The Stupid Party

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The presidency of Barack Obama has established once and for all that modern liberalism is now the stupid party. Very little of liberal thought these days represents anything fresh or new, but rather comprises what Lionel Trilling once reduced conservatism to: “irritable mental gestures which seek to resemble ideas.” Now it is liberal ideas that young in the 19th century today stumble around like zombies in the liberal mind, mindlessly repeating hoary clichés of the sort Jonah Goldberg documents in his new book.

Obama’s presidency and reelection campaign have already produced an abundance of examples. Take the looming fiscal crisis of unfunded social welfare entitlements, run-away federal spending, and accelerating debt and deficits. Even with the monitory example of a rapidly disintegrating Europe before our eyes, the Democrats still can’t do the math. The “Buffett rule” taxes on the “rich” that the president has been touting amount to the equivalent of couch-cushion change compared to our debt and unfunded liabilities. Indeed, confiscating outright all the wealth of the richest 400 Americans would barely cover one year of Obama deficits.  The economic history of the past half-century backs up the math: only by reducing spending can we get our fiscal house in order, and raising taxes on the productive stifles economic growth and reduces tax revenues, thus hastening the downward spiral. The fundamental wisdom known by every village explainer––spend more than you earn and you’ll go broke, give people something for nothing and they will expect something for nothing forever, there is no free lunch, if something can’t go on forever it won’t––doesn’t seem to penetrate the minds of the self-styled “genius” party.

Yet despite this crisis, all the liberals can do is recycle old class-warfare bromides. Repeating the juvenile slogans of the Occupy Wall Street movement, the Democrats decry the “1%”  and the President shrieks about the rich “paying their fair share.” The fact that among advanced economies the U.S. already has the most progressive income taxes and the highest corporate taxes––even as nearly half of taxpayers pay nothing while an equal number receive some sort of government largesse––can’t penetrate the fog of clichés befuddling the liberal brain. No, stale Hollywood scripts about “Wall Street” pirates and evil oil corporations are recycled into government policy, and jeremiads against “greed” and “materialism” abound. The President even invokes Jesus Christ in support of his redistributionist schemes, his liberal supporters conveniently forgoing their usual hysteria about the theocratic camel’s nose poking into the political tent.

Nothing in any of this has anything to do with the reality of our economic sickness or its cures. Worse yet, we’ve heard it all before over a century ago. In the late 19th century, increasing immigration from Russia, Poland, southern Italy, and other non-Teutonic countries, along with the growing wealth, social mobility, and economic opportunity created by industrial capitalism, agitated the well-born and well-educated elites worried about racial “degeneration” and the weakening of the American order. Impressed by Karl Marx, they saw industrial capitalism and corporations, and the increasing materialism, amoral greed, civic corruption, and crass competition these fostered, as the force that would destroy the American moral order and empower the lesser breeds who thought of nothing but greed and selfish gain, no matter the future costs to society. The reformers’ answer was to turn over government rule to a “natural aristocracy” created by breeding and education, the denizens of the “best class” who could restore order to a disintegrating society and rein in the “incorporated power and greed,” as Brooks Adams put it, of “robber barons” like the Rockefellers and Morgans and the other “malefactors of great wealth” criticized by T.R. Roosevelt.

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  • pierce

    If this is the stupid party, why and how do we keep them from winning the election in November. I keep seeing ads on TV about how they are they are the only party that cares about the people. Are the people that dumb that they can believe that rhetoric? If come November Obama and the Democrats are reelected, then I am afraid the answer is a resounding YES. Prove to me that you are not stupid,rather dumber than I think you are, Vote for Romney so we can get rid of the trash in the White House. DO NOT BELIEVE THE CAMPAIGN RHETORIC COMING OUT OF THIS WHITE HOUSE. AGAIN , IF YOU DO THEN YOU ARE DUMB, AND DESERVE OBAMA AND HIS ILK.

