Friday, June 26, 2009

It's the Liberals, Stupid

Although the shapers of public opinion do their best to make folks oblivious to the obvious, everybody knows that our political class is bought and paid for. How much better our public life would be if, as was suggested on “Car Talk,” our legislators dressed like NASCAR drivers. Then everyone would know who their corporate sponsors are. How much better still if, like in a real democracy, we had real public financing of electoral campaigns – to a degree that would eliminate incentives to stuff Congressional pockets!

It is also becoming clear, even to the willfully blind that Barack Obama’s “bipartisan” governing style, his Pelosiism, is woefully inadequate to the tasks of governance. Even Paul Krugman now outright says so.

But it’s not just the system or the scourge of “bipartisanship” that is to blame; it’s also the liberals. Yet again, they are busy doing what liberals famously do – not taking their own side in an argument. This is what leads far too many on “the left” of the mainstream to acquiesce to “bipartisan” compromises – on climate change, health care, economic recovery or whatever. There’s a formula for it: start from what Obama proposes, then compromise down. It’s unadulterated Clintonism, and it stinks.

The deeper problem, though, is that liberals are too, well, liberal. This is especially evident in constituencies Democrats take for granted. Nothing, short of real public finance, would be better medicine for our body politic than a revitalized labor movement. Yet organized labor is willing to trust the Supreme Leader as he voices support for the Employee Free Choice Act, on the rare occasions lately that he says anything it at all, and then don’t mind that it’s all talk. Worse still, it never occurs to the labor chieftains to propose anything even mildly more radical – for example, doing away with the shackles of the Taft-Hartley laws.

The gays are worst of all. True, they’ve finally shown some irritation with Obama’s retreat from his campaign promises. That forced the Great Triangulator to throw a few crumbs their way – specifically, to provide partial benefits for same-sex partners of some federal employees. I would bemoan this shabby treatment more if I could muster any enthusiasm for the “equality” they seek.

Abolish Clinton’s “don’t ask, don’t tell.” Fine, but how about adding on an anti-imperialist or even just an anti-militarist afterthought! Evidently, these liberals cannot envision an equality more profound than the guarantee of equal opportunities to maim and murder for imperialism’s sake.

Then there’s gay marriage. Sure, it is unjust to treat people differently because of their sexual orientation. But who among gay marriage advocates dares point out that marriage “as we know it,” gay and straight, is the most egregious infringement of church-state separation in our political system! If people want to marry for expressive or, God forbid, religious reasons – let them. But in a secular society, the state’s policy should be strictly hands off. Every legitimate public interest can be adequately addressed by a sufficiently robust conception of “civil union.” Let that be what states provide – for everyone equally. Civil unions for all who want them, period! Anything else, including the right to describe intimate relations in terms associated with traditional marriage, should be relegated to the private sphere.

Do our liberals know better? I think, like Obama, they do – most of them, anyway. But until their practice – and the ideas behind it – become truer to what they know, then, like Obama, they will remain part of the problem, not part of the solution.

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