A number of conservative bloggers have been having fun taking down a very self-important piece by Mark Lilla in the New York Review of Books. Basically, this very smart writer is the latest intellectual to badmouth the Tea Parties, letting his ideology prevent him from understanding what’s really going on.
His piece (which I couldn’t finish because I was certain I had read this before on multiple occasions at least since Ronald Reagan’s landslide reelection in 1984) basically repeats a lot of liberal clichés about conservatism and shows an incredible contempt for his ideological adversaries. Not only does he repeat some of the common misrepresentations of the conservative movement, but he also misrepresents the past, trotting out the standard leftist lie line about the selfish 1980s:
A new strain of populism is metastasizing before our eyes, nourished by the same libertarian impulses that have unsettled American society for half a century now. Anarchistic like the Sixties, selfish like the Eighties, contradicting neither, it is estranged, aimless, and as juvenile as our new century. It appeals to petulant individuals convinced that they can do everything themselves if they are only left alone, and that others are conspiring to keep them from doing just that. This is the one threat that will bring Americans into the streets.
So, selfish were the 1980s that charitable giving rose as our tax burden went down, with the American people demonstrating a generosity that has very much defined our history and which conservative politicians like Lincoln and Reagan so greatly appreciated.
If I had time, I might join my fellow right-of-center bloggers in taking on the clichés Lilla dresses up as an intelligent argument. Let me first note this — in the portions of the article I read (and the remainder that I skimmed) I could discover no evidence he had taken any time to talk to a single Tea Party protester to ask why he (or she) took to the streets.
Then, there’s this: I discovered Lilla’s article on Memeorandum not far below a series of links to posts on the nearly $1 Trillion European Union rescue package which would, to quote the New York Times on the matter, “to combat the debt crisis that has engulfed Europe and threatened markets around the world.”
And I wondered this: is Mr. Lilla aware of the burgeoning debt of nations which have adopted policies similar to those Mr. Obama and the Democrats propose? Is he aware of Tea Party protesters concern about our nation’s growing det? (Numerous signs at our protests address this very concern–more so than make an issue of the president’s race. Many, many, many more.) To be sure, he completed his piece well before Utah Republicans ousted three-term Senator Bob Bennett at their state convention this weekend, but was he aware that this conservative legislator had long since fallen into disfavor with party activists and Tea Party protesters because of his vote for the TARP bailout?
In short, is he aware of the very real problem of growing government indebtedness and the Tea Party protesters’ concern about that very burden?
The problem of growing government debt has long been in the news. Heck, Obama even made an issue of it in his campaign. And yet, very smart people like Mr. Lilla can’t make the link between this problem and our protests.
(I did a page search for “debt” and “deficit” on Mr. Lilla’s article and came up empty-handed.)