August 2, 2011
by Ronald Radosh
Now that the Senate has passed the rise in the debt ceiling, and the liberals and left wing are yelling about betrayal and capitulation of the Obama administration to the Tea Party, why are so many Tea Party representatives and conservative talk show hosts so unhappy?
Driving back home from DC today, I listened to both Glenn Beck and some of Rush Limbaugh, and caught Beck's interview with Senator Rand Paul as well. Essentially, the theme of the day was that the final agreement would put the nation into further debt, erode the strength of the dollar, eventually lead to increased taxes, and, all in all, produce a debacle greater than that which would have happened had our nation gone into actual default.
From the perspective of the Tea Party hardcore, it seems, any agreement or compromise such as that finalized at the 11th hour is nothing but a betrayal of principle and, as Beck kept saying, "playing the game" instead of standing firm and proud.
If that is the case, why is the Left united in its scathing denunciation of the president for totally capitulating to the Tea Party, and why is it dreading a decade long conservative ascendance in American politics? As Stephen Moore points out in today's Wall Street Journal:
CNN called the package "a real victory for the tea party," and that is what has left-wing groups irate. The AFL-CIO and other pro-spending groups had insisted that tax hikes on oil companies and wealthy individuals be part of any compromise. The final deal has no tax increases, though it would allow for new revenues through tax reform.
Columnist Joe Nocera, writing in today's New York Times, a bellwether for leftist opinion, calls the Tea Party members the equivalent of "terrorists," who "have waged jihad on the American people." Jihad? Is he kidding? To raise legitimate questions about the quagmire our nation is falling into by spending more than it has is evidently something that cannot be allowed. If only everyone read only his paper and they had the power to close down Fox News, then Nocera would be happy. But in his eyes, those who tell the truth about the fragile nature of our economy are the ones who want to destroy the nation and, as he writes, had the goal of destroying our nation's credit and saw "their goal, ... [as] worth blowing up the country for, if that's what it took."
Of course, Nocera and his op-ed colleague Paul Krugman continually sing the same song: the problem is unemployment, which can only be cured by more, not less, government spending. In their eyes, the problem was not the failed stimulus, but only that the stimulus was too small and the country would have been saved had it been much, much larger.
What really bothers Nocera and others, as Rich Lowry writes, is: "That a Washington with a Democratic Senate and president has to go through the exercise of at least appearing to cut $2.1 trillion from the deficit with no guaranteed tax increases is a humiliating reversal for Keynes's self-appointed heirs." Hence, the pronouncement of the liberal Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois, who noted that the agreement is "the final interment of John Maynard Keynes."
Yes, the entitlement state has not come to an end. The special committee the deal created could eventually recommend increased taxes. But to any sane observer, American politics and the culture have moved more in a conservative direction, and the committee could also explore where further cuts in spending can be made. So Lowry concludes that "the nation's debate has fundamentally shifted onto the ground of what kinds of spending to cut, and how fast and far. Keynes would be appalled, but as even Dick Durbin realizes, he's dead and gone."
That is why the Left is so angry, despite any limitations some in the Tea Party point to. Look at the rather hysterical rant of the left-wing columnist Michael Tomasky. He admits that his early belief after Obama's 2008 victory that America would now move left has been dashed. Indeed, he writes, the opposite has happened: "It now seems plausible that Obama is ushering in a conservative era.... [by] simply handing the Republicans the keys to the house and saying, 'Take what you want.'"
Tomasky cries about the curtailment of discretionary spending and looming entitlement cuts; he argues that the economy will not rebound because there will be less government spending (that Keynesianism again) and that worse, if Obama is re-elected he will have to increase the debt limit again and again.
Like Nocera, Tomasky too uses the analogy of terrorists and hostage-takers. Evidently, they got together in a new secret journ-o-list and agreed upon these talking points. He writes that "once you give in to hostage-takers' demands, you embolden them to try for more next time."
So I return to my original question. Why are the supporters of Rand Paul and some in the Tea Party so upset? They will undoubtedly respond that they did not get the country back on a sound footing, they did not get all that they wanted, and the current deal has flaws. True enough. But American politics is the art of the possible, and in that political battle, conservatives won and liberals and the left lost.
Now if only everyone would get together and pick a Republican candidate who could actually win against Barack Obama. Liberals fear he is finished and is too much of a weakened president. He might be, but without a strong contender who can unite all those dissatisfied with Obama and, in particular, appeal to the young, educated new generation of Republican voters and college graduates, his defeat is not a sure thing. I fear that in his scathing alphabetical count of every area in which Obama has failed, WSJ columnist Bret Stephens is right in his last observation. He writes:
Z is for zero, which is the likelihood that one of the current GOP hopefuls will defeat Mr. Obama in 2012.
It's our job to prove Stephens wrong.
Ronald Radosh is an adjunct fellow at the Hudson Institute; Prof. Emeritus of History at the City University of New York, and the author of many books, including "The Rosenberg File;" "Divided They Fell: The Demise of the Democratic Party, 1964-1996," and most recently, "Commies: A Journey Through the Old Left, the New Left and the Leftover Left."
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