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Liberals vs. Conservatives in Defeat

Some liberal commentators assure us they mean “no disrespect.” Others don’t even bother. They tell us Americans are confused or crazy, racist or irrational. Maybe all of these. The left punditocracy is in full meltdown, irate at the voters and annoyed at Obama. The contrast to the aftermath of the 2008 election is instructive.

After the across-the-board defeats in 2008, conservative pundits didn’t rail at the voters. You didn’t see the right blogosphere go after the voters as irrational (How could they elect someone so unqualified? They’ve gone bonkers!) with the venom that the left now displays. Instead, there was a healthy debate — what was wrong with the Republican Party and with the conservative movement more generally? We had a somewhat artificial debate between traditionalists and reformers. If anything, the anger was directly (unfairly, in my mind) against George W. Bush (whose tax cuts even many Democrats now want to extend, and whose strategy in Iraq allowed Obama to withdrawal troops in victory), and to the hapless McCain campaign (which spent the final days of the campaign ragging on its VP nominee).

This is yet another confirmation that the right and left look at America — and Americans — quite differently. The leftists view their countrymen as in dire need of supervision — by elites like them, of course. Americans are not competent to make decisions on their own, and left to their own devices,  will run amok. Wall Streeters are greedy, New Yorkers are xenophobes, and the rest of us are Bible- and gun-huggers. And here we go again — acting out and acting up. Obama, the poor dear, just can’t talk sense to us.

When things go wrong for the left, it blames the people; when things go wrong for the right, it blames the governing elites. It is not in the nature of conservatives to demean and attack fellow citizens. To the contrary, conservatives’ vision is grounded in the belief that Americans are competent, decent, and hardworking, and it is the heavy hand of government that threatens to squelch American virtues.

As a practical matter, this enables conservatives to deal more constructively with political adversity. After the mandatory circular firing squad, they generally get down to the business of rethinking and remodeling their agenda and looking for better leaders. (And occasionally, they get lucky with a Carter or Obama to open the door for a conservative resurgence). It’s neither appropriate nor productive to blame the voters. The left had better get out of its funk quickly, or the 2012 temper tantrum will make today’s bellyaching look mild.



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