    • sedoanman

      "Are the people that dumb that they can believe that rhetoric?"

      Well, perhaps, perhaps not. When it comes to politics, people are just rationally ignorant.

      “…Because voters are rationally ignorant (the costs of gaining particular kinds of information are greater than the benefits since one vote is essentially meaningless), politicians must employ a language designed to evoke emotion – enough emotion to motivate the right people to turn out and vote. Thus, politicians rarely speak with precise meanings, marginal calculations, or logical reasoning; instead they manipulate effect, raw emotions, group identifications, and even hatred, envy, and threats. Because premature commitment to an issue can cause one to end up in a minority position, successful politicians equivocate, hint, exaggerate, procrastinate, ‘straddle fences,’ adopt code words, and speak in non-sequiturs. Understanding the politician is therefore extremely frustrating for those who value precise statements. But note that this problem is not the fault of the politician; it is rooted in the rational ignorance of voters, the distribution of conflicting sentiments among voters, and the nature of collective endeavor. What all this means is clear: Political communication is rarely conducive to rational or efficient allocation of scarce resources. This does not mean that the individual politicians are irrational in their choice of language and symbolic activities. Waving the flag and kissing babies are practiced because of their tactical value in an activity that is at once a rational game and a morality play; in that conjunction lies the endless fascination and frustration of politics.”

      Chapter 4: “Pathological Politics” from Beyond Politics, by William C. Mitchell of the University of Oregon & Randy T. Simmons of Utah State University

  • oldtimer

    In the words of Forrest Gump…stupid is as stupid does. Common sense is more important, and there sure isn't much of it today.

  • StephenD

    Simple solution; if you do not pay into the system (taxes) you should have no say in how the money is spent. In other words, if you are in an entitlement program and pay no taxes you should not be allowed to vote. Mandate this and instantly all of our elected representatives will change their focus. Suddenly they will look to the interest of those who do pay. When they find their very position is dependent only on those that pay they'll be more likely to use that money wisely. It has been said "People tend to grow conservative when they find they have something to conserve." If they want to "conserve" their job they'll act more conservative with our money.

  • Milton

    The battle lines have been drawn, Capitalism vs. Socialism: it’s us, the hard working tax-paying, god loving Americans against the Sycophant Hollywood crowd supported by the liberal media and the Welfare receiving, EBT using, lazy, sucking the teat of America dry. Only this time your Hope and Change is Hype and Blame and we won’t be fooled by your phony unemployment figures or your Lying liberal press buddies, or your negative attacks, since that’s all you have. YOU WILL BE DEFEATED!

  • tagalog

    Leftists are no more "the stupid party" than conservatives are. That's why overcoming their shopworn ideas will be difficult; they have the high ground where emotion is concerned. They can claim that they seek to help those who are suffering, while we can only claim that it's best (for the most part) to leave people free to work out their own destinies. The latter view is quite handily characterized as hard-hearted, and it has been called that for quite a long time.

    I find it a worthwhile shorthand tool to think of the claims of the Left as the motto of Animal Farm: "All (people) are equal, but some are more equal than others." However, the Left doesn't see the incongruity of this, and all too often neither do the socio-culturally uncommitted.

    • Jim_C

      But even liberal ideas are no more shopworn than conservative ones; in fact, looking at the state of the economy after 8 years of deregulation, looking the other way non-enforcement, tax breaks for brackets that don't need 'em–and yes, big time borrowing/spending–I'd say it's not just the Left that suffers from incongruity.

      You guys want Reagan back, and he ain't coming back. In his stead, you have at best laissez-faire worshippers and at worst, reflexively anti-government radicals who don't have the intellectual honesty to look at their own philosophy's limitations. Much like Marx's own apologists said about communism, true believer conservatives truly think "real conservativism hasn't been tried yet."

      • tagalog

        Well, you would have an arguable point, except that the one thing that has not yet been tried in order to stimulate economic growth in these hard financial times is to reduce the regulation of business and reduce taxes.

        We know that pumping government money into businesses is not a reliable way to foster economic growth.

        We know that government involvement in various types of commerce is not serving to reduce unemployment or aid business's bottom lines.

        We know that public spending intended to aid us to make money to pay off our debts is a laughable approach to our money problems.

        What we don't know is what business might do if we untied the hands of commerce.

        That we haven't learned yet.

        P.S. Would you please spell out the limitations of the philosophy of the anti-government radicals? And, by the way, how would you define an "anti-government radical" as opposed to, say, an anti-government moderate, whatever that might be?

        • Jim_C

          I don't look at reducing regulation or taxes as bad things. They can be helpful, and they can be harmful. Speaking as if they are monolithically good or bad is silly, and I think one reason the conservative message flounders. We HAVE seen deregulation We HAVE seen taxes lowered.

          We do know from the 19th century what business might do when commerce's hands are untied. It's pretty much why we have the regulations, enforcing bodies, consumer protections, etc. that we do.

          We know that we have experienced strong economic growth in periods when tax rates were higher than they are now. Throughout the 1950s tax rates were higher AND executives were compensated at a much smaller ratio in relation to their employees. And things you were taxed for were simply "the commons"–things we felt society should invest in–not political bones of contention, certainly not "s__cialism." (I think the moderator bans posts with this word).

          When you have much of the country struggling during the last 4-5 years, but another, smaller segment whose wealth has increased exponentially in roughly the same period, you have to ask "What happened?" Until conservatives in politics are prepared to answer that question with brutal honesty, they'll have a hard time arguing for their philosophy.

          I don't mean "blame rich people." That would, indeed, be stupid. But who bought this government–and this lack of government–for what, how, and why?

          Capitalism is not the same as "Working hard to get ahead," though conservatives make a veritable mantra of conflating the two things. While it is THE system most consonant with human liberty, it still has it's flaws: both Adam Smith and Milton Friedman had much to say about the system left unchecked. If conservatives can own up to all this, and articulate it positively instead of negatively (Oh look at those welfare queens!), they'll have a powerful message in 2016.

        • trickyblain

          "… the one thing that has not yet been tried in order to stimulate economic growth in these hard financial times is to reduce the regulation of business and reduce taxes."

          It has happened many times to varying degrees: from GWB cutting taxes and eliminating the Clean Air Act all the way back to the public health nightmare known as the Guilded Age.

          • topeka


            When did GWB eliminate the Clean Air Act?

            That is either a LIE or an ERROR – either way it is a FALSEHOOD.

            The Bush administration made no efforts to even "roll back" the Lefty agenda:

            – they rolled out the MACT stds on schedule
            – they advanced the Title V program
            – they supported Carbon Credits – which got them Enron
            – they tried PM2.5 stds – and got smacked by science
            – they tried to implement an Hg std – and got smacked again
            – they did resist Kyoto – the IF AGW IS REAL – GO COAL IF IT'S COMMIE! treaty….
            – and they advanced PSD regumalations on natural gas and existing coal fired power plants costing hundreds of millions of dollars.

            In fact the only thing they did not do for the AIR was…. drum roll please… hire more engineers and scientists at EPA.

            Preferring instead to hire Watermelons with Commie bona fides and eco-nut qualifications.

            Just sayin….

          • trickyblain

            You're correct, it was an error. My bad. His first hundred days, however, he did take many measures that undermined existing regulation (i.e., increasing the level of arsenic allowed in water supplies).

          • tagalog

            The Gilded Age, during the last quarter of the 19th Century, is that what you're talking about? The consensus of cultural commentators seems to be that the period was a good time in America. It was after the upheavals of the 1860s and the beginnings of the rise of organized labor. It's the age of Mark Twain, Booth Tarkington, William Dean Howells, William Jennings Bryan, and many others. It's the time of Life With Father, Penrod and Sam, etc., the decades when America became a bourgeois nation, and laborers were able to rise out of squalor. They call it the Gilded Age because people remember it with fondness and because the period is when the U.S. became wealthy and achieved international prominence.

