Ross Douthat's smugness has entered the clinical stage:
Four years ago, the Obama presidency was hailed as the beginning of an extended liberal renaissance....
There is no world in which [this] could have been perfectly realized. But the ways in which they’ve been disappointed have delivered some hard lessons. It isn’t just that Obama failed to live up to the (frankly impossible) standard set by his 2008 campaign, and the media adoration that accompanied it. It’s that the nature of his failures speak to the limits of the liberal project, and the tensions and contradictions within the liberal coalition.
Yes of course there were internal tensions and contradictions. They're Democrats. Disputes erupted from the inside, as Douthat is all too happy to note, on immigration and cap and trade.
But he goes on from there--chronic worries about the deficit, for instance. Yes, there were and there are deficit worries; but the deficit hysteria that prevented additional Keynesian efforts was the exclusive creation of the folks who brought us these ungovernable deficits in the first place. This, Douthat neglects.
He then farther twists and smugly insults some more:
[T]here was the failure of [the] stimulus bill to deliver anything like the kind of rebound that Obama’s technocrats confidently projected. This failure isn’t necessarily an indictment of the theory behind Keynesian economics. But at the very least it exposes two limitations on Keynesianism in practice: The difficulties that even experts can have assessing the true state of the economy, and the ways in which the push and pull of democratic politics makes it difficult to simply keep throwing money at a problem.
First, Obama's "technocrats"--others call them economists, but "technocrat" is so pleasingly sinister sounding, isn't it?--projected from computer models based on unknowingly outdated, flawed data. Subsequent, more accurate data, Mr. Douthat, bespoke a vastly greater catastrophe that your party had inflicted upon us. Can't argue with you there, and that is, after all, your argument. Other economists suspected this greater catastrophe and, accordingly, urged a greater stimulus. But, naturally, your party woud have none of it, so effective recommendations were pared for recklessly political, not intelligently "technocratic," reasons. Anyway, the stimulus bill then performed as the model projected, thus confirming--not blurring--the uncanny precision of theoretical Keynesian economics. And Mr.Douthat, Keynesian economics is a trifle more complicated than your cynical, sarcastic assessment of one that "simply keep[s] throwing money at a problem."
I'll skip over yet more of Douthat's revisionist history and go straight to the kicker:
Again, every administration has its share of disappointments, and every ideology has to make concessions to political reality. But what we don’t see in this campaign cycle is much soul-searching from Democrats about the ways in which their agenda hasn’t worked out as planned.
Instead, in a country facing a continued unemployment crisis and a looming deficit crunch, liberals have rallied behind a White House whose only real jobs program is "stay the course" and whose plan to deal with long-term deficits relies on the woefully insufficient promise to tax the 1 percent.
This lack of a plausible vision, more than his stutters and missed opportunities, is what doomed the president in last week’s debate.
Douthat's analysis is indescribably sadistic. To the extent that Democrats have experienced notably pressing failures, virtually all the blame, without having to search any souls, can be laid directly at your party's feet, Mr. Douthat. The GOP has premeditatedly acted as vicious saboteurs of a better tomorrow. Should you ever acknowledge that thunderingly conspicuous fact of political and socioeconomic life, then perhaps some credibility can be restored to your soul.
Further, Obama has of late deliberately restrained bold visions through positive government only because of electoral exigencies. True, with hindsight's benefit, we know he should have counter-acted your party's unconscionable lies and anti-government hysteria earlier. At the time, he didn't know how susceptible to unvarnished GOP bullshit the swing vote would be. He knows now; he's known it since 2010. And he's had to cope with it, as delicately as possible, because the slightest bit of visionary boldness could push this precarious nation straight into the predatory arms of yet another colossally inept Republican president--a prospect which you, Mr. Douthat, so thoughtlessly and persistently embrace.