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Saturday, March 31, 2012

Now We Know: Common Sense Is A "Liberal Bubble" That We Should Always Expect Movement Conservatism to Assault to the Death

Saturday's Up! With Chris Hayes always ends with a quick circuit around the discussion table in which each guest offers up some tidbit of argument or information "we know now" that presumably we didn't know before the week began. This week's token conservative panelist Tim Carney of the Washington Examiner offered up a fairly stunning contribution, and I hope we really all do know now the truth of what he is saying and let the implications truly sink in (this transcript is mine and any accidental inaccuracies are mine alone, the snippet moves pretty quickly, you can hear it yourself here):
We now know that the liberal bubble can be a harmful thing and the, I mean, you saw the articles roll out, a Linda Greenhouse, Dahlia Lithwick, saying it's just absurd to argue that this, the Constitution doesn't allow you to do this unprecedented thing of requiring you to engage in interstate commerce and while, what's the evidence, well, the Administration hasn't even had to argue for it, and Nancy Pelosi said, what, are you joking? that was literally I forget if that was Greenhouse or Lithwick who laid that out, and I think one of the ways the bubble showed its harm to the left could have been Donald Verrilli going up there and not being able to answer the question that we on the right have constantly been asking, "if you can mandate this, what can you not mandate us to do, if you can make us do this, is there anything the government can't force us to do, is there any sphere of individual liberty left?" That has been our fundamental question, we’ve been asking it, the left hasn't been listening because we're a bunch of tea party kooks and when Donald Verrilli was asked that, now, I'm speculating on what the cause is, but that could have been a result of him living in the Greenhouse bubble.
Of course, the reason Greenhouse, Lithwick, Pelosi and others (among them, possibly Verrilli too, precisely as Carney implies) have expressed such contempt for the hand-waving hysteria of a bunch of tea party kooks -- screaming, for the moment, about liberty as they will be screaming again in another moment about all the liberties they want to take from those they happen irrationally to dislike and fear -- is because the sphere of liberty is in fact indispensably produced and delineated and maintained by the very government they so despise, solving shared problems through legislation and administration. In this effort, the United States government in particular is guided in key respects by a little document called the Constitution (which is more than the parchment colored background and calligraphic font featured on Movement Republican and Tea Party websites devoted to greed-head white racist misogynist anti-science theocratic fulminations) which includes a Commerce Clause that actually says what it does and clearly applies in so saying to the implications of individual decisions to be insured or not as one travels from state to state, or is impacted by those who do, as a person prone to accident and illness in a country where enormous healthcare costs are mediated by for-profit insurance companies but where emergency rooms are mandated to serve all as a last resort at public expense in what typically amounts to the least effective most expensive possible way.

Of course, strictly speaking, any state in assuming a legal monopoly on the legitimate recourse to force can in principle mandate anything, including that all its citizens eat broccoli or whatever other fantastically stupid paranoid hairball the Right coughs up next, but not many democratically accountable states that respect documents like our Constitution will tolerate for long an administration seeking to impose such a mandate. In pretending that the Affordable Care Act is essentially just trying to make everybody eat broccoli whether they want to or need to or not, Movement Republicans -– the tea party kooks Time Carney has taken the side of whether he admits that or not, whether he is willing to accept the righteous consequences to his reputation of that profoundly irresponsible act of his or not -- are declaring that all the acute problems addressed by the Affordable Care Act (for the first time, however imperfectly largely as a result of necessary concession to the complex stakeholder politics of our diverse actually existing institutions and constituencies) are not problems they care about even though they obviously are catastrophic problems in fact and for us all, Movement Republicans included. It's just that Republicans don't give a damn about solving these problems anymore.

This is the substance of What Tim Carney Now Knows (although his smug smile in declaring it suggests he little knows or cares what it means): Movement Republicanism is simply a straightforwardly anti-civilizational force, not only capable of but eager to tell any lie, to whomp up any panic, to exacerbate any division, to trumpet any diversion to keep reasonable people of good will from seeking to solve shared problems through the indispensable recourse to accountable equitable legitimate governance. And to expect anything more, ever, from any person of the right, in this day and age, in this consummating moment of Movement Republicanism, is to inhabit what he calls "the liberal bubble." To inhabit "the liberal bubble" is to be Out of Touch with just how demonstrably criminal and crazy Republican "Out of Touchness" has become, to fail to grasp the reality of Republican hostility to real problems and real solutions and even warrantable consensus descriptions of reality itself.

Greenhouse, Lithwisk, and Pelosi were treating tea part kook objections as preposterous because they are preposterous, and what Carney is calling "the liberal bubble" is the now-foolish belief on the part of some serious reasonable conscientious people that there really are some non-arguments so preposterous that Supreme Court justices won't descend to considering them. It is a hard thing for an actually serious legal scholar or an actually serious problem-solving policy wonk to devote a whole lot of their time not to the actual problems and precedents at hand, but to the possibility that partisan Republican Supreme Court justices will re-enact the worst kind of content free Fox News shenanigans from the Bench. It is a hard thing to remain sane while treating insanity seriously "on the merits." It is a hard, if not impossible, thing to anticipate the objections of interlocutors for whom no objection is too preposterous to raise. As I said a few days ago upon reading precisely such arguments as Lithwick's, I could easily see their sense but as someone who lived through the partisan Republican Supreme Court enabled putsch that made George W. Bush President of the United States in 2000 I had a bad feeling about this. It really isn't easy to allow yourself to grasp the full implications of the fact that one of the only two actually-existing political parties with the agency to shape legislation and assign representatives to governance in the most resource-rich militarily-powerful nation on the planet has become a completely anti-civilizational force (one of the consequences of which is that any effort to address this problem by multiplying such parties and agencies will likewise be articulated, which is to say fatally undermined from the start, by the dysfunction it would hope to redress, whether you like that or not). And yet, here we are.

On an interestingly related note Chris Hayes comments, in his own initial extended "Now We Know" riff, on a study documenting a pronounced rise of conservative-identified people becoming "dramatically more skeptical of science" and "turning away from science" (it would seem a flabbergasting two thirds of conservatives now lack confidence in the warrants of consensus science), and because this abandonment of science is steepest among "college-educated conservative" Hayes declares that this means "we cannot chalk this up to ignorance." I wonder how many of these "college educated conservatives" got their degrees in business? In my view, business school is more or less an indoctrination in sociopathy coupled with an extended networking opportunity among like-minded sociopaths, and far from alleviating ignorance in fact inculcates and insists on a systematic ignoring of ethical values, moral qualms, long-term consequences, economic externalities, and aesthetic considerations. The self-congratulatory hard-nosed "realists" churned out by these brutalizing mis-education mills become precisely the anti-civilizational marauders who then go on gleefully to assault "the bubble" of common sense common good common-wealth common cause problem-solving they disdain as "liberal" dictatorial do-gooder meddling.

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