Reading Jonah Blumstein’s first blog entry, I found myself forcibly repulsed by how valuable the piece is. Or, at least, how valuable as a reflection of the liberal psyche – an odd place which resembles in many ways a 24-hour supermarket clogged with asbestos. That is, it’s always open, but anything that enters it inevitably decomposes in an untimely fashion. It would take too long to refute the numerous fallacies, appeals to emotion, and ahistorical notions that pepper the piece, but a few quick comments are necessary, if only to show what one ought to take away from the Obama administration’s current behavior.
As Blumstein notes in one of his few moments of lucidity, Obama’s policies lack principle, guiding vision or even clarity. “Hope”, “change” and other abstractions are the themes of the Obama campaign, and needless to say, these abstractions provide little, if any, guide to what the world will look like post-Obama. Roosevelt was much the same way, which is why Blumstein’s central thesis is slightly correct. However, unfortunately for him, the implications are not nearly so encouraging. As even the infamously strident progressive economist Paul Krugman notes, “What saved the economy, and the New Deal, was the enormous public works project known as World War II, which finally provided a fiscal stimulus adequate to the economy’s needs.”
Now, in the absence of a Hitler or a Hirohito, the Roosevelt administration would in all likelihood be judged a failure. Two UCLA Economists, namely Harold Cole and Lee Ohanian, have uncovered evidence proving that FDR’s policies prolonged the depression by seven years. Yes, Virginia, contrary to your high school civics class, Dr. New Deal didn’t succeed until he put on a new hat as Dr. Win-the-War. Too bad for Blumstein, and too bad for America that we’ve elected someone with so reminiscent a style.
But the historical question of FDR’s legacy is hardly the most objectionable area Blumstein gets wrong – in fact, there is a much more important element which needs to be addressed and refuted, so that it can join Gorbachev on the ash heap of history. That is the completely slanderous attitude Blumstein displays toward principled politics. To take one particularly distressing example, Blumstein writes “Theory should be left to the political scientists and historians, while politicians, particularly presidents, should try to act upon their well informed consciences.” What a coincidence, then, that he opens his piece with complaints about the “willful ignorance [and] anti-intellectualism” of my side of the aisle. Presumably our “anti-intellectualism” stems from the fact that we wanted to keep an “intellectual” (Obama) out of the White House. If, on the basis of these two sentiments, one were to put Mr. Blumstein’s sentiments into a logical syllogism, it might look something like this:
I’m sure this is not what Mr. Blumstein would want us to draw from his piece, but it is what emerges. What else did one hear from those portions of my side of the aisle which Mr. Blumstein so dislikes about the Bush administration? Did one hear anything but praises for a man who disdained intellectuals and, in the words of Stephen Colbert, “went with his gut” (read: his “well informed conscience”)? Does this injunction against “going with one’s gut” go away the instant a politician’s conscience is “defined by a liberal bent”? And how does Mr. Blumstein square this with his hostility to principle? Does he simply believ all decent people with a “conscience” are liberal? And who will disabuse him of his bigotry if he does?
Personally, I prefer to denounce Obama as precisely what Mr. Blumstein applauds him for being – an unprincipled man who wants to throw money at a problem until it sticks. I am one of the philosophical extremists Mr. Blumstein bemoans, but in the words of a politician with infinitely more guts than Senator Obama, “Extremism in the defense of Liberty is no vice, and Moderation in the pursuit of Justice is no virtue.”