In a superficial display of his deep intellectualism, George Will makes a philosophical and screamingly conspicuous point--which isn't deep at all--that I've been making for years. But one of two things then definitely happens: either Will doesn't completely comprehend the point he's making, thus he can't finish it; or Will comprehends the point he's making all too well, and thus he won't finish it.
Here's the point, as Will states it:
When did peculiarly named progressives decide they must hunker down in a defensive crouch to fend off an unfamiliar future?... In their baleful resistance to any policy not "as we know it," progressives resemble a crotchety 19th-century vicar in a remote English village banging his cane on the floor to express irritation about rumors of a newfangled, noisy and smoky something called a railroad.
This is Will's way of ridiculing liberals' ferocious protection of civilized safety nets and assorted social securities. "[P]rogressives [define] progress," says Will (I still call them "liberals," but that's a whole separate issue), "as preventing changes even to rickety, half-century-old programs."
Let's put aside for the moment Will's typical oversimplification of the premise so as to gussy it down as just plain silly (liberals, you see, "define progress" as stagnation, oh those preposterous people). Rather, let's look at what Will is really saying here:
Liberals, as America's crotchety 19th-century vicars, are hellbent on defending the socially traditional institutions of, chiefly, Medicare and Social Security; American liberals, that is, are today's American conservatives, at least in the Burkean sense of conservatism.
And there you have it, conservative George Will's principled assault on American liberalism: it is, essentially, too damn conservative.
I find it vastly improbable that this inexorable conclusion sprang not from the self-preening synapses of Will's rigidly logical mind. It's hard, very hard, to conjure the mental image of a "crotchety 19th-century vicar" while successfully suppressing the blurted word, "conservative."
So Will did what Will always does in the face of an inconvenient point: He scurried away in the dark underbrush of a merely half-made truth.