03/31/2009 (12:03 pm)
As though he’d been reading my most recent posts (but he’s really just commenting on matters that concern us all,) Patterico today uses David Horowitz’s caution against a growing Obama Derangement as a touchstone to launch his own thoughts about keeping the conservative message sane:
I spent eight years watching a crazy set of people on the left use every trick in the book to attack and tear down President Bush on a personal level. They seized on every maladroit turn of phrase to suggest that he was a moron. They distorted his policy pronouncements, trumped up phony issues, and displayed an unyielding self-righteousness that justified literally any tactic used in service of their political ends. This is why they felt comfortable demonizing Bush to the point where they compared him to Hitler.
Remember how we hated that?
Now that our guy is out of power, we have to decide: did we hate those tactics because they were wrong? Or only because they were used in service of the other guy? (Patterico’s emphasis, not mine)
I do not want to see us becoming the conservative nutroots. It is not, as some suggest, that I am some “country club Republican.” I despise those people. It is because I do not want to become that which I hate. When we make a mountain out of the molehill of Obama’s birth certificate; when we seize on a “Special Olympics” joke as the Height of Outrage and manufacture trumped-up howling rather than dismissing it as a dumb thing to say; when we insist on comparing Obama to mass murderers . . . when these things happen, we are becoming what we hated.
You actually have to read Horowitz’s column at FrontPageMag to grasp the sense of Patterico’s concern. Horowitz’s basic message is, “Stop making such a fuss, Obama is a typical Democrat, not the Antichrist.”
Patterico agrees that we must not engage in the sort of histrionics that the left engaged in, but then disagrees that we’re doing so when it comes to matters of liberty:
And this is where I disagree with Horowitz. Horowitz says:
So what’s the panic? It is true that Obama has shown surprising ineptitude in his first months in office, but he’s not a zero with no accomplishments as many conservatives seem to think – unless you regard beating the Clinton machine and winning the presidency as nothing. But in doing this you fall into the “Bush-is-an-idiot” bag of liberal miasmas.
It is also true Obama has ceded his domestic economic agenda to the House Democrats and spent a lot of money in the process. But what’s the surprise in this?
No, it’s no surprise, but that doesn’t mean it’s not dangerous. We now have a situation where the CEO of a major American car company is resigning at the behest of the American president, and everyone is nodding their heads as though it makes perfect sense. It doesn’t. This is insanity. (Patterico’s emphasis) Putting the government in charge of our economy is socialism. It represents the end of capitalism, and without capitalism, there is no freedom.
I would go even further than Patterico. The surprise, to answer Mr. Horowitz, is the sheer rapidity and oppressiveness of the wave of statist legislation. It’s as though they listed everything they’ve failed to accomplish in the last 40 years and passed it all in a single day. I don’t recall a similar sea change in my entire adult life; the closest I’d seen was Reagan’s slow, steady roll-back of mindless statist policy from the Nixon, Ford, and Carter years, but that took several years, not a mere two months.
Horowitz provides the evidence that Obama is not merely a typical Democrat in his article, noting that even the House Democrats are beginning to push back against his initiatives, and that the speed and extremity of his measures so far have solidified conservative opposition in a way nothing else could. He also correctly identifies that the US’ liberals have now become typically European socialists:
…while it’s reasonable to be unhappy with a Democratic administration and even concerned because the Democrats are now a socialist party in the European sense, we are not witnessing the coming of the anti-Christ
And the danger goes beyond what Patterico observes, as well. I do believe that liberty is the central need of the human heart, and the greatest loss of the opening months of the Obama administration, but it’s useless even to speak of liberty when there’s no economy, and what we’ve been seeing actually endangers the operation of the nation. I’d been wondering all my life when it might occur that the government actually spent more than the American economy could pay back. It looks plausible that we’ve reached that point a mere 3 months into the Era of Obama. We’re talking about $1 trillion and $2 trillion-dollar annual deficits as though they were no different from the $450 billion deficit that seemed so large during the Bush years — which, I should point out, set the new record high just last year. Foreign investors are noticing and running the other direction.
I’ve actually made the prediction myself that Obama policy intentions could lead to holocausts. I don’t expect such a thing to occur during a four-year Obama administration, or even really during an eight-year Obama administration. I do expect that if America adopts neo-Marxist ethical conventions, within about 20 years we’ll be endorsing euthanasia among America’s elderly, and that given the demographics of the Boomer generation, that will lead to a huge wave of voluntary euthanasia that is neither truly voluntary nor truly euthanasia. Jonah Goldberg thinks American fascism will never mimic Soviet or German fascism in its murderousness, because the American character is so basically friendly; but Americans have terminated more pregnancies than any nation in history — some 50 million or more — and thus seem susceptible to rationalizing “mercy” killings where they would not condone political ones.
