By now I’m sure almost everyone in the blogosphere has heard of, if not read the political phillipic by disgraced and ex-New York Times editor Howell Raines that was printed in Britain’s Guardian. Andrew Sullivan has commented, Dean Esmay, Dodd Harris, and of course, Glenn Reynolds. According to Technorati, there are fifty-three links to the story. Here’s number fifty-four.
I’ve not read all the links, but the few I have read have concentrated on the fact that Raines doesn’t seem to see John “Lurch” Kerry as much of a candidate. Dean Esmay’s latest post touches on the part of the piece I’m going to concentrate on here:
I particularly enjoyed these thoughts on former New York Times editor Howell Raines’ recent screen (I think he meant “screed”) in The Guardian from someone who used to work for the guy. These updates, too.
It’s all part and parcel with an elitism and a condescension I’ve mentioned many times before. It all goes like this: “We’re liberals. This means we’re broad-minded and have a tradition of being thoughtful. Thus the only explanation for people in disagreement with us on any important issue is that they are stupid, dishonest, or evil.”
I left a comment on Dean’s site this morning, but I want to expand on it here.
Hopefully if you’re one of my regular readers you’re familiar with Henry Louis Mencken, one of my favorite sources for pithy quotes. Henry wrote oh-so-many years ago,
“The government consists of a gang of men exactly like you and me. They have, taking one with another, no special talent for the business of government; they have only a talent for getting and holding office. Their principal device to that end is to search out groups who pant and pine for something they can’t get and to promise to give it to them. Nine times out of ten that promise is worth nothing. The tenth time is made good by looting A to satisfy B. In other words, government is a broker in pillage, and every election is a sort of advance auction sale of stolen goods”.
Let me concentrate on just that portion of “Howlin’ Mad’s” screed.
…which raises the question of what Kerry needs to do to win in a campaign that’s going to become the political equivalent of a street fight. I believe Kerry can do it, but I feel less sure of that now than I did in the primaries. Every time I talk to a reporter who has covered him, new doubts creep in about his ability to connect with voters.
The difference between him and Bush is that Kerry represents the liberal, charitable wing of the Privilege party and George W represents the conservative, greedy wing of the Privilege party.
Now for the hard part of the performance challenge – the economy. Two and a quarter centuries into its history as a nation, America has the most unfair tax system ever and the greatest gap ever between rich and poor. Even a real populist, however, would have trouble taking on these issues frontally. As Al From of the Democratic Leadership Council noted, Americans aren’t antagonistic toward the rules that protect the rich because they think that in the great crap-shoot of economic life in America, they might wind up rich themselves. It’s a mass delusion, of course, but one that has worked ever since Ronald Reagan got Republicans to start flaunting their wealth instead of apologising for it. Kerry has to understand that when a cure is impossible, the doctor must enter the world of the deluded.
What does this mean in terms of campaign message? It means that he must appeal to the same emotions that attract voters to Republicans – ie greed and the desire to fix the crap-shoot in their favour. That means that instead of talking about “fixing” social security, you talk about building a retirement system that makes middle-class voters believe they will be semi-rich someday. As matters now stand, Kerry has assured the DLC, “I am not a redistributionist Democrat.”
That’s actually a good start. Using that promise as disinformation, he must now figure out a creative way to become a redistributionist Democrat. As a corporation-bashing populist, I’d like to think he could do that by promising to make every person’s retirement as secure as Cheney’s investment in Halliburton. But that won’t sell with the sun-belt suburbanites. Not being a trained economist like, say, Arthur Laffer, I can’t figure out the exact legerdemain that Kerry ought to endorse. But greed will make folks vote for Democrats if it’s properly packaged, just as it now makes them vote Republican, and in terms of the kind of voters Kerry must win away from Bush, I think the pot-of-gold retirement strategy is a way to work. Forget a chicken in every pot. It’s time for a Winnebago in every driveway.
Well! The mask has obviously slipped off, being lubricated with the foam from his mouth.
Here we have the unabashed Leftist, unaware of his hypocrisy waving from his unzipped fly. As Mencken put it:
Democracy is the theory that the common man knows what he wants, and deserves to get it good and hard.
And he’d never met Raines. First, let me start at the top. Howell is concerned with Kerry’s ability to “connect with the voters,” though Kerry “represents the liberal, charitable wing of the Privilege Party.” So what is Howell’s suggestion?
After all, Howell has so much experience at it as editor of the NYT. He should be an expert in crafting an image with a hidden agenda, right?
