The Year in Ridiculous

puffyshirt

“But I look ridiculous!”

The unbound progressive id unleashed on the country this year was truly something to behold. No faction of the identity politics left went without aggressive advocacy and not a small number of the population was subjected to the inchoate and nauseating “agitation” that characterizes the activist method. From the false “war on women” to the cynical highjacking of a burgeoning cross-partisan police reform movement by race-baiters (and then subsequently by police unions) to the bald-faced lie repeated by every progressive that the child migrant surge at the Texas border was due to anything other than direct incentives created by Obama’s Deferred Adjudication of Child Arrivals (DACA) executive action to the execrable and absurd on its face notion that the president finished the year strong and in fact the the year was actually a success for him and for liberalism.

Unreal.

It is also tempting to declare that because there is only so much ridiculousness and farce a respectable society will accept, and that eventually lies and propaganda are exposed as such by the cold nature of reality, the progressive strain of leftwing politics is nearing its sell-by date. Just glance at some of the thoughtful midterm election postmortems by some left pundits and marvel at their nearly unanimous conclusion that the party’s decision to go all-in on divisive cultural issues at the expense of an employment focused campaign targeted at the working class is responsible for the Democrats’ lowest representation in Congress and across statehouses and state legislatures in about a century. This is no small observation. This is a blanket repudiation by people on their side of the Democratic Party’s cynical identity politics platform. Whether we’re talking about blacks, Hispanics, gays, or women, the politics of victimhood and grievance have worn increasingly thin. Throw climate change into the mix as well because it is the identity politics issue for coastal white liberals and it is something to which all right-thinking millennials give as much thought as the New Testament Gospels. The point of being a hip progressive is not to know the truth but to possess the right opinions. Far better to tow the climate change line on pure faith than be deemed a “denier.”

Why is it more important for the left to hold the correct stances on issues rather than the truth? Jonah Goldberg offers this explanation:

If you work from the dogmatic assumption that liberalism is morally infallible and that liberals are, by definition, pitted against sinister and — more importantly — powerful forces, then it’s easy to explain away what seem like double standards. Any lapse, error, or transgression by conservatives is evidence of their real nature, while similar lapses, errors, and transgressions by liberals are trivial when balanced against the fact that their hearts are in the right place.

Good intentions are more important than objective reality. In normal times this would be an outrageously controversial claim, but these are not normal times. While many feminists with a conscience have done noble and searching work in the wake of the Rolling Stone campus rape story debacle, still many others are digging in and insisting that it matters not that the story accusing a UVA fraternity of systematic and brutal gang rape is a fabrication, what matters is the narrative and the important spotlight being shined on the “epidemic” of campus sexual assault. Then, almost like mana from Heaven, the Justice Department released updated statistics on criminal sexual assault, which committed the public service of dumping ice cold water all over the favored falsehood of the president and feminists that “one in five” women will be sexually assaulted in their time on campus (the stat is closer to 6 out of 1,000, which is still too high, but nowhere near an epidemic or a crisis and certainly not one in five. That a segment of the radical left still insist on their narrative even after ideologically sympathetic outlets have suggested that this has all gone too far is pretty strong evidence that their agenda trumps the truth. If feminists are actually interested in rooting out rape cultures, they should look to Syria or, closer to home, Rotherham, England.

Though I am at odds with the majority of conservatives on the issue of immigration, I am not a full “open-borders” libertarian either. As a Texan, I tend to think the model here works pretty well, far better at any rate than my other home state of California, which has a vast and bloated public employee system over which uncontrolled immigration holds a Sword of Damocles. In Texas, where we eschew the public employee model as much as we can, Hispanics are much more likely to vote Republican than their counterparts on the West Coast. This past November, Governor-elect Greg Abbott got 44% of the Hispanic vote and Senator John Cornyn was re-elected with 49%. Whatever else can be said about the farce that is Battleground Texas, the idea that their modus operandi is to “turn Texas blue” is surely in the running for most ridiculous conceit of the year, especially in light of those Texas Hispanic voting trends. Meanwhile, California public debt and pension obligations are on a one-way ride to fiscal calamity and the people who are going to bear the worst of that reckoning are the poor and immigrant populations.

