November 26, 2010

WHY SABOTAGE A SINKING SHIP?:

Liberals resort to conspiracy theories to explain Obama's problems (Michael Gerson, November 26, 2010, Washington Post)

It is difficult to overstate how offensive elected Republicans find the sabotage accusation, which Obama himself has come very close to making. During the run-up to the midterm election, the president said at a town hall meeting in Racine, Wis.: "Before I was even inaugurated, there were leaders on the other side of the aisle who got together and they made the calculation that if Obama fails, then we win." Some Republican leaders naturally took this as an attack on their motives. Was the president really contending that Republican representatives want their constituents to be unemployed in order to gain a political benefit for themselves? No charge from the campaign more effectively undermined the possibility of future cooperation.

The sabotage accusation, once implicit, is now direct among panicked progressives. Part of the intention seems to be strategic - to discourage Obama from considering Clintonian ideological triangulation. No centrist concessions, the argument goes, will appease Republicans who hate the president more than they love the country. So Obama should double down on liberalism, once again.

It is very bad political advice. It also indicates a movement losing contact with political reality. When an ideology stumbles, its adherents can always turn to alcohol - or to conspiracy theories. It is easier to recover from alcohol. Conspiracy thinking is not only addictive, it is tiresome. It precludes the possibility of interesting policy debate or genuine disagreement - how can you argue with a plot?

In 1964, John Stormer, a sabotage theorist of the right, came out with the book "None Dare Call It Treason," which asked: "Is there a conspiratorial plan to destroy the United States into which foreign aid, planned inflation, distortion of treaty-making powers and disarmament all fit?" Stormer's progressive descendants are just as discrediting to the ideas they claim to serve.


It's just easier to pretend that the failure of the last two years was caused by the GOP than to accept responsibility themselves.

Posted by Orrin Judd at November 26, 2010 1:41 PM
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