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The Demise of Liberal Mythmaking

The Democratic Party has always been good at crafting a narrative. Through relentless message discipline, dating back at least to the 1960s, Democrats have managed to create the public opinion that theirs is the party of the people, while Republicans represent the interests of Big Business. In other words, Democrats stood up for the little guy against “the Man” of Republicanism.

This narrative, contrary as it is and has always been to reality, has become so entrenched that the rise of tea party conservatism has left many liberals running around in circles trying to explain what they’re calling “libertarian populism.”

In a recent column for Politico Magazine, author Michael Lind frantically tries to reconcile his disdain for old school, establishment Republicans with his fear of tea party favorites like Dave Brat, the political unknown who just unseated House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in an unprecedented upset. It’s a dazzling display of rhetorical inconsistency. Lind opens the piece by condemning—quite rightly—the tendency to bail out big corporations with other people’s money, and the use of government to grant special favors to powerful interest groups. Never mind that the Democratic Party has been at least as culpable in this regard as the Republicans, with programs such as TARP, the auto company bailouts, and Farm Bills receiving broad support from Democrats in Congress. Still, at least Lind is on the right side of this issue in word, if not in deed.

However, his next move is a puzzling one. Instead of celebrating Republican outsiders like Dave Brat for taking on cronyist incumbents and trying to bring a sense of equality under the law to government, he instead goes on the offensive, slamming Brat and his ilk as “militants” along with a straw man attack on Thomas Jefferson that, for some reason, he seems to think is relevant to the current elections.

So, in Lind’s world, Republicans who support big business are bad, yet those who oppose corporate cronyism are equally bad—if not worse.

But wait, it gets better.

One would think that would-be populists on the left, in their condemnation of big business, would at least have a soft spot for small business. The anecdote of the poor entrepreneur—perhaps an immigrant—finding success in spite of larger competitors should be an appealing underdog story that plays right into their carefully crafted narrative. Not so for Lind, who takes a gratuitous shot at small businesses seemingly just for the fun of it.

“The small businesses idealized by populists create many jobs,” he writes, misleadingly setting up his punchline, “and they also destroy many jobs, because most small businesses fail.”

Well, that’s a feel good message if I ever heard one. Don’t try to better yourselves, folks! You’ll probably just fail anyway.

These kind of statements reveal Lind’s real agenda, and by extension the mindset of a majority of left-wing commentators. It is not just large, powerful corporations they despise, it is all private enterprise. Anyone trying to make it through life without leaning heavily on the government dole is viewed as a threat, and must therefore be demonized.

Hostility towards independence extends into the political realm as well, with Lind criticizing the notion of the “amateur” politician. Now that political unknowns like Dave Brat have proven that they can actually win elections, the left is sufficiently fearful of them to attack the very legitimacy of their campaigns, like Plato arguing for “philosopher kings” to rule the ignorant masses. Apparently robbing taxpayers of their hard earned money is so difficult a task that it takes an experienced professional to do it properly. Funny how Barack Obama, once celebrated by the left for his youth and inexperience, seems to have managed it just fine.

The rise of “amateur” anti-cronyist, anti-war Republicans has punctured the most cherished myths of liberalism, and leftists are struggling to offer an explanation. Lind’s breathless, simultaneous attacks on cronyism, anti-cronyism, populism, big business, small business, and political outsiders reveals just how desperate their situation really is.