The border surge of child migrants from three countries in Central America was among the more ridiculous scenes of American politics in my lifetime. The actual line parroted by the left – extensively – was that this was all due to rising tides of violence in the region. As if Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador had never experienced cartel or gang violence before. No, what happened was obvious to anyone with a shred of decency or honesty: Obama issued the DACA order in the Spring which allowed child arrivals from non-contiguous countries (i.e. everywhere but Mexico) to avoid deportation. Leave aside for now this blatant instance of legislating from the executive branch and just connect the dots. Obama issued an order, either indirectly or directly got the word out in Central America that any children able to make it into the United States interior would be granted a “permiso,” which in turn would mean their parents would be subject to legal immigration at a later date. The sheer volume of children sent on that crazy sojourn through Mexico to the Rio Grande means the message was received. The incentive duly laid by the American government, rational people in want of a better life understandably jumped at the chance and sent their kids packing, even if it meant putting them in extreme danger by handing them over to the “coyotes” who were ably gaming the new system. The backlash by the right was too harsh, or at least not on point enough, because it focused more on the tangible reality of poor migrant children here illegally rather than the ungodly level of cynicism, deception and outright fraud perpetuated by the White House, Democrats and media nationwide.

The border surge was by design, yet we were loudly and assuredly told otherwise by the media chorus who understood it was their job to distort and confuse the issue until it went away, like all Obama scandals eventually do. Great tomes on the subject of stonewalling are still to be written about this administration and his enablers.

The piece de resistance of progressive ridiculousness is the national conversation on race. Rarely has such a broad coalition of left-right interests coalesced behind as seminal a reform effort as criminal justice and over-incarceration. Not just libertarians but conservatives, from Rick Perry to Chris Christie to governors across the South, are embracing initiatives like “Right on Crime” that aim to reduce prison populations and that carry the additional and (for some) counter-intuitive benefit of continued decline in crime rates. Had the left not been so wedded to its alternative reality narrative of America as an irredeemably racist society and instead been sober about picking its battles, it’s likely we never would have heard of Ferguson and would have instead concentrated on Eric Garner, Tamir Rice and other instances where police misconduct was far more concrete. Real consensus and coming together would have been possible, though far from assured, had the conversation remained on police conduct and the need for reform exclusively. New York’s Benjamin Wallce-Wells places his finger on it:

But something strange has happened during the past month, both in the politics of New York and those of the country. In the debates over policing that followed the tragedies of Michael Brown and Eric Garner and Tamir Rice and officers Ramos and Liu, race has assumed the central role, displacing crime. This has brought about a more direct confrontation with our remaining national sickness around race, but it has also surfaced an atavistic, tribal strain in our politics, reminiscent of the racialized fights of an earlier era. It is probably no accident that some of the central figures of New York’s recent past returned to the public stage last week, and that their view diverged from de Blasio’s. Instead of a reasonable, technocratic decision to adjust policies of policing and punishment to a place where there is much less crime, they saw the debate as a declaration of allegiances — of whose side you were on.

Of Mr. Wallace-Wells, I have just one question: who made this about race?

Based on the grand jury evidence aired to the public, one can say with 99% certainty that Michael Brown did not have his hands up and did not say “don’t shoot.” That does not make what happened any less of a tragedy, or any less of a reason to talk about the need for police reform, such as the need for body cameras which would have saved the country a whole lot of grief since this case would have been clear one way or the other. But somehow, within hours of the incident, the “hands up, don’t shoot” meme emerged in the streets of Ferguson and since that train left the station… it has barely slowed. While there is no reason to excuse the agitators for stoking ire and running with false narratives, the blame and the ridiculousness of it all lies with enablers in media and progressive politics. There are simply too many progressives in East Coast media willing to ignore facts and context so long as the existing narrative serves their interests, and it most definitely does serve the left’s interests to see America permanently mired in 1960’s racial strife, because nothing sustains power like a good grievance.

