The Rebirth of Liberalism

You can count on William Kristol for a good laugh.

Since Ronald Reagan’s election in 1980, conservatives of various sorts, and conservatisms of various stripes, have generally been in the ascendancy. And a good thing, too! Conservatives have been right more often than not — and more often than liberals — about most of the important issues of the day: about Communism and jihadism, crime and welfare, education and the family. Conservative policies have on the whole worked — insofar as any set of policies can be said to “work” in the real world. Conservatives of the Reagan-Bush-Gingrich-Bush years have a fair amount to be proud of.

Translation: The ideas of Reagan-Bush-Gingrich-Bush conservatives don’t work in the real world, but that doesn’t mean they weren’t completely successful by the standards of Reagan-Bush-Gingrich-Bush conservatives, because their standards don’t have anything to do with the real world, either.

Some say the best part of Kristol’s column is the very end:

This is William Kristol’s last column.

But I say, damn. The New York Times has canceled its best comedy sitcom.

Kristol goes on to say,

What we have so far, mainly, is an Inaugural Address, and it suggests that he may have learned more from Reagan than he has sometimes let on. Obama’s speech was unabashedly pro-American and implicitly conservative.

Obama appealed to the authority of “our forebears,” “our founding documents,” even — political correctness alert! — “our founding fathers.” He emphasized that “we will not apologize for our way of life nor will we waver in its defense.” He spoke almost not at all about rights (he had one mention of “the rights of man,” paired with “the rule of law” in the context of a discussion of the Constitution). He called for “a new era of responsibility.”

In some ways the speech was conservative, because truth be told, in the U.S. liberalism is “conservative” by most dictionary definitions of the word “conservative.” Contemporary conservatism, on the other hand, is radical and reactionary. But of course Kristol implies that conservatism owns the patent on patriotism, not to mention virtues like “responsibility” and the “rule of law,” even though conservatism in the real world stands for blowing off responsibility and the rule of law. The key to understanding the rightie brain is to appreciate that the real world doesn’t count for anything with them.

Kristol gets one thing right:

Liberalism’s fate rests to an astonishing degree on his shoulders. If he governs successfully, we’re in a new political era. If not, the country will be open to new conservative alternatives.

Michael Tomasky says pretty much the same thing at The Guardian. In a nutshell, if Obama’s more progressive programs do work in the real world, “Obama will make us a liberal country again.”

We’re not a nation of amateur political philosophers debating Locke down at the bowling alley. What we are is a practical people, and after the wreckage left by Bush, the above seems practical. And if it works, Obama will make us a liberal country again, in which a mostly forgotten tradition of shared sacrifice for the common good will be reasserted.

In other words, if Obama succeeds we can look forward to at least a couple of decades in which the Right’s “every man for himself, and me first” ethos will be replaced with a sense that we’re all in this together.

Of course, in our most progressive moment of the past we were not really all in this together. Racial minorities were shut out, and women were kept in second-class status. The really audacious thing an Obama era promises is that, finally, we might really be what we have always said we wanted to be — a nation in which all of us are created equal.

The Right gained ascendancy mostly by stoking resentments and dividing us into a multitude of warring factions that could be manipulated for maximum political advantage. Their “shining city on a hill” is a cruel, greedy, vindictive place. Can we look forward to being compassionate, generous and supportive of each other? Imagine.

14 thoughts on “The Rebirth of Liberalism

  1. I have heard some talking heads on the right mix in some kindness for Obama (and that he is more like Reagan than Clinton) with their outright hate. They are just hedging their bets. That way if somehow the economy turns around under Obama and we don’t get attacked again, they can say he was only successful because….. This is typical of a party that has been left out in the cold, with nothing left to offer and nothing left to lose. And apparently nothing left to write for the NYT’s, hahaha.