        • Eric S. Harris

          If an “anti-government extremist” is someone who is willing to steal or vandalize property, or threaten or injure or kill innocents to express their opposition to government in general or a specific government, an “anti-government moderate” would be someone who prefers methods like persuasion, voting and such.

          So what would a “pro-government extremist” do?

  • John C. Davidson

    Most normal people lern from their mistakes. There's not much else to say about those that don't.

  • MałyFelek

    THANK YOU! For pointing out the horrible rascist against f.e us Poles AND Jews (which btw lead to the US not willing to accept a greater number of Jews during the Holocaust-combined with the fact that general Details about it were know through the work of the Polish Underground State,what does this make it? Yes,a by-stander.) by the "Progressives" (who also advocated sterilization for "lesser races" like Blacks and the murder of mentally handicapped-whom does this reminds of of). Today, they AGAIN try to sell themselves as do-gooders of humanity-Btw,President Obama is "progressively" abandoning us, Poland, to the Neo-Russian Empire….for the….sake of "a higher good", I supposed. America, PLZ wake up, before it is too late!!!

  • BS77

    Gullible, automaton liberals would vote for a rotten log if it ran as a Democrat.

    • Jim_C

      And you'll vote for Romney. Your point?

      • topeka


        BS77 is making the point that Democrat politicians are so horrible; anyone with a brain would be better off voting for Romney, or a cardboard cutout of William Shatner, or a Magic 8 ball…

        So what is your point?

        That Obama has made it possible to vote for a slice processed cheese with a straight face?

        If that's your point … touche – you're right.

        Otherwise… If the Democrats ran Rombama, at least they'd have a candidate who could beat processed cheese.

  • Bartimaeus

    “In other words, a hundred years of painful experience and the failure of these notions should demonstrate their danger. That liberals continue to ignore those historical lessons and recycle those discredited ideas makes them the stupid party.”

    But, is it not one of the leading Ideas of “progressive” thought that they will be able to somehow transcend the common history of mankind. The progressive mind set is that they are more advanced in their view of politics and economics. Therefore close attention to history is of little importance to them. It all derives from their false view of human nature. In their view human nature can be changed and perfected. When these views crash on the rocks of reality, they move on and ignore the facts of history in favor of their false world view. It would be too humbling for them to admit that the biblical view of human nature is the accurate one. Thus the ignorance will continue.

  • Schlomotion

    This is not political analysis. This is negative puffery. If Mr. Thorton were offering "conservatism" as a cure for the "liberalism" he describes here, the FDA would fine him for making false product claims. The liberal vs conservative debate is one of the most superficial and pointless dichotomies in political discourse.

    • Maxie

      "The liberal vs conservative debate is one of the most superficial and pointless dichotomies in political discourse."

      What are the others?

      • Schlomotion

        That was a fun question. Others:

        Haves vs. Have Nots (nullified by the idea of cheap credit and even cheaper products)
        Blacks vs Whites (nullified by the fact that America is intellectually mulatto by now)
        Democrats vs Republicans (nullified by bribery)
        Capitalism vs Communism (nullified by Oligarchical Collectivism)
        Recession vs Recovery (nullified by central control of the money supply)
        Freedom vs Security (nullfied by technology)
        Jihad vs. McWorld (Nullified by sheer numbers. Muslims are 2.2 billion. World is 7 billion).

        • Maxie

          Blunted but not nullified.