I also believe we are correct to fear suppression and criminalization of conservative views, as progressives have been articulating precisely that already. That was the point of this article of mine, which also invokes the possibility of future holocausts here in America.
If this puts me among the “conservative nutroots,” then so be it; I’m looking at broad trends and drawing conclusions regarding where they lead. I could easily be mistaken; I’ve made mistakes before. Convince me that I’m mistaken about the trends, and I’ll stop predicting the outcomes; but don’t bother telling me that I can’t say something because it’s unthinkable, because that’s unpersuasive. Holocausts are always unthinkable — until they occur. It can happen here.
Certainly, there should be no full-bore demonization of Obama based on nothing but hatred. Yes, we should refuse to engage in the dishonest tactics of our adversaries. However, there’s no shame in crying “Wolf!” if there’s a wolf in the fold. Is Barack Obama the Antichrist? Hardly likely. Is he Josef Stalin? Certainly not yet. But, is he ushering in a regime that seems likely to destroy the things that make America unique and important? Absolutely, yes; not just to destroy them, but to destroy them quickly and decisively. This requires a response.
5 Comments »
Comment by John Cooper
I think you are falling into the ‘moral equivalence’ trap that is the favorite tactic used by the left to disarm its victims. “You’re no better than us, because you compare the president to Hitler, too.”
Nevermind that the left was totally wrong when it compared President Bush to Adolph Hitler, and the conservatives are absolutely correct when they compare the policies of the Obama administration to those of the National Socialists in Germany.
The left never could point to a single person that was hauled off in the middle of the night by the Rove/Cheney secret police. They never could point to a single section of the U.S. Constitution that was supposedly ‘shredded’ or ‘trampled’. The left called President Bush “Chimpy” and implied that he was so stupid that had to be told what to do. Yet he continually outfoxed them.
On the other hand, I can point to a number of sections of the Constitution that Obama is in the process of trampling: The prohibitions on ex post facto laws and bills of attainder, to name just to two. I can point to a number of his programs that are identical to those created by the National Socialists – his Youth Corps and the Nationalization of private industries to name just two.
According to Hermann Rauschning, Adolph Hitler once said:
“Let them then own land or factories as much as they please. The decisive factor is that the State…is supreme over them, regardless whether they are owners or workers.”
Obviously, Barack Obama feels the same way about the automakers, the banks, and the insurance companies. Is it ‘deranged’ to point that out?
So I urge you not to accept the term “Obama Derangement Syndrome”. Rational thought based upon historical comparisons of previous tyrannies is not ‘deranged’.
Comment by Phil
In a way I agree, but we also need to avoid the logical error that the “Bush = Hitler” crowd fell into, which if I’m not mistaken is called the Error of the Undifferentiated Middle.
The classical example of this error is a logical syllogism that goes like this:
I am a man.
Napoleon was a man.
Therefore, I am Napoleon.
The point is that when you’ve identified several characteristics in which Obama’s policies are similar to those of the National Socialists, you have not proved that Obama is a National Socialist.
Having said that, I need also to say that Barack Obama is a radical neo-Marxist. I’m convinced of this based on the research I did during the election season, about which I wrote extensively here. His party is not as radical as he is, which will prevent him from achieving the whole of his program. Realism will keep his foreign policy within rational guidelines, to some extent; so far, his Israel policy is as expected, but his Afghanistan and Iraq policies are remarkably sensible. I don’t feel as though I’m falling into a moral equivalence trap when I say this; I still believe that what he’s doing to the economy is going to ruin us. And yes, he’s genuinely walking all over the Constitution, and somebody needs to sue him to stop it at some point.
I recently watched YouTube clips of Jonah Goldberg explaining the thesis of his book Liberal Fascism at the Heritage Foundation, and he explained that socialists all believe pretty much the same thing, but their specific acts correspond to their national character. German socialists, American socialists, and Russian socialists are all socialists, and believe a lot of the same things — radical egalitarianism, moral relativism, anti-capitalism, anti-Christianity, environmentalism, devotion to whole foods and nature, etc. — but do different things according to their particular national character. I recommend that you spend the hour or so that it will take to listen to the whole series; the first is http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GsFoiVZDSRs, and you can get to the rest once you’re on that page.
