The Right Opinion

The Great Peasant Revolt of 2010

By Charles Krauthammer · Feb. 5, 2010

WASHINGTON – “I am not an ideologue,” protested President Obama at a gathering with Republican House members last week. Perhaps, but he does have a tenacious commitment to a set of political convictions.

Compare his 2010 State of the Union to his first address to Congress a year earlier. The consistency is remarkable. In 2009, after passing a $787 billion (now $862 billion) stimulus package, the largest spending bill in galactic history, he unveiled a manifesto for fundamentally restructuring the commanding heights of American society – health care, education and energy.

A year later, after stunning Democratic setbacks in Virginia, New Jersey and Massachusetts, Obama gave a stay-the-course State of the Union address (a) pledging not to walk away from health care reform, (b) seeking to turn college education increasingly into a federal entitlement, and © asking again for cap-and-trade energy legislation. Plus, of course, another stimulus package, this time renamed a “jobs bill.”

This being a democracy, don’t the Democrats see that clinging to this agenda will march them over a cliff? Don’t they understand Massachusetts?

Well, they understand it through a prism of two cherished axioms: (1) The people are stupid and (2) Republicans are bad. Result? The dim, led by the malicious, vote incorrectly.

Liberal expressions of disdain for the intelligence and emotional maturity of the electorate have been, post-Massachusetts, remarkably unguarded. New York Times columnist Charles Blow chided Obama for not understanding the necessity of speaking “in the plain words of plain folks,” because the people are “suspicious of complexity.” Counseled Blow: “The next time he gives a speech, someone should tap him on the ankle and say, ‘Mr. President, we’re down here.’”

A Time magazine blogger was even more blunt about the ankle-dwelling mob, explaining that we are “a nation of dodos” that is “too dumb to thrive.”

Obama joined the parade in the State of the Union address when, with supercilious modesty, he chided himself “for not explaining it (health care) more clearly to the American people.” The subject, he noted, was “complex.” The subject, it might also be noted, was one to which the master of complexity had devoted 29 speeches. Perhaps he did not speak slowly enough.

Then there are the emotional deficiencies of the masses. Nearly every Democratic apologist lamented the people’s anger and anxiety, a free-floating agitation that prevented them from appreciating the beneficence of the social agenda the Democrats are so determined to foist upon them.

That brings us to Part 2 of the liberal conceit: Liberals act in the public interest, while conservatives think only of power, elections, self-aggrandizement and self-interest.

It is an old liberal theme that conservative ideas, being red in tooth and claw, cannot possibly emerge from any notion of the public good. A 2002 New York Times obituary for philosopher Robert Nozick explained that the strongly libertarian implications of Nozick’s masterwork, “Anarchy, State, and Utopia,” “proved comforting to the right, which was grateful for what it embraced as philosophical justification.” The right, you see, is grateful when a bright intellectual can graft some philosophical rationalization onto its thoroughly base and self-regarding politics.

This belief in the moral hollowness of conservatism animates the current liberal mantra that Republican opposition to Obama’s social democratic agenda – which couldn’t get through even a Democratic Congress and powered major Democratic losses in New Jersey, Virginia and Massachusetts – is nothing but blind and cynical obstructionism.

By contrast, Democratic opposition to George W. Bush – from Iraq to Social Security reform – constituted dissent. And dissent, we were told at the time, including by candidate Obama, is “one of the truest expressions of patriotism.”

No more. Today, dissent from the governing orthodoxy is nihilistic malice. “They made a decision,” explained David Axelrod, “they were going to sit it out and hope that we failed, that the country failed” – a perfect expression of liberals' conviction that their aspirations are necessarily the country’s, that their idea of the public good is the public’s, that their failure is therefore the nation’s.

Then comes Massachusetts, an election Obama himself helped nationalize, to shatter this most self-congratulatory of illusions.

For liberals, the observation that “the peasants are revolting” is a pun. For conservatives, it is cause for uncharacteristic optimism. No matter how far the ideological pendulum swings in the short term, in the end the bedrock common sense of the American people will prevail.

The ankle-dwelling populace pushes back. It re-centers. It renormalizes. Even in Massachusetts.

© 2010, The Washington Post Writers Group

6 Comments

Sandra Beers said:

It's true, we're not stupid, just slow to react.We expect those elected to public office to have the best interests of our nation as their guide. We are not political mavens who follow every twist and turn of events; our lives are full of the challenges of earning a living, raising our families and, yes, following our favorite sports.When it becomes apparent that our political leaders are not looking to our best interests, but theirs, we have the power to make a change. The President is right on one thing; we really don't understand the health care reform legislation proposed by the Democrats. We haven't seen the particulars and no one in Washington seems to be able to tell us what it means.

