In "Obamacare's Threat to Liberalism," the New Republic's Franklin Foer is largely and inexplicably oblivious to the overriding factor in late 20th- and early 21st-century American politics, which is Republicanism's grinding negativity and nihilism.
As I read Foer's piece, which is an elegy for the electorate's loss of faith in liberalism's aspirations and thus in government itself, I kept anticipating some introduction of the undeniable thesis that Republicans have for 40 years played the merry midwives of that public loss. Yet these two passages were as close as Foer got:
Vietnam and Watergate hardly reflected well on Washington, stagflation seemed the product of incompetent economic management, and the rising racial resentments of the white working class created an ungenerous mood.
Fortunately for the New Deal, Twitter didn’t broadcast every farmer’s sad encounter with the Agriculture Adjustment Act. But the culture of modern Washington, with its hyperventilating media and legislative saboteurs, takes pornographic pleasure in magnifying failures—which in turn erodes the public’s willingness to give liberalism another shot.
Note the disembodied nature of the mobilizers of white resentment and of the distasteful culture of Washington and its hyperventilating media and legislative saboteurs. Do we not know who they are? Are they not to be named? Is there some reason we should be so delicate as to mention these impersonal factors while leaving the personalities behind them unidentified, unstressed, unresponsible?
Was it liberals who introduced the modern machinery of think-tank propaganda into American politics? Was it liberals who debuted an entire television "news" network as a brazenly partisan arm of one party?--or who took to the wireless and pounded the opposition daily with all manner of Limbaughesque slander?--or who persuaded huge chunks of the white population that food stamps were an ethnic phenomenon?--or that their government, in one form or another, is out to get them? That, in brief, government's unnecessary, government is suspect, indeed government is always the problem?
The American electorate has been so unremittingly and sufficiently brainwashed as to the evil of government and the free markets' splendor that it takes very little trouble in any fresh liberal program--hence we come back to Foer's title subject, Obamacare--for the public to suffer a collapse in confidence.
But it's essential for commentators to remember, and to constantly remind others, just which is more responsible--the brainwashing or the programmatic troubles themselves--for the public's searing unease about its own government. Foer neglected that essential journalistic duty.