among congressional Democrats is reactionary liberalism, the conviction that whatever government programs exist should forever exist because they always have existed. That is, as baby boomers, in their narcissism — or perhaps solipsism; or both — understand “always.”

via History lessons for Obama and other liberals – The Washington Post.

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • Pete

    This is the “hard to evict the camel once his nose is in the tent” phenomenon. And at some point, enough of the camel is inside that the tent becomes uninhabitable.

  • Pete

    This is the “hard to evict the camel once his nose is in the tent” phenomenon. And at some point, enough of the camel is inside that the tent becomes uninhabitable.

  • Porcell

    Will is spot on; this problem of doctrinaire liberalism compounded with that of narcissistic/solipsistic baby boomers is what is driving the present lack of fiscal sanity.

    If the younger people who will have to foot the some sixty $trillion of unfunded entitlement liability don’t wake up, they shall end up living in a second or third-class welfare state with wealthy countries like Brazil, India, and China looking on with delighted schadenfreude.

    The American people seemed to have awakened in the 2008 election. Now the question is will they pay serious attention to Ryan’s analysis in the 2012 election. Until then we can merely hope and pray that the world bond markets will be patient regarding US Treasury debt; should they not we could well have a fearsome debt-crisis with a recession that will make that of 2008-9 look like a party.

  • Porcell

    Will is spot on; this problem of doctrinaire liberalism compounded with that of narcissistic/solipsistic baby boomers is what is driving the present lack of fiscal sanity.

    If the younger people who will have to foot the some sixty $trillion of unfunded entitlement liability don’t wake up, they shall end up living in a second or third-class welfare state with wealthy countries like Brazil, India, and China looking on with delighted schadenfreude.

    The American people seemed to have awakened in the 2008 election. Now the question is will they pay serious attention to Ryan’s analysis in the 2012 election. Until then we can merely hope and pray that the world bond markets will be patient regarding US Treasury debt; should they not we could well have a fearsome debt-crisis with a recession that will make that of 2008-9 look like a party.

  • DonS

    Porcell @ 2: I think you mean that they awakened in the 2010 election. They were dreadfully asleep in 2008.

    I’m not sure that I concur with Will that this crisis is due to the inability of “progressives” to consider and accept change. Certainly, that is part of it. But I believe there are many doctrinaire liberals who understand full well the precarious financial position of the country, but their objective is to move toward more social welfare, not less. They are engaged in incrementalism, and any effort to pull back government benefits already entitled is failure. They see the financial crisis as an opportunity for more government power, and the destruction of private wealth, and to them that is a good thing.

  • DonS

    Porcell @ 2: I think you mean that they awakened in the 2010 election. They were dreadfully asleep in 2008.

    I’m not sure that I concur with Will that this crisis is due to the inability of “progressives” to consider and accept change. Certainly, that is part of it. But I believe there are many doctrinaire liberals who understand full well the precarious financial position of the country, but their objective is to move toward more social welfare, not less. They are engaged in incrementalism, and any effort to pull back government benefits already entitled is failure. They see the financial crisis as an opportunity for more government power, and the destruction of private wealth, and to them that is a good thing.

  • steve

    Those who, yesterday, scoffed at the notion that “Obamacare” was going to implement “death panels” are, today, claiming seniors will have to start paying for their own health care because Republicans are going to eliminate Medicare.

    There truly is nothing new under the sun.

  • steve

    Those who, yesterday, scoffed at the notion that “Obamacare” was going to implement “death panels” are, today, claiming seniors will have to start paying for their own health care because Republicans are going to eliminate Medicare.

    There truly is nothing new under the sun.

  • Porcell

    Don, thanks, I did mean 2010. 2008 has so far proven dismal.

  • Porcell

    Don, thanks, I did mean 2010. 2008 has so far proven dismal.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    I love it. Americans are “dreadfully asleep” and not paying attention when they vote for the people I didn’t like. But they suddenly “awaken” when they vote for the people I do like. Asleep, awake, asleep, awake.

    Do you think maybe Americans have narcolepsy?

    Hmm, I wonder if anything else can explain this bizarre pattern…

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    I love it. Americans are “dreadfully asleep” and not paying attention when they vote for the people I didn’t like. But they suddenly “awaken” when they vote for the people I do like. Asleep, awake, asleep, awake.

    Do you think maybe Americans have narcolepsy?

    Hmm, I wonder if anything else can explain this bizarre pattern…

  • Porcell

    Well, Todd, what is your view of Will’s thesis that doctrinaire liberalism cum narcissistic baby boomers are fatally resistant to change? The subject of nacrolepsy is minor. For once you might address the main issue.

  • Porcell

    Well, Todd, what is your view of Will’s thesis that doctrinaire liberalism cum narcissistic baby boomers are fatally resistant to change? The subject of nacrolepsy is minor. For once you might address the main issue.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    “The subject of nacrolepsy [sic] is minor” (@7). Well, that’s one person who didn’t get my joke.

    “For once you might address the main issue,” said the man who, when the topic was “Analyzing the Situation Room photo”, attempted instead to derail the conversation into a discussion of CIA interrogation techniques.

    You know, if you want to control what people can and can’t say, Porcell, maybe you should start your own blog, rather than policing what (some) people say (but not, of course, yourself).

    As for me, I will reply to comments left by others when and to the degree I feel it is appropriate, if Dr. Veith allows it.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    “The subject of nacrolepsy [sic] is minor” (@7). Well, that’s one person who didn’t get my joke.

    “For once you might address the main issue,” said the man who, when the topic was “Analyzing the Situation Room photo”, attempted instead to derail the conversation into a discussion of CIA interrogation techniques.

    You know, if you want to control what people can and can’t say, Porcell, maybe you should start your own blog, rather than policing what (some) people say (but not, of course, yourself).

    As for me, I will reply to comments left by others when and to the degree I feel it is appropriate, if Dr. Veith allows it.

  • http://steadfastlutherans.org/ SAL

    When conservatives look at the plight of progressivism I hope they’re not too smug.

    Both progressive and conservative ideologies are ill suited to periods of declining living standards and national insolvency.

  • http://steadfastlutherans.org/ SAL

    When conservatives look at the plight of progressivism I hope they’re not too smug.

    Both progressive and conservative ideologies are ill suited to periods of declining living standards and national insolvency.


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