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Thursday, April 27, 2006
The Democrats' Totalitarian Attitude

Dick Meyer talks about the Democrats' main problem:

My hunch is that Democrats will capture House and Senate seats but not the House or Senate. And if they do, the victory will be fleeting and they will do poorly in 2008.

That's a hunch, no more, and I admit it. But I felt it as a certainty when I read a column by The Washington Post's E.J. Dionne this week. Dionne was arguing with a fellow liberal who wrote what the Democrats need to do is destroy today's "radical individualism" and replace it with "a politics of a "common good." That's fine, Dionne said, but we need to hear "more about self-interest, rightly understood."

That phrase made me cringe. It still does.

"Self-interest, rightly understood" is a fancy-pants way of saying, "I know what is in your interest better than you do." It is, in my view, a politically stupid and morally diseased position. Democrats, by temperament, are slightly more susceptible to it than Republicans.

I do not mean to condemn Dionne for a phrase. But I will. It reminded me of something written on the very first page of a book that lots of Democrats think is absolutely brilliant, "What's the Matter with Kansas" by Thomas Frank.

In the third paragraph of his book, Frank writes: "People getting their fundamental interests wrong is what American political life is all about." That, too, is a fancy-pants way of saying: "I know what is in your interest better than you do."

Exactly. The Democrats want to make an offer the people can't refuse, but the people keep refusing it. Frank's book (which I reviewed here) basically assumes that the Democrats lost the blue collar vote when they abandoned economic populism. Never mind that economic populism doesn't work, that it leads to a stagnant economy like that of France or Germany. It's what "the people" need, and if you don't vote for it, we're going to cram it down your throats.

That impulse, in history and in personality, is elitist and, at its worst, totalitarian. It is the impulse that allows Marxists, Communists, theocrats and nationalists to curtail negative liberties and slaughter people – all in the name of their own best interests.
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