Comment by turfmann
If I may put a finer point on it, the seduction of reductio ad Hitlerum should be avoided at all costs. Initially, in the eyes of your opponent, it speaks of desperation even if you are completely correct in your analogy. Second, the whole of Hitler’s evil is known to us now that he has passed into history, yet we are only embarking upon Obama’s administration. It could lead to an oppressive fascistic state, or to the elimination of the state all together, or it could be that we are simply howling at the moon. We hope and pray that we are only howling – I would be content with the humiliation as long as the nation is left intact for future generations to put right.
Like you Phil, I explored beyond the headlines trying to get a sense of this man Obama. I was shocked by what I found but not nearly as shocked as I was that he was blindly embraced by a majority of the American electorate.
My elixir for keeping my conservative message sane? Get away from politics and watch Red Sox baseball as often as possible.
Comment by John Cooper
Yes, YES, YES!. Thank you so much for the link to the Jonah Goldberg review of his book, Liberal Fascism. I just pre-ordered a copy at Amazon.
I agree fully with his statement in segment 2 of 5 that we conservatives should not let the leftists get away with comparing us to fascists (See my previous post).
In segment 1 of 5 he listed a number of people who believe that America is on the verge of fascism. I think they’re right, but unfortunately for the wrong reasons. Most of them were leftists, and had the concept of fascism exactly backwards. One person who got it right in 1984 was Leonard Peikoff, who wrote The Ominious Parallels, The End of Freedom in America. The book is an attempt to answer the question, “How could Naziism have happened?”, and “Could it happen here?”. I think Peikoff succeeds.
Since the words “Nazi” and “Hitler” have become so burdened with emotion that they shut off all debate, I always use “socialists” or “national socialists” when arguing with leftists. The connection will become apparent later…It’s difficult to argue with leftists, though (See my last paragraph).
Goldberg touched upon the burning question of why – after the murderous example of the twentieth century – anyone still embraces socialism. Putting the question the more common way, “Are leftists evil, or are they just stupid?
The best answer to that question that I’ve ever heard is by Evan Sayet: How Modern Liberals Think (also at the Heritage Foundation). You posted a link to that one a while back and I thank you once again. Leftists think “all that’s required to usher in utopia is the rejection of all fact, reason, logic…”
Comment by RM
I’m all for your solution, but will substitute the Phillies, with all due respect to the Red Sox.
A couple of other points IMHO, and the way I am proceeding these days. Please understand that when I list these points, I’m not lecturing by any stretch of the imagination. I’m just trying to put into words the way I am attempting to proceed, with the full realization that this is easier said than done.
-The situation calls for, at a minimum, firm, rigorous debate. If they are civil, argue with logic and attempt to make the point that way. Stay squarely on point and don’t get diverted to other tangents.
-Never concede points to them that they do not first concede to you. Example, when the conservative says, “Look, I’m not arguing that Barack Obama isn’t an intelligent guy, and we all agree he is trying to help the country, but I do disagree with such and such a specific policy…” Been there, done that, it’s a loser. Name me one time, ever, a liberal conceded that type of point with respect to George W. Bush and I’ll reconsider. If they do concede a point first, then maybe you can go that route, but don’t worry, it ain’t gonna happen.
-Avoid playing the sucker’s game of getting sucked into the left’s false premises or moral equivalency. Prime example: Republicans (including, absurdly, their spokesman, Mr. Steele) buying into the template of having to explain every time they take issue with a policy of Mr. Obama’s, that they don’t “want him to fail”. The people who push this type premise know full well it is false, and that the premise would never fly for a second without the sanction of the one accepting the premise.
-If they do not understand this, you are arguing with a fool and wasting your valuable time. If they do understand it, it needs to be rejected before going any further with the discussion. This should be done in the manner of swatting a fly rather than citing a gazillion statistics, because they have then trapped us into arguing a false premise rather than the core issue.
-Repetitive mocking of the President’s ears or focusing on gaffes and calling him an idiot, IMO, are counter-productive. However, after eight years of vitriol, I have become much less polite about calling leftists on their false premises, knocking down their strawmen, or accepting it when I’m in a group of libs and they all laugh at someone’s repitition of an insipid Letterman joke about Bush or Palin.
A good friend of mine who is very, very left wing told me about absolutely blasting a conservative acquaintance who launched into a Democrat bash in a previously neutral forum. His rationale was “I don’t look for trouble or force my views on people, but if someone forces me to listen to a pile of their political crap out of nowhere, I figure, I’m going to heap it right back on them with no mercy.” I thought about that, and I think he’s right.