Monday, October 22, 2012

The Left's New History

Whenever I'm in the mood for some unhinged liberal ravings by an unhinged liberal writer, my first stop is always Salon. I rarely need to go anywhere else. That's not to say everyone there is unhinged or even those that do rant are always unhinged. As a group, the Salon writers are not stupid people. They really aren't. And yet, they always manage to make me smile, via some sort of less-than-clever (they think they're clever) manipulation of reality to make a less-than-valid political argument. For instance, I noted an hilarious piece by Joan Walsh some time ago, wherein she argued that any criticism of--indeed, any mention of--government entitlement programs by a Republican is naked racism, plain and simple.

That piece points to something larger, however: the creation of a different sort of political history for the recent past in order to justify questionable conclusions (like any mention of welfare by a Republican is racism). In this case the New History, as it were, is the argument that there is not a growing dependent class, that the expansion of government entitlements has not led to any such thing. In Joan Walsh's--and the much of the progressive left's--world, there somehow hasn't been any expansion or growth of entitlement-type programs: no new ones, no increases to current ones. Thus, there just can't be an increase of some sort of government dependence.

And what is critical in this New History is the absence of hard evidence, despite such evidence being readily available. Instead, the false narrative is just taken as a truism from the get-go, no evidence needed because it's just simple truth, stuff that's common knowledge, things everyone knows. Truth via repetition, repetition of things that never happened. For instance, we need only look at welfare spending across time (held constant in 2008 dollars) to see the falsity of this particular bit of New History:


The other graphs at Heritage provide additional--and incontestable--evidence on the growth of the welfare state, and therefore on the dependent underclass. Yet, the New History says this never happened, that Republicans and conservatives are spewing nonsense.

Orwellian stuff, to be sure. But what's truly fascinating is the job of the Ministry of Truth has been taken by elements of the media. People like Walsh at Salon are manufacturing the new history on their own; they're so blinded by ideology that they don't even need to be told to do it, they just do it. In return, they just like to be treated as special, as a part of the elite by those in power on the Left.

And today, Steve Kornacki at Salon continues the program by repeating another strand of the new history, that the Right has offered nothing since Obama took office, that their entire game has been to obstruct, to disagree, with everything Obama does and says:
The result is that Republicans devoted themselves not to constructively criticizing Democratic proposals, crafting feasible alternatives, and accepting olive branches from the administration but instead to cranking up the hysteria and treating virtually every Obama initiative as a step toward socialism. They matched this with legislative obstruction, tying up scores of nominations, forcing a record number of filibusters, and forcing Democrats to pass their agenda on party-line votes.
That's been boiler-plate stuff for years now, when it comes to the Left. As such, Kornacki barely bothers with any sort of supporting evidence, linking only to an article about the growth of filibusters. But as I've explained previously, the growth of filibuster use is less about party and more about other things, like the expansion of government entitlement spending (oddly enough) and the number of bills proposed in Congress.

Kornacki continues the weaving of this New History by offering the obvious corollary, that things were different when Bush was in the White House:
There’s a school of thought that Democrats will always be open to entreaties from a Republican president, for the simple reason that they believe in an active and robust government. So, for instance, George W. Bush found Democratic support – sometimes significant Democratic support – during his first term, even though Democrats were still furious over how he’d won the presidency.
Once again, there is minimal evidence. In this case, Kornacki links to a book to show the "significant Democrat support" for Bush, not to anything specific. Why? Because the specifics betray the truth. Yes, there was legislation championed by Bush that received Democrat support, like the NCLB Act and the Medicare Prescription Drug Act, both from Bush's first term, and both representing increased domestic spending, both representing expansions of the Federal Government. And that's because Bush--domestically speaking--was not much of a conservative. So, Bush got Democrat support for programs that advanced a progressive agenda, a point hammered home by the breakdown of support for the Bailout Bill.

Kornacki supposes Republicans have engaged in obstructionism from the get-go under Obama, that they have never been willing to "reach across the aisle" as it were, but that's because there has never been an honest attempt on the part of the Administration to advance any element of a conservative agenda, when it comes to the economy and domestic spending. Kornacki pointedly ignores the elephant in the room: the Stimulus Act, the first big piece of legislation by the President, cobbled together in secret, forced through Congress and then signed into law before anyone had a chance to even read what was in it.

Obama set the stage right there: he came out of the gate by making it clear that he would do as he pleased, essentially daring the Right to stand in is his way. So stand in his way they did, most notably via the Tea Party and the 2010 Mid-Terms.

In this part of the New History, the recent past is refashioned, the behavior of the Left during Bush's second term is ignored, Bush is held up as a model of conservatism, and the Left in populated by open-minded folks, more than happy to consider a different point of view. Just as with the supposed non-growth of a dependent class, actual evidence of what really happened can be cherry-picked or presented incorrectly, but more often than not it is simply ignored. The New History is written in the moment to serve a current political agenda, ala the work of poor Winston Smith.

Cheers, all.

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