The Inexplicables

by Victor Davis Hanson

PJ Media

I. More Debt, Please?

Please explain this: Barack Obama entered office; nationalized healthcare; ran up record $1 trillion deficits; promised to hike taxes on the rich; pushed cap and trade through the House; took over large chunks of banks, insurance companies, and auto corporations; made hard-left appointments from Van Jones to Sonia Sotomayor — and in 21 months saw his positives crash from near 70% in January 2009 to little above 40%, with the specter of near record Democratic losses in the Congress just two years after the anti-Bush/anti-Iraq sweep of 2008.

All the polls of independents and moderates show radical shifts and express unhappiness with higher taxes, larger deficits, a poor economy, and too much government. In other words, the electorate is not angry that Obama has moved too far to the right or stayed in the center or borrowed too little money. A Barney Frank or Dennis Kucinich is looking at an unusually tight race in a very liberal district not because liberals have had it with them, but because large numbers of moderates and independents most surely have.

Yet if one were to read mainstream Democratic analysis, there is almost no acknowledgment that the party has become far too liberal. Indeed, they fault Obama for not being liberal enough, or, in the case of the Paul Krugman school, for not borrowing another trillion dollars for even more stimulus, despite the failure of the earlier borrowing. In fact, Obamaites offer three unhinged exegeses for the looming defeat: a) there is no looming defeat: the Democrats will still keep the House; or b) Obama did not prove to be the radical as promised; or c) the American people are clueless and can’t follow science and logic and therefore do not know what is good for them.

Do liberals really believe that had they rammed down cap and trade, borrowed $6 trillion instead of $3 trillion the last 21 months, and obtained blanket amnesty their candidates would be posed to ward off Republican attacks this election year? The problem right now with Greece is that it borrows too little, hires too few, and spends not enough?

II. Perpetual Campaigning

What is it with former Democratic presidents? Cannot they let it be and recede into retirement in the manner of a Nixon, Ford, or Reagan? His multimillion overseas speaking junkets to oil rich dictatorships now nullified by Hillary’s tenure as Secretary of State, a restless Bill Clinton is once more still shaking his finger, haranguing the electorate, knee deep in partisan politics, and now caught in intrigue trying to oust the African-American Democratic candidate for US Senate in Florida.

Meanwhile our other Democratic president emeritus, Jimmy Carter, is still hawking yet another take on his failed presidency of some thirty years past. Not content with trying to undermine United Nations support for the US during the 1991 Gulf War, or intriguing against the US during the debate over the Iraq war as requisite for a long coveted Nobel Peace Prize, or calling George Bush, Sr. “effeminate,” or slurring George W. Bush as the “worst” president in history, or smearing Tony Blair, Carter now complains that we simply did not understand his magnificent tenure that ended in January 1981 with 21% interest rates, unemployment over 7%, inflation running at almost 14%, gas lines, and little growth — with Iran still holding hostages and the Soviets on the move in Afghanistan and Central America.

Why, in other words, cannot a Carter and Clinton, like Bush I and II, simply fade into the shadows without perpetually campaigning to remake their images? Why is not George H.W. Bush as angry as Carter at a lost second term? Does not George W. Bush feel the media demonized him over Iraq as much as they did Clinton during Monicagate? Apparently, they refuse to admit that the country is center-right and both do not understand that they were elected despite rather than because of that fact.

III. The People’s Yacht

What is it with John Kerry? He is now pontificating again and once more furious with us, the idiots in his royal presence — “It’s absurd. We’ve lost our minds. We’re in a period of Know-Nothingism in the country, where truth and science and facts don’t weigh in. It’s all short-order, lowest common denominator, cheap-seat politics.”

Has he simply channeled the president’s earlier anger at our unscientific minds? But the yokels’ skepticism that man-made global warming was still controversial was born out by revelations of forged and inexact research, and human embryos proved not the only pathway to conduct stem-cell research, and Keynesian massive borrowing has little record of creating permanent wealth and employment.

This follows the more recent, “We have an electorate that doesn’t always pay that much attention to what’s going on, so people are influenced by a simple slogan rather than the facts or the truth or what’s happening.” (Translation = like in 2004, the sick voters are once again stupidly rejecting their medicine.)

Both outbursts remind us of the 2004 blurt-out about George Bush, “I can’t believe I’m losing to this idiot.” That was itself a prelude to the later 2006 put-down, “You know, education, if you make the most of it, you study hard, you do your homework and you make an effort to be smart, you can do well. If you don’t, you get stuck in Iraq.” (Translation = George Bush really did not, really, really did not have higher SAT scores than I did, and I have no idea that education levels in the US military exceed those of the general population.)

