Commentary Magazine


Note to Dems: Please Take E.J. Dionne’s Advice

E.J. Dionne Jr. is upset and confused. In a column citing an abysmal (for Democrats) NPR poll, E.J. writes that

the numbers in the NPR survey are so bad that Democrats might pause before becoming lemmings. There is something preposterous about how the administration and congressional Democrats have lost every major public argument that they should be winning.

He then lists some of them: the stimulus bill, the health-care bill, and the deficit. Dionne can’t understand how “Republicans who have little to say about how to solve the nation’s major problems are dominating the country’s underlying philosophical narrative.” After all, the problems plaguing America are because government has not been intrusive and active enough. Yet somehow, some way, “the GOP is managing to sell the idea that the big issue in this election should be — government spending.”

To the modern liberal mind, this is utterly incomprehensible.

But there really isn’t a mystery to all this. The public has now lived under the rule of the Democrats for 17 months. Voters have seen their philosophy up close and personal. They have seen the indiscipline, the profligacy, the misleading claims, the weakness abroad, and failure piling up upon failure. And they are utterly rejecting it, for a perfectly good reason: contemporary (as opposed to classical) liberalism is a deeply flawed philosophy that extracts a high human cost.

Yet this fact creates cognitive dissonance among some liberals. They ignore inconvenient facts and human experience. Their ideology is by definition right. So what liberals and Democrats need to do is to double down, to push for more government and higher spending. They need to take their terribly unpopular message and confidently repeat their talking points two dozen times a day instead of only a dozen times a day. That’ll work.

Dionne ends his column by writing this:

Professor Obama and his allies ought to be ashamed of this. The cure for malaise, defined as “a sensation of exhaustion or inadequate energy to accomplish usual activities,” is to have a self-confident sense of purpose, and to act boldly in its pursuit.

To which I would say two things: first, for the sake of conservatism and the GOP, I hope — nay, I pray — that Democrats follow E.J.’s advice. It would turn what looks to be a terrible election for Democrats into an epically bad one. And second, Professor Obama and his allies do have a lot to be ashamed of. But not doing more to push their pernicious agenda isn’t one of them.