Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The Democratic Party I grew up with

I feel sorry for whoever owns the company that makes those “Dissent is Patriotic” bumper stickers. Their stock price must be in the toilet by now.

I have thought for years that the bombing of the Oklahoma City federal building was the best thing that ever happened to Bill Clinton during his administration, and probably the best thing to happen to the Democratic Party in decades. Overnight, the rising hostility to the government was all but emasculated as the Democrats and their media lackeys gleefully painted anyone who seriously criticized them as the murderous spiritual kin of Timothy McVeigh. Any meaningful dissent was proclaimed to be automatically illegitimate; anyone who objected to federal power now had blood on their hands. It was the greatest propaganda coup the government could have asked for. I always found liberal complaints during the Bush years about how hateful, vitriolic, and intolerant conservatives were to be incredibly hypocritical; it's as if the Y2K bug deleted their memories of the 20th Century.

Watching the response to the news of the murders of abortionist George Tiller and Holocaust Museum guard Stephen Johns, the most striking thing was the barely-disguised triumph on display. Given how hard Barack Obama’s partisans have worked to portray anyone who opposes the Chosen One as a racist, a lunatic, or some sort of cryptofascist, this is a godsend and they're playing it for all it's worth. Now there are bloodthirsty right-wing terrorists hiding under every bed, and anyone who has ever had the temerity to criticize the government while a Democrat was in the White House is potentially one of them.

It doesn’t help that so many liberals seem to be brought to near-hysteria by the sight of actual opposition even at the best of times. The media coverage and commentary when the “Tea Party” movement at the forefront of the news was a case in point: the suggestions that it was somehow fascistic or antidemocratic to have a gathering to protest the new president’s policies, the accusations of racism on the basis of absolutely nothing except the conviction that anyone perverse enough to oppose Obama must be racist, and the utter confusion when presented with idea that economic freedom or being able to keep what you earned actually matter to some people.

It was especially striking when contrasted to the kid gloves with which the fashionable lefty thugs at anti-globalization protests are handled when they decide to start smashing up some local buildings and cars. Given the attitude shown towards peaceful protests at the Tea Parties, I can only imagine the utter pants-wetting terror that would have ensued if the tea partiers had started vandalizing buildings, throwing rocks and debris, or brawling with police. The media would be dutifully shrieking in hysteria before the first shard of shattered glass hit the ground. And all that was before there were any actual bloody shirts to wave.

Much as the conservative reputation for supporting economic freedom is badly overblown, liberal support for civil liberties and things is usually pretty superficial, a few honorable exceptions aside, as is their supposed concern for separation of powers. Rather like conservatives, they will often talk a good game about the freedoms they claim to support when out of power and then change directions when they get control.

Many liberals spent the last 8 years acting as if George W. Bush was a uniquely wicked figure whose policies just sprang fully-formed into being like Athena. But the developments of the past 8 years were not an aberration or a change in direction, they were a continuation of past trends with a firm basis in past precedents from both parties, many of them established by our most honored past statesmen. If Bush achieved greater heights of oppression, power-grabbing, and usurpation than previous presidents, it was by standing on the shoulders of giants. Many of Bush’s most condemned practices, such as torture and his refusal to acknowledge the constitutional limits of his office and the separation of powers, are just the natural evolution of the Bill Clinton administration. Bush’s principal innovation was to have the United States government torture people in-house rather than outsourcing the job to friendly regimes in Third World hellholes.

So, there is no reason to expect any serious support of civil liberties from the Democrats, especially if there are more violent incidents tied to opponents of the current administration. I expect the idea of outlawing "hate speech," as most Western democracies do, to move from the leftist semi-fringe to a more mainstream position. (Which is especially worrying when you consider how promiscuously the word "hate" is used by many liberals when describing opposition.) Erosion of privacy, security from search and seizure, and due process will continue; I’ve been saying for years that Bush’s homeland security machinery would end up being used against domestic right-wingers, and I’m even more confident of that now.

Obama has all the accumulated powers built up by George W. Bush, a domestic law enforcement establishment that grows more militarized with each passing day, and much stronger support among the opinion-shaping class and institutions than Bush could have ever dreamed of. Things could get ugly.

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Anonymous said...

I'm confused by your analogy between the Tea Party protests and the anti-globalization protests.

Surely you're aware that the anti-globalization protesters are scarcely treated with "kid gloves", but rather with tear-gas and billyclubs? Perhaps you were unaware that violence at such events is regularly initiated by police -- sometimes with the (documented) use of agents-provocateurs? It is apparently no longer rare for protesters to *restrain* phony protesters (police infiltrators) from "attacking" police in order to precipitate a massacre.

In contrast, the establishment reaction to Tea Party protests has not been to infiltrate them, start fights, and blame the protesters; it has been to rail against them in the popular press. To insult and degrade them, to call them nasty names like "racist" -- not to do violence against them, or to incite riots to be blamed upon them. In short, not to violate their rights.

Perhaps the lesson that lovers of freedom should take from this discrepancy is that the statist wielders of billyclubs and tear-gas do not feel threatened by the Tea Party ...

John Markley said...


I used the term "kid gloves" in reference to the treatment of anti-globalization protesters by the media. I think that was quite obvious from the context, given that the term appears in the middle of several paragraphs entirely about political rhetoric and media portrayals, and that I explicitly said, when I was using the term, that I was drawing a contrast to the way Tea Partiers were treated by the media.