Friday, February 5, 2010 at 9:17 AM

Alex Torello said:

An element of the political education of the public is unfettered access to unfiltered opinion on the world wide web.The Far Left had a head-start; being able to cram high-sounding, but wrong-headed theories and notions into the heads of inexperienced but passionate youths.But now the rest of us who happen to have real-world experiences and practical knowledge are finding their voices and sharing ideas.Result: The Great "Peasant" Revolt.

Friday, February 5, 2010 at 12:40 PM

MichaelSSEC said:

It always amazes me when I see friends who happen to be impassioned Leftists gamely defending Obama and his radical administration. Often I ask them, why do you support people who so obviously believe we're all complete morons -- and that includes you? The answer is always brushed aside with no attempt to answer.I think I know why. These Leftist footsoldiers share the elitists' disdain for...well, everyone else. If you're a Leftist, you're assumed to be smart. If you're not, these Lefties assume it's because you're an imbecile. No evidence, no thought, nothing to go on but the fact that you're not a Liberal and the people who supposedly pride themselves on eschewing stereotypes stuff you into one automagically: you're an idiot.Ms Sandra Beers, your comment was striking:"we really don't understand the health care reform legislation proposed by the Democrats."I doubt if anyone truly does. And that's not an accident. First they slapped together a massive 2000-page bill. Then they tried to ram it through before anyone could even read it because they didn't WANT anyone to know what was in it.But that's all right, we don't need to know what every single page means. It's enough that we know a few key provisions, and based on those we can decide that Obamacare is DEFINITELY not for America:1) the government simply cannot accomplish any of the provisions in the bill without rationing. Yet rationing is anathema to the stated purpose of the bill, which is to bring health care to 100% of Americans for a cheaper price.2) Congress has exempted themselves and their families from Obamacare. Get that? They think Obamacare is SO good they are forcing YOU to use it, but it's not good enough for them and their families. So, how good can it be if they don't even want to use it?3) the costs being reported by Obama and Congress are pure fantasy. All they're doing is taxing you starting immediately, for 5 years without spending any dollars on Obamacare. That builds up an Obamacare budget surplus, but that's only temporary to fool people into thinking we can actually afford this. Then the program actually kicks in and Obamacare starts paying people's medical bills. So for the next 5 years they're continuing to tax you for Obamacare, while having that surplus they built for the previous 5 years to draw from to hide the fact that expenditures exceed revenues by probably 10-1. What happens after that second 5 years, when their projections stop? They're claiming (falsely) that the plan is deficit-neutral for the first 10 years, but even if we accept that fantasy-claim, what happens after that??4) neither the House nor the Senate version even attempts to do anything about tort reform. Any health care reform that fails to deal meaningfully with out-of-control medical liability costs is a fraud, pure and simple.Here we are, only 4 points into a discussion and already Obamacare is a total loser. What's funny is that the Republicans DO have alternative plans, in direct contradiction to the claims by the mainstream media and the Obama administration (is there any difference anymore?). You can read about them at AmericanSolutions.com and several other places. With serious tort reform, tax advantages, and major tweaks to the way health insurance is handled, we can dramatically lower costs WITHOUT affecting service significantly. None of the Democrats' plans can honestly make the same claim.

Sunday, February 7, 2010 at 8:41 PM

pelaut said:

You can't overestimate the stupidity of the American public, now in the fourth generation of "constructionist" public education and intentionally subversive media per John Dewey, Marcuse, Alinsky, NEA, NTA. This didn't happen overnight. We've now had THREE full generations of leftists pumped out of our tax driven schools, and the American public will never comprehend the re-education necessary to right the ship. WORSE, there are no teachers to do the re-education

Wednesday, February 10, 2010 at 9:38 AM

HawkWatcher, Mi. said:

I disagree, pelaut. The 58% of us opposed to federalized health care aren't stupid. This peasant is currently educating any and all to the merits of conservatism and limited government. Many others are doing the same, and we will prevail in all fields. One battleground of today is the social media where young people, future teachers, can be reached. This is where we fight daily.It won't be easy or quick, but the current administration is pushing things along for us at every misguided turn, every unexpected election. The teachers will come, and like Charles says, common sense will prevail.For a conservative, the glass is always half full.

Saturday, February 13, 2010 at 8:25 PM

Parella said:

Obfuscation...that's the mantra of the Liberal Democrats. The more complex and lengthy any piece of legislation is, the more hidden the talking points, the better. The Democrats say they are for the "little guy." Well, how about the "little guys" (children) in Washington, D.C. who cannot get school vouchers so their children can get at least an adequate education??? The Democrats need the low socioeconomic structure as that's their base for the most part...without that base, without the "serfdom" liberal entitlements creates, they're toast.

Sunday, February 21, 2010 at 8:27 AM