  • clarespark

    Thornton is reiterating the argument of Jonah Goldberg's Liberal Fascism. But if you consult the historical record, it is possible to pin everything we dislike about current politics to the Democratic Party as it evolved in the interwar period, most crucially joining Lincoln to the Jefferson-Jackson populist tradition and noisily rejecting the Republicanism of Thaddeus Stevens and Charles Sumner. I wrote about one of their most prominent publicists here:…. This is about journalist Claude Bowers, who did the dirty deed. For a summary of how The Nation magazine moved sharply to the left in 1919, see…. Organic conservatism ruled the day and the century, whatever flag it waved. Or for yet another blog that is an up to date report on organic conservativism masked as feminism and progressivism see….

  • sedoanman

    We do not tax the poor in America. Only the rich pay taxes; ergo, the rich pay 100% of the taxes, so it is impossible to get them to "pay more of their fair share."

    • Schlomotion

      Hahahahahahah. That was stupid. You don't think $4.00 gas is a tax? What about inflation?

  • Looking4Sanity

    I didn't even have to wonder what the article was about! I knew it was about Democrats just by reading the title. That's what English majors call "a great hook".

  • Looking4Sanity

    I think this explains this phenomenon quite well.

    2 Thessalonians, chapter 2

    11: And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie:
    12: That they all might be dam-ned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.

  • Drew

    Mr. Thornton omitted to mention one change: American Jews managed to pull themselves up thanks to capitalism despite some barriers in the old circumstances to a position of wealth and influence, especially media clout yet now a large majority of them choose to support what the author calls the stupid party, providing the lion's share of Dem funding and attacking capitalism i.e. what worked for them. So when those with a reputation for intelligence support the stupid, bite the hand that fed them, what does that mean?

    • Jim_C

      Perhaps it means that they actually ARE the intelligent, good-looking ones?

      • topeka


        No. It means they are opportunists who are buying favors…

  • Western Spirit

    capitalism has blended with socialism and this is the era of stupid because political correctness is just plain dumb.

  • Western Spirit

    why are you censoring me? mr bean mocks black people and you continue to post his comments even when his posts are insulting and mocking.

    • Ghostwriter

      I agree about mrbean's idiotic posts about black people. Why that fool hasn't learned his lesson or hasn't been thrown off this site is something I'll never figure out.

    • Maxie

      The 'monitor' is software which gerts triggered by certain words not by the substance of the comment. At least that's how it appears to me. Quite aggravating.

  • Free4500

    Liberalism may be the "stupid party" but it's the republicans who are having the pants beaten off them. The republicans act "dumb as posts" every time some arrogant, smirking liberal journalist plays them with a "gotcha" question during an interview. The republicans don't seem to get they have already been skewered and are being roasted over the fire. They are stupid enough to think this is politics as usual and this is a respectful debate between fellow citizens. How could you be more stupid than that? All of the countries institutions are completely controlled by marxists, the media act as Nazi style "brownshirts" who "beat down" any opposition. Etc. Etc. Liberalism may be stupid but the evil marxist termites behind them are evidently really, really smart. They have destroyed America, eaten out all the support structures. The collapse is inevitable.

  • Maxie

    ". . . but it's the republicans who are having the pants beaten off them."

    Very true and the reason is that the GOP is a dysfunctional blend of two philosophies: conservative traditionalists and the Eastern seaboard RINO's with off-shore business involvements – notably in Europe. RINO's have the power because they have the wealth. They own the RNC and so dictate party policy. This has been true for decades. The GOP is a schizoid entity going up against an Agenda-driven Marxicrat monolith.

  • Maxie

    Above should have just one/ between com/2011

  • Diogenes

    The choices, dumb and dumber. Both have historically increased the debt, but the previous Dem administration (Clinton's) was actually able to generate a surplus budget for a while. Every President since Reagan attended Harvard, snooty ivy league grads, but only the GOP ones were rich at the time. The gilded age abusive trusts were busted by? Teddy Roosevelt, a GOP president. Laissez Faire Capitalism (aka deregulation) will continue to fail whenever it is tried because without rules there will be corruption. The sad truth is that neither party has the will to curtail spending and debt, or to kill the goose they believe is golden, but will prove to be dross.