The corrosive effects on family and dignity imposed on poor inner city black and impoverished rural white alike are among the proudest achievements of the institutional left. Their policies trap the impoverished in their station, leaving them with little recourse but to look to government, while simultaneously feeding grievance and laying the blame at the feet of “the man.” What continues to escape them in this reasoning is the indisputable reality that in today’s America the left is the man. “Despite controlling the commanding heights of the culture — journalism, Hollywood, the arts, academia, and vast swaths of the corporate America they denounce — liberals have convinced themselves they are pitted against deeply entrenched powerful forces and that being a liberal is somehow brave,” says Goldberg. “Obama, the twice-elected president of the United States, to this day speaks as if he’s some kind of underdog.”

Progressives would bristle at the charge but it is no less true. They are ever so proud of the welfare state they erected, not because it works, but because they built it, and conservatives don’t like it. Liberals are responsible for any well-intentioned program gone bad because theirs is the philosophy that holds good intentions above truth in the heirarchy of virtues. Theirs is the vision of government that insists all social problems be adjudicated from on high. The vice grip that the left has on our culture is so tight that any objections are considered blasphemous rather than just wrong. Don’t believe me? Argue with a lefty about biological distinctions between sex and gender. Actually, for your own sake, don’t do that.

Why then, is the left allowed to avoid accountability for their failures? Going back to Goldberg, it is because their hearts are pure, and ours are not.

Peaceful, law-abiding tea-party groups who cleaned up after their protests — and got legal permits for them — were signs of nascent fascism lurking in the American soul. Violent, anarchic, and illegal protests by Occupy Wall Street a few years ago or, more recently, in Ferguson, Mo., were proof that a new idealistic generation was renewing its commitment to idealism.

When rich conservatives give money to Republicans, it is a sign that the whole system has been corrupted by fat cats. When it is revealed that liberal billionaires and left-wing super PACs outspent conservative groups in 2014: crickets.

When Republicans invoke God or religious faith as an inspiration for their political views, it’s threatening and creepy. When Democrats do it, it’s a sign they believe in social justice.

When it comes to progressives my sentiment is the same as Nick Frost’s frustration with Simon Pegg in the excellent The World’s End: “it’s pointless arguing with you.” Nowhere is that more on display than in the media’s attempt to put some kind of sheen on Obama’s 2014. All that they are left with is the spectacle of an unhinged president acting outside his constitutionally delegated authority to impose on the country his idea of what America should be. And most ridiculous of all is the fact that Obama genuinely believes he had a good year. He would look less ridiculous in the puffy pirate shirt.

Dictator for a Day

Today is the day! Executive Order day!

This is an amazing moment in American politics, not just because the President of the United States is poised to become Thomas Friedman’s benevolent dictator for a day, but because of what it says about the progressive left.

Via MacGruber, er, Jonathan Gruber, we have stone-cold confirmation that Obamacare was sold through a year long campaign of comprehensive deception from top to bottom, involving everyone in the Democratic orbit from the White House to Congressional leaders to media sycophants. At every turn conservatives, libertarians and anyone else inclined to balk at naked expansions of federal power were shouted down and mocked by the progressive amen chorus led by the likes of Ezra Klein and Jonathan Cohn. And Gruber was used in virtually all of the left’s petulant, smarter-than-thou harangues against opponents of the bill as unimpeachable evidence that “independent, unbiased” voices had confirmed that the magic being promised in the ACA was in fact real.

And these revelations come on the heels of one of the more historic re-balancing acts of political power the country has ever seen. No president has presided over such a demolition of his party’s fortunes as has Obama. 59 Senators down to 45. 270 House Dems down to barely 180. But the real story is in the states, where the GOP now dominates in state legislatures and governorships, and for a very simple reason: voters in all states are wary of the public sector model that delivers nothing but high taxes and higher costs of living and are thus making sure that, at the state level at least, the progressives are as far from power as possible.