“Two and a quarter centuries into its history as a nation, America has the most unfair tax system ever and the greatest gap ever between rich and poor.” Really? The “Most unfair tax system ever?” I’d put that back at the passage of the 16th Amendment when “soak the rich” was the battle-cry. The tax originally ranged from a mere 1% on the first $20,000 of taxable income to only 7% on incomes above $500,000.
Remember, this was 1913. Twenty-thousand dollars a year would be an income of more than $360,000 today, adjusted for inflation.
Yeah, that’s “fair.” Raines wants to go right back to it, making the “rich” pay for everything again.
And “the greatest gap ever between rich and poor”? I suppose you could stretch the point by using Bill Gates as the upper end, but surely things were far worse during the Depression – when, according to this piece:
According to a study done by the Brookings Institute, in 1929 the top 0.1% of Americans had a combined income equal to the bottom 42%. That same top 0.1% of Americans in 1929 controlled 34% of all savings, while 80% of Americans had no savings at all.
Jane Galt made an interesting point in a 2002 post:
Has the qualitative life experience of the rich really increased, while the poor stayed stagnant? Since the 50’s? 60’s? 70’s? I would argue it’s the reverse. The head of GM’s life is not, qualitatively, much better than that of the head of GM in the 50’s. The poor, on the other hand, have more space, better food, more and better clothes, color televisions, VCR’s, automobiles. . . items that were beyond the wildest dreams of the poor in the 1950’s.
Or the 1930’s for that matter. The difference between a squatter’s shack and the Biltmore.
Why this concentration on the disparity in income? Because it’s a dividing line the Left wants to use, and cannot. Why? Because:
“…Americans aren’t antagonistic toward the rules that protect the rich because they think that in the great crap-shoot of economic life in America, they might wind up rich themselves. It’s a mass delusion, of course….”
The Left wants to fire up envy in order to engineer social change, and are unsuccessful because Americans believe it is possible to get rich – an idea Howell Raines causes “mass delusion.”
Really? The two men I work for were middle-income salarymen in the late 1970’s, and in 1980 they risked everything they had to start a business.
They’re pretty damned wealthy today. They won the crap-shoot, through hard work. Raines seems to think Americans believe it will just fall out of the sky into their laps. We know better. That’s why we know that we can end up, if not rich, then pretty damned well off if we’re willing to work to achieve it. That’s the tradition of America: Come here, work hard, sacrifice and you can be rich! And compared to most other nations in the world, our middle class is fabulously wealthy.
This seems beyond the Left’s ability to grasp. They seem to believe that everyone should receive an equal portion, handed out to the proles by the Party – who, of course, are “more equal,” and thus entitled to do the handing out. Keeping the best for themselves, of course, because they’re entitled.
But they don’t have that power, and cannot seem to understand why not. As Dean said, “…the only explanation for people in disagreement with us on any important issue is that they are stupid, dishonest, or evil.” So to achieve power they will do whatever is necessary, including – but not limited to – mass deception. Kerry must use “deception” and “legerdemain” to convince the populace that he’s not a “redistributionist Democrat,” so that he can achieve office where he will be a redistributionist Democrat.
And yet they revile Bush for lying?
The Democrats are the Doctor, you see. It won’t hurt, and anyway the pain is for our own good. We have to be cured of our delusions that being affluent is good, that keeping the money we earn is right. Just hold still, the frontal lobotomy won’t take a minute.
Here’s what I said in my comment to Dean’s piece:
They speak in terms of “Secret Agendas” and “Secret Plans” because that’s how THEY think. It’s projection – “If WE do it, they MUST.” One of the problems the left, both here and in Europe had early on in the Bush administration, was an inability to grasp that he said what he meant, and meant what he said. So simplisme.
We generally understand that politicans lie to us. As Mencken said, every election is an advance auction sale of stolen goods, with nine out of ten promises made by the candidates being merely hot air. The difference is, at least in my case, I believe the Republicans generally would like to make it easier for me to pull myself up by my bootstraps and work towards creating wealth for myself. I believe the Democrats want to take whatever wealth I’m able to acquire and redistribute it. And I believe that the Democrats will lie to me
and everyone else until they’ve acquired enough power to do so.
And they cannot understand why we oppose them. We must be evil and greedy as well as stupid, but we’re not so stupid that we don’t see through them, so they have to be even more “tricksy.”
Suddenly I see Howell Raines in the role of Gollum. And the Democrat Party as Orcs.And socialism is their Sauron.