  2. Pingback: Kristol gets the boot from the New York Times | Political Byline

  3. When Kristol says, “Conservative policies have on the whole worked”, what he means is:

    Conservative policies have succeeded in their goal of the destruction of the middle class, the destruction of manufacturing in America, the reduction of numbers of the unionized workforce, the enrichment of the obscenely wealthy, the impoverishment of the vast majority of Americans, reducing personal freedom for citizens, socializing financial losses, creating a fascist police state, spying on civilians solely to increase profits for the prison industry, starting wars just for the enrichment of war profiteers, and much, much more.

    See, it all depends on understanding the language of conservatives, War on Earth, Hatred for all Mankind.

  4. I guess it came crystal clear to the NY Times that, after a year of giving him valuable space, Bill Kistol brought nothing to the table. His writing was pedestrian, at best. His subject matter vanilla, topped by anti-liberal rants and support for right-wing nuts. And the only thing he was ever right about in his life, as far as i can determine, was about health-care in 1993 when he said conservatives couldn’t let the Democrat’s succeed with a middle-class program that worked. It would prevent Rethug’s from being elected for years.
    Say what you will about George Will, while I disagree with him 99.9% of the time, at least the man can write an engaging sentence.

    Kristol, like Bush, is now irrelevant.

  5. joanr16,
    Why, he’s retiring to the planet Uranus. It’s the planet conservatives get all of their idea’s from. We always asked them, “Where’d you pull that idea out of, your ….? Now, it’s their official conservative planet.
    The planet has unicorns and ponies all over. Where there are rivers and oceans of chocolate – the milk kind, not that bitter black stuff. Where Cuban cigars grow on trees and it rains single-malt scotch.
    Where there are only white people; and the women do whatever the men say.

  6. he’s retiring to the planet Uranus

    Returning home, I take it!

    Kristol and Sarah P will hunt those unicorns and ponies from helicopters. Sarah can field-dress a unicorn in under 3 minutes. I don’t have the stomach to ask what they do with the horn.

  7. We laughed too soon, Gulag!

    I just heard he’s moving to the Washington Post.

    Man, we had such excellent retirement plans for him!

  8. Kristol is heading over to The Washington Post apparently. Hiatt I suppose hasn’t gotten the word that the Republicanism of the last 30 years has been a complete failure at the national level.

    Ack! Joanr16 just beat me to it!!

  9. joanr16,
    No surprise there – Wingnutg Welfare comes to the rescue!!!

    But wait, isn’t Hiatt one of the 25 most Liberal bloggers, or Liberal something-or-others, or whatever the f’ing nonsense that was spouted last week?
    Jeez, I guess that Liberal Hiatt felt the Wa Po was weighed way to far to the left, so he added that neo-con, intellellectual dingleberry Kristol to provide balance.

    Jesus, I swear, sometime about 30 years ago, I either went down a rabbit hole, or stepped throught a mirror…
    I feel like that kid on the Twilight Zone episode who disappears in her own room and is crying out for her parent’s to get her out before the dimensional hole she stepped through closes behind her forever.
    “Barack… Barack!!! Save us! SAVE ME!!!”

  10. HufPost thinks Krystol was let go by the Times because he is not far enough to the right. Go figure.

  11. Ah, Billy, you’ll be missed. Ha! Just joking. We’ll still have The Cabbage to regularly spew nonsensical drivel from the right, and he’s ever so much more amusing.

    Still, only a true champ like Kristol, in the midst of what will be this century’s touchstone for record-breaking economic disaster, in the midst of a pointless and incredibly expensive war, and following the campaign of Sarah Palin, could write a line like “Conservatives of the Reagan-Bush-Gingrich-Bush years have a fair amount to be proud of.” For publication, no less! That’s an outstanding talent. (Out standing in a field, as it were.)

    For some reason I’m reminded of the joke about the young boy who happily jumps up and down when he is given a room full of manure for his birthday: “There must be a pony in here somewhere!!”

    See ya, Bill. Don’t let the door hit ya, etc.

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