(P.S. The Tea Party would answer that its members at least know that it is not smart to buy a $7 million sailing yacht in the midst of a recession while trying to avoid $500,000 in assorted property and excise taxes, while advocating higher taxes on the upper-middle class.)

Kerryism — like Obama’s recent lamentations and expansions on his “clingers” speech — is simply a reflection of the angst of modern elite liberalism, and shared by everyone from Barack Obama to Al Gore. Its tenets are familiar: a) an anointed technocratic class, without much first-hand knowledge of the lives of its constituencies, is the self-appointed protector of the federally subsidized underclass against the ravages of the demonic private-sector robber classes; b) requisite knowledge to oversee us is adjudicated by certificates from Ivy League schools and soaring rhetorical tropes, never by a record of creating capital or jobs; to the degree one can make a clever argument, the economy is supposed to rebound, jobs follow, and peace spreads abroad; c) to the degree one demonizes the supposedly unthinking middle class, its lifestyle, its culture, and its worldview, the more one can enjoy without guilt the aristocratic good life — think of the penance that allows Al Gore’s jetting or mansions, John Edwards’s big house, or the Kerry playthings.

In other words, the thinking is “I care for “them,” even when they don’t fathom it. So my yacht provides necessary downtime for me to recharge before reentering the fray to fight for more redistributive largess for those who know not what I do.

IV. What’s the Matter with California?

Many have written to me along the following lines, “How can a bankrupt state like California vote for two figures like Jerry Brown and Barbara Boxer so closely associated, fairly or not, with the ideology of massive government, higher taxes, unionized public employees, and hostility to private enterprise?”

Well, they have not won yet, and we never quite know what fickle Californians will do in the privacy of the voting booth. Yet why not? Lots of people like the present redistributive state, and want even more from government, not less. They are not worried that roughly 3,000 plus are leaving California each week, most of them higher income earners, or that we are creating third-generation families dependent on the dole, or that the highest paid teachers in the United States either cannot prevent, or are in some cases connected to, the fact that Californian youth earn among the lowest reading and math scores on standardized tests in the nation, or that almost half of the nation’s 11-14 million illegal aliens are (wisely) in California.

California may still have 1 billion recoverable, but untapped, barrels of oil, over a half-million acres of productive farmland taken out of production to help the three-inch delta smelt, and a great deal of natural mineral wealth and timber, but we deem ourselves wealthy enough not to need any of that, so smart are our professors, politicians, journalists, and community organizers in figuring out ways to redistribute the ill-gotten gains of agriculture, Silicon Valley, the Napa wine industry, and what manufacturing is left in California. The state has assumed that 101, 99, and I-5 will never be modern three-lane freeways in their entireties, and that our schools cannot turn out literate students, and that our government bureaus, from the DMV to emergency rooms, are Dantesque. It reminds of Greece. When I visited and lived there over the last 30 years, everyone shrugged that in theory the system could not go on, but the new EU would save it, and so enjoy it while it lasted. Californians suspect you cannot shut down industry and drive out wealth, but our EU salvation is the US government.

V. Why Are The Yanks So Crazy?

Why would Europe, and France especially, be so hurt about Obama’s freefall? A series of articles has expressed shock that the American voter after just 21 months is sobering up and turning on their prince. How could they? Hmmm, let us count the ways.

Start with the model of Europe itself — as in we do not wish to end up broke like Greece, or shut down with rioting employees as we see in France. We see in Europe tax-cheating refined to an art form, as the VAT has created an entire black market in “pay in cash and we give you 20% off” sales.

We really do have primaries; our candidates are not pre-selected by party hacks or conniving parliamentarians, so a Sharron Angle or Rand Paul can appear out of nowhere, not relegated to the waiting line of party dignitaries to connive for a turn after twenty years of loyal service.

We are, it is true, in some sense a rejection of Europe’s class system that predetermines one’s slot in life, inasmuch as status is predicated there, even in a socialist state, on birth, parentage, accent, family tribal connections, and education — not mostly on money that is a far more fluid way of bestowing influence and rank.

We have no real tradition of the impoverished baron in his crumbling estate strutting on the parapets of society; we do see nobodies appear out of nowhere with millions in self-generated cash, who want to turn that capital into exposure, influence, and political and social status. I prefer the latter, as do most Americans.

So it is no wonder that we are quickly tiring of Obama’s European experiment, and no wonder Europeans are shocked that we are. They should be hurt; Tuesday’s election should be a loud, “please do not turn us into those folks” message. Expect after the election even more European outrage stories about Tea Party “zealots,” “racists,” and “fanatics” who questioned our first and only chance to embrace the European socialist/technocratic model.

Vote on Tuesday with a passion as if you have never voted before.

©2010 Victor Davis Hanson

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