Monday, November 24, 2008

The Secret Theory of Progressivism?

The most interesting, and frankly heartening, political development lately is Barack Obama's tilt to "pragmatism" following the election, which is actually secret code (entirely for political consumption) for "I'm abandoning all the ideologically left-wing policies I championed during the Democratic primaries for immediate political expedience."

This turn, of course, has sent the radical netroots hordes into fits of apoplexy. From Jane Hamsher to Markos Moulitsas to Andrew Sullivan, the smear merchants of the left are pledging "
accountability," no matter which party controls the White House.

Famous last words.

If you parse the discourse emerging this week, there's a tremendous effort on the left to smack down any conservative rationalism in discussing effective policy options going forward, especially on the economy. This whole pushback over the Roosevelt administration's response to the Great Depression is a quick eye-opener, for example. This morning,
Steve Benen declared, after praising Paul Krugman's statements that FDR bungled the New Deal economic recovery program, AND that America's massive WWII industrial mobilization effort was an "enormous public works project," that the New Deal "was too conservative."

Keep in mind that with the exception of Lyndon Johnson, the Roosevelt administration saw the most substantial expansion of the interventionist state in American history. From erecting a massive regulatory structure in banking and finance, to creating the largest public corporations in U.S. history, to establishing enormous public works projects as the economic employer of last resort, to creating the Social Security/public assistance welfare state that is today bankrupting the country, it takes a lot of chutzpah to argue that Roosevelt was TOO CONSERVATIVE!

I mean, really ... the left today is classically postmodern, if not Orwellian in its ideological contortions: Up is down, right is left, and extreme liberal is conservative. It practically takes a Ph.D. from Stanford to figure it all out (like
Victor Davis Hanson).

But just take a look at this new leftist conspiracy meme of the "
secret theory of progressivism" that's driving folks crazy:

Clearly, theories about Obama's secret progressivism are alive and well. These theories strikes [sic] a serious blow to the notion that progressives occupy the "reality based community." Many progressives are seriously arguing that Obama's centrist campaign rhetoric and centrist advisors are part of a larger, secret, and fundamentally deceitful plan to institute a progressive agenda and provide it political cover.

One wonders what will become of the "Obmaa [sic] is a secret progressive" theories if and when Obama begins to implement center-right policy. Some of these conspiracy theorists will probably switch camps and start agitating for Obama to become more progressive. However, given the surprising staying power of these theories over the last year, it is also a safe bet that some progressives will argue that center-right administration and legislation are also part of a larger, secret plan to promote progressivism.
That's Chris Bowers at Open Left. He appears rational here, but he's one of the biggest theorists of netroots progressivism on the web, so I take his essay as something of a plausibility probe, in the hopes that "The One" hasn't fully sold the nihilist netroots down the river of winner-take-all electoral viability and post-election triangulation.

Addendum: To be fair, I too think Obama's assembling a centrist administration to provide cover for
the inevitable left-wing surge of policy proposals that we'll see next year. As I argued previously, the Democrats have been frustrated with divided party government since the Lyndon Johnson administration. With few restraints in Congress come January, all Obama has do is yell "jump!" and Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid will be yammering "how high"?

Bowers can just relax: It's not a conspiracy in the works. It's called a transition to power, and once all the building blocks are in place, we'll get our new "New Deal," especially if markets continue the once-in-a-lifetime shakeout we've witnessed this last couple of months.

14 comments:

Grace Explosion said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Donald Douglas said...

Thanks Grace!

The Griper said...

my question would be, if they really are the party of the people as they claim why is there a need for secrets plans?

Norm said...

What's so hard to understand. FDR was always too conservative to a Stalinist. Nothing has changed.

I think just about now Obama would
agree with Ron Paul if it would assure him that the Democrats would
do well in the 2010 midterms.

At this moment, I don't believe Obama has the luxury of being an ideologue. We will see if things change.

Donald Douglas said...

Griper: Lefties are afraid of really coming right out and saying that they want neo-socialism.

Donald Douglas said...

"FDR was always too conservative to a Stalinist."

You're singing my song, Norm!

Tapline said...

dd they are a party of the people. The ones they try to keep down....down....down...We'll give them everything so we can control them.....stay well.....

Critical Thinker said...

Great post Professor,

Since most of the Obamitrons are reading FDR, it should come as no surprise that we will be living in a Keynesian driven economy. A reduction in interest rates and government investment in infrastructure, and deficit spending during economic downturn. For the most part, the ground work has already been laid for them.

Looking at his economic policies, I highly doubt the President-elect will govern from the center-right. He is showing drastic leanings towards the post WW II European model.

Donald Douglas said...

Thanks Tapper!

Donald Douglas said...

"He is showing drastic leanings towards the post WW II European model."

Well said, CT.

Jason_Pappas said...

Obama had the luxury of allowing his rhetoric to be vague enough so that everyone saw what they wanted to see. He’s still doing it. He talks about a plan to make a plan! He picks a goal (jobs) and says he’ll get a team to come up with a plan. He has no plan or principles … or he is still hiding them as if he was campaigning.

Come springtime, he’ll have to implement concrete policies. Some of his supporters aren’t going to be happy. My guess is that his hunger for power will trump his leftist dispositions and he’ll jettison the far left. A few will make a stink but the vast majority will circle the wagons for fear of a Republican comeback in the mid-term election.

But I could be wrong and what you fear may come about: massive socialism rammed through Congress.

David M said...

The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the - Web Reconnaissance for 11/25/2008 A short recon of what’s out there that might draw your attention, updated throughout the day...so check back often.

Anonymous said...

"Addendum: To be fair, I too think Obama's assembling a centrist administration to provide cover for the inevitable left-wing surge of policy proposals that we'll see next year."

Yup, nothing like a conspiracy theory to get people going, especially a conspiracy theory about what's going to happen in the future. I'm sure you'll be the first to admit you were wrong when the left-wing surge doesn't happen. But that's the beauty of being a conservative in this country: you're wrong so often that people lose track of what you say so it just disappears.

Damozel said...

I'm a "smear merchant of the left"?

News to me. It's true that by the grace of God I am not a neocon, not a warmonger, not an imperialist, not an advocate of torture, and--in short--not an admirer of the currently fading regime of right-eousness.

Of course, if you take Andrew Sullivan for a liberal, I guess any moderate Dem is going to look way radical.

And any blogger who takes Obama (!!) for a Marxist is too absurd and/or oblivious of the meaning of words to take seriously as opposition.

Ah well.

In truth, I am not left enough for the true progressives (whom I rather admire) nor right enough to qualify as a moderate with the wingnuts of the right, whom I most definitely do not.

Even so, I find I can sleep nights.

xx