Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The end of liberalism

by Bernie Quigley

- for The Hill on 1/27/10

The country had descended into war, disassociation and debt because the king had fallen into a trance. It is the theme of that great, primitive myth of the English-speaking people, “Lord of the Rings,” which swept the airwaves at the turn of the millennium. Then the king suddenly woke up. That is the sense of things with the election of Scott Brown. It came to mind again last night listening to an interview with Meg Whitman, former CEO of eBay, who is running for governor of California. America is coming out of a trance.

Even in treacherous times, California would more likely look to the movie star or the relative of the famous. Maybe a charmed or elegant ethnic; a Jimmy Carter or a Barack Obama. A nostalgic return with Governor Moonbeam. A Mambo King, a porno star gone legit, a late night comic or a professional wrestler: The muse rather than the manager. Whitman is still ten points behind but maybe even California is ready for awakening.

The MSM and its punditry can see only short distances and that only in hindsight. Should Obama go to “Clintonism” or “non-Clintonism”? Those are the proposed options. It is an improvement over going back to the Sixties, back to the 1930s or back to the 1860s. They are hired for that purpose. This perspective brings accurate short-term predictions in ordinary times. But when the sea changes the paradigm changes and these predictions are always wrong. The sea has changed with Scott Brown and it has been changing all throughout the past year.

For six months polls have shown that 41% of the public consider themselves independent of either major political party. In Massachusetts it is 51%. The case can be made today that Massachusetts is less liberal than the other states. Ted Kennedy may have been declared the “lion” of liberalism by those who have never seen a lion. Growing up here I felt that Massachusetts had such a red neck underbelly that I moved away after college.

But in any case, it should be considered that those sentiments and sensibilities which Ted – not Jack or Bobby – came to represent may have fully dissipated. This is the way it was with Victoria. This is the way it was with Jefferson. The age ended with its representative avatar.

Polls today show the public viewing Fox news as “most trusted.” Polls show Americans consider global warming last among their concerns. Polls show Glenn Beck to be the fourth most admired man in America.

It has been said here for more than a year that what goes on in the economy today and its cultural currents resembles more the 1830s than the 1930s. It was then that America found its second Creation Myth at the Alamo and found its second wind with Andrew Jackson. With Jackson, the heartland came alive in opposition to the eastern cities, Boston and Richmond. Eventually the East would have to imitate to dominate, thus the crazy hat and whiskers on Abe Lincoln.

That is Scott Brown. He is in reality a left-leaning Massachusetts Republican, but like Lincoln’s countrified whiskers, his importance today is symbolic. His pickup truck is more relevant to the times than his point of view. The new political culture that is taking form in the heartland through the rising spirit of Beck, Rick Perry, Sarah Palin and tens of millions of others, has found its way to New York in the west and Massachusetts at dead center. Most of us here were always more like Scott Brown than Ted Kennedy and this is where we will begin again. This is where we in the east will join America.

Obama is at a critical turning and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him bring in a few new faces. Possibly Wesley Clark, who ran for president in 2004 and brought solid good sense and character to the Democrats, will reappear. The call coming up this week from Firedoglake: Obama is “ . . . a faux populist, a real populist would fire Timothy Geithner and Larry Summers.” Maybe one or two will be thrown to the fishes so as to regain equilibrium. But it could well be too late and not enough. And this time around the year will not start with the President’s State of the Union which he gives tonight. It could well start instead with the Republican response by the newly elected Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell.