Today’s Must Read

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Is this George Will piece:

“The percentage of Americans who believe that success is determined by forces outside their control has fallen from 41 percent in 1988 to 32 percent today; by contrast, the percentage of Germans who believe it has risen from 59 percent in 1991 to 68 percent today.”

Liberalism’s apogee came with Lyndon Johnson, who while campaigning against Goldwater proclaimed, “We’re in favor of a lot of things, and we’re against mighty few.” Johnson’s landslide win produced a ruinous opportunity — a large liberal majority in Congress and incontinent legislating. Forty years later, only one-third of Democrats call themselves liberal, whereas two-thirds of Republicans call themselves conservative. Which explains this Micklethwait and Wooldridge observation on the Clinton presidency:

“Left-wing America was given the answer to all its prayers — the most talented politician in a generation, a long period of peace and prosperity, and a series of Republican blunders — and the agenda was still set by the right. Clinton’s big achievements — welfare reform, a balanced budget, a booming stock market and cutting 350,000 people from the federal payroll — would have delighted Ronald Reagan. Whenever Clinton veered to the left — over gays in the military, over health care — he was slapped down.”

Micklethwait and Wooldridge endorse Sir Lewis Namier’s doctrine: “What matters most about political ideas is the underlying emotions, the music to which ideas are a mere libretto, often of very inferior quality.” The emotions underlying conservatism’s long rise include a visceral individualism with religious roots and anti-statist consequences.

Europe, post-religious and statist, is puzzled — and alarmed — by a nation where grace is said at half the family dinner tables. But religiosity, say Micklethwait and Wooldridge, “predisposes Americans to see the world in terms of individual virtue rather than in terms of the vast social forces that so preoccupy Europeans.” And: “The percentage of Americans who believe that success is determined by forces outside their control has fallen from 41 percent in 1988 to 32 percent today; by contrast, the percentage of Germans who believe it has risen from 59 percent in 1991 to 68 percent today.” In America, conservatives much more than liberals reject the presumption of individual vulnerability and incompetence that gives rise to liberal statism.

Read the whole thing.

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Erick Erickson
By Erick Erickson

Erick Erickson

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