All of this, and the Borg hive mind that defines the left comes up with “Obama should act like a king.”

It’s amazing, but not surprising if you know where the hard left is coming from, which is from a place where the ends forever justify the means, so long as those ends involve increasing the presence of the federal government in more and more Americans’ lives. It is the will to power and nothing else. All the gauzy platitudes you hear are simply just different forms of #Grubering. “Social justice,” “fairness,” “equal pay,” “clean environment,” “jobs”…. the left don’t believe in any of it. They believe in power and growing the bureaucracy, the instrument through which they project their power.

And so we arrive at today’s immigration executive order. My contempt for this action has little to do with the substance or with immigration overall. The issue is with the process, and the president’s and his cheerleaders’ utter disregard for constitutional propriety. Obama will not be invoking “prosecutorial discretion” today when he announces his order, but rather a pronounced end-run around the will of the legislature; said legislature having made its voice heard by expressly NOT passing the Senate version of the immigration bill that we hear so much about.

This idea that because one body of Congress has passed something while the other has not, yet because the President wishes it were passed then the onus is on the chamber standing against the measure to change its mind and pass whatever the other party wants, or else…. is really the stupidest argument I can imagine concerning the machinations of how our government is supposed to work. But it’s the principal argument being used as a cudgel by everyone on the left, and it’s a shameful disgrace to witness such wanton disregard for process and the rule of law. As Charles Cooke put it so eloquently:

The great virtue of the rule of law is that it separates means and ends, thereby preventing individuals from appealing only to the outcome of a given action and ignoring entirely how it was achieved. In the United States, it is simply not enough for a reformer to cry “it was a nice thing to do”; he also has to demonstrate that what he did was both legal and that it was in keeping with the essential tenets of ordered liberty. That way, the people can reasonably expect to predict what the state will do at any given point, and are accorded a certain recourse if it declines to follow the rules. Whatever progressives might think, “good” and “kind” and “necessary” are not self-evident, but sit firmly in the eye of the beholder. Ensuring that we have broad agreement as to which actions comport with those values and which do not is why we have a system in the first instance. We do not judge virtue on the basis of what the ostensibly virtuous can get away with.

The modern left, to borrow from The Federalist’s Ben Domenech, are now the Eric Cartman Democrats.

I do what I want!

I would add to Domenech’s penetrating insight my own pop culture analog for the American left: Cersei Lannister. Her bemused “is this meant to be your shield?” scoff at Ned Stark’s royal parchment carrying the King’s own decree is exactly in line with the Democratic Party’s opinion of the Constitution. Both are mere pieces of paper that mean nothing compared to their own ambition. Cersei shreds the document without an ounce of regret, just as progressives have shredded the Constitution in their century-long odyssey to remake a self-governing republic into a stagnant and tired welfare state.

The Progressive Agenda: 2014

Not since Toto pulled on the curtain has one been so exposed. If the dramatic reveal of the wizard as a fraud and a liar shocked the audience, President Obama’s unmasking in 2013 only served to confirm its suspicions. For anyone paying attention, Obama has always been a dishonest broker, someone who cynically marginalizes and defames his opposition while countenancing no accountability of his own. But for a majority of Americans Obama was a noble if flawed man whose great ideas were subject to continual and unprecedented “obstruction” from his “enemies.” The rollout of Obamacare shattered the president’s reputation as honest and trustworthy and shredded what credibility Democrats had left. Amid the euphoria of government shutdown fallout redounding negatively for Republicans, progressives believed the “fever” of their opposition would break and the public would be eager to put liberals back in charge of the House of Representatives after seeing such extremism undertaken by conservatives. What actually transpired was the stuff of progressive nightmares rather than the wet dream of unopposed politics they promised themselves. The entire progressive agenda was suddenly in jeopardy, all due to Obamacare’s inconvenient flair for highlighting government incompetence. But where sane and sober-minded people would use this moment of intense adversity as an opportunity to take stock and reevaluate their agenda and look for fixes where their policy went off the rails, progressives are seemingly stuck in a perpetual Gene Wilder-Richard Pryor movie where deafness and blindness are the only possible explanations for their agenda moving forward. If nothing else, the progressive agenda for 2014 amounts to that kind of comedy.

So let’s dive in to the morass and swim in the muck and dredge up some more mixed metaphors to convey how gross and icky the progressive agenda really is.

Before we outline what it actually will consist of, let’s establish what the progressive agenda would look like if Democrats were to control the government as they did in ’09-’10 with no pertinent legislative opposition. Obviously there would be a spate of tax increases on the wealthy as the first order of business, followed immediately by a laundry list of new regulations to be enforced by a phalanx of newly hired bureaucrats. Domestic energy production would finally meet its maker and become the stuff of legend and nostalgia. A stimulus at least double the size of the first would undoubtedly be spent on bullet trains and public union pensions while card check and compulsory union membership gain momentum after a federal law or ruling or edict explained that government’s hostility towards employers was really just about “fairness.” And entrepreneurs should be content to outsource their HR to Washington and better not complain of anything so quaint as a loss of autonomy or agency. The government knows better than the employer how to manage the personnel of the employer’s enterprise, naturally. Universal preschool, blanket amnesty for illegal immigrants, comprehensive student-loan forgiveness, aggressive expansion of transfer payment programs and social obsessions like gay marriage, abortion rights and the comprehensive banning of things people enjoy are items on the progressive wish-list that have no chance of materializing without an iron-clad Democratic grip on the Congress.

Since Democrats are not going to regain the House of Representatives next November, and in fact quite likely are going to lose the Senate, the reality for the progressive agenda in ’14 is not encouraging. Having heretofore shown exactly zero interest in working with or even trying to understand its opposition, progressives are clearly not inclined to begin constructive dialogue with conservatives now. Were they to harbor genuine intellectual curiosity instead of demonizing their opponents, progressives would discover that we don’t in fact wish to wage a war on women or consign the poor to starve in the streets. Compromises that served the national interest rather than the short-term sustenance of our ruling elites could actually emerge. This would only be possible if the political party most enamored with demagoguery and cynicism morphed into one that cherished tolerance; not just of physical attributes in people, but of ideas and ideology as well.

Thus the agenda does not include anything resembling an olive branch to Republicans because how could the progressives champion a policy that has any buy-in from conservatives? The right is the enemy and so the powerful tribal sensation one gets from knowing and identifying the enemy is enough to keep millions of deluded Americans in the progressive herd. Progressivism is essentially a cause; against injustice and unfairness. Every cause needs a villain, and to progressive eyes there just so happens to be a perfect nominee perpetually auditioning for the role.

Sometimes the villain succumbs to the righteous outrage. Here are three agenda items I expect the progressives to agitate and whine about this year, as they hope to shame Republicans into action using cheap appeals to emotionalism.

Immigration

Both sides of the debate largely disgust me on this issue, as the right too often traffics in apparent xenophobia while the left doesn’t even try to conceal that their true intention is to legalize large swaths of future Democratic voters. As a libertarian I subscribe to the freedom of movement concept, in which humans are free to live their lives according to their own dictates, location among them. As a Texan I subscribe to the realist line that the border cannot be fenced or walled, nor should it be, practically or morally. The border from Tijuana to Laredo is nearly two thousand miles of rough desert and river terrain; not exactly talking about Jerusalem or Berlin here where walls have succeeded in partitioning societies and elevating misery and contempt for those on the wrong side as a result. A fence is just not practical, and any conservative who clamors for one is either ignorant to the details or overtly hostile to Latino immigration. This is not to say that “open borders” is the answer either, utopian and perfect as they would be in theory. We should embrace a lenient and welcoming immigration policy that commits itself anew to the rule of law. The driver of conservative immigration anxiety is the current progressive inclination to view the law the way a card shark views a slot machine: as a quaint relic that only rubes concern themselves with. In the wake of Obamacare, the likelihood of another multi-thousand page piece of legislation that no one understands getting through Congress is identical to my chances of marrying Natalie Portman. When a majority of the country believes the president and his party are dishonest actors and are still simmering hot over being lied to about their medical circumstance, there is no way they are going to enlist the same incompetent government to manage a gargantuan immigration overhaul, because they just won’t trust the government to obey whatever the law says.

Minimum Wage

The minimum wage movement is bubbling up once again among progressives who think Elizabeth Warren is awesome and believe Bill DeBlasio is magically going to turn New York into an egalitarian fairy tale. Rags from Slate to The New Republic to Salon have all recently jumped on the bandwagon with pieces claiming that the minimum wage increase is “good economics.” How does one escape this Bizarro World in which people are allowed to state such lies without repercussions? There is simply no good economic reason for the minimum wage to exist, let alone increase. An increase in the cost of labor necessarily means an increase in prices or a decrease in labor, unless the employer is a progressive altruist who abhors profit and enjoys losing money. The cacophony that will ring from coast to coast about the minimum wage in 2014 is probably a precursor to the even more hilarious progressive fantasy desire of a federal living wage for all. You know, the one where the government just gives every American a check? The logical endpoint of every slapdash progressive economic scheme is just more redistribution. Forced egalitarianism, also known as totalitarian socialism. The proggies will get back to their native ideological foundation eventually; just give them time.

Climate Change

If progressives think they have an ace card to play in 2014, it will likely come from their climate change fear-mongering deck on issues like fracking and the Keystone XL pipeline. Following the same playbook used to gin up angst about inequality, progressives will deploy apocalyptic language flanked by a hodgepodge of unintelligible and misleading data in order to confuse and distort the issue to the point that it feels morally bankrupt to stand opposed. Hammering dystopic visions of melted ice caps and smoldering hellscapes into the collective subconscious of the population is bound to raise the urgency of climate change in the mind of the average voter. And to the unwashed ranks who remain stubbornly unconvinced that a massive warming of our planet is even occurring, let alone merits an alarm call for radical global economic makeover, the cult of climate belittles us and points haughtily at their sacred “consensus.” Science is supposed to be about inherent skepticism and prolific experimentation; consensus is what matters to a group of friends debating where to have lunch. That “95% of scientists agree…” on anything as mysterious, unpredictable and unknowable as the Earth’s historic climate patterns is enough to pronounce their consensus wrong. Because there simply cannot be consensus on this issue, at least not without political and monetary motivations. At this point I think it quite uncontroversial to assert that with the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the crumbling of Communism as a viable governing ideology, it is no coincidence that we see the rise of environmentalism so soon on the heels of the collapse of communism. For all the pomp and celebration by free marketers at the end of the Soviet Union (Francis Fukuyama wrote The End of History in ’89 – a bit prematurely – to aggrandize the triumph of capitalism and liberty the world over) the allure of collectivism did not die. Instead it found a new home in the burgeoning environmental movement. And almost every initiative of the greens and the radical environmentalists consists of moving the planet incrementally toward global governance on emissions, regulations and taxation, a communist aim if ever there was one.

Fortunately, the green movement remains rather impotent. Bill McKibben draws headlines for silly stunts like chaining himself to the White House fence to protest Keystone, green groups are disconcertingly influential within the EU and UN, and Al Gore is still somehow respected. But overall the movement is listless and creatively challenged: if protesting a pipeline and the hydraulic fracturing of natural gas (both of which are cleaner technologies than coal and more efficient than renewables) are the best the environmental movement can come up with, I’m afraid they’re dooming themselves to a constant state of pissing into the wind.

Still, they’ll bring all their righteous anger and sentimental nonsense to the fore in 2014. I don’t think it will matter though, as climate change is the least likely of all progressive projects to move out of Congress this year. Republicans could ostensibly get browbeaten into some kind of motion on immigration and minimum wage, but not on climate. My money is on none of the above seeing any legislative action this year, but you can set your watch to the fact that the progressives will surely try.