Sixteen years ago, at the height of the George W. Bush presidency, columnist Thomas Frank published What’s The Matter With Kansas, wherein he basically posited that the Democrats lost the heartland because they didn’t focus sufficiently on promising economic largesse to the rubes therein. This allowed the GOP to make cultural gambits that lured them away from their best interests.

Those “best interests” run directly afoul of the (perhaps apocryphal) Alexander Tytler aphorism:

A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until a majority of voters discover that they can vote themselves largess out of the public treasury.

But, no matter. The vote of the common man, Frank surmises, is to be had via promising the heavy hand of government tipping the money scales in his favor.

This past Tuesday, Americans went to the polls, as they do every Tuesday following the first Monday of November, to cast votes that, we presume, reflect their needs, wants, and beliefs. If we heed Frank’s sixteen-year-old thesis, they should be voting for the party that delivers the bacon. If the party that promised to do so fails in that regard, then they are susceptible to the siren song of cultural warfare, a song that lures the unsuspecting to their doom.

This bit of political pretzel logic came to mind as I read the Left’s reactions to their ugly loss in the Virginia Governor’s race, wherein a high-name-recognition Democrat lost, in a state that Biden won by ten points, to a relatively unknown challenger. And, to their near-loss of the Governor’s mansion in reliably blue New Jersey (and where a truck driver, pissed off by being scoffed at when he sought to get a gun carry permit, spent less than $10K to defeat the incumbent Democratic President of the State Senate).

The Progressive Left would have us believe that these losses and near-losses are Frankian, in that the Democrats failed to deliver the massive spending bills they’re currently squabbling over, allowing the Republicans to lure voters with culture-bait straw men about Critical Race Theory, which they assert isn’t what we all think it is, and even if it is, it’s not being taught in schools, the voters’ lying eyes notwithstanding.

The inflection point of the Virginia election appears to be a colossal blunder by Terry McAuliffe, the Democratic candidate, former governor, and Clinton acolyte: “I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach.” Except this wasn’t a blunder, but rather an errant moment of honesty. This is indeed the Left’s attitude toward public education – that students are theirs to shape as they wish. Lenin is smiling in his grave.

In addition, because it’s their default accusation, they tell us that Youngkin won because racism. No matter that the voters of Virginia elected a black woman (and an immigrant to boot) as Lieutenant governor (crickets from the progressives on her victory, presumably because her politics are ‘wrong’).

The proximate cause of the Democratic loss centered around education, with suburban parents finally saying “enough!” to the Left’s condescending arrogance. Rather than admit that obvious reality, the professional excuse makers hide behind their central conceit: that the masses are too stupid to know what’s good for them.

Thus, we have Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez blaming the loss on a “super-moderated campaign” that didn’t “energize a progressive base.”

Thus, we have former Virginia Congressman and erstwhile gubernatorial candidate Tom Perriello asserting that, “if Build Back Better had passed two weeks ago, Terry would’ve won this thing running away.”

Thus, we have Biden claiming that Americans’ uncertainty has been exacerbated by the stalling of the Build Back Better bill.

All of these declarations of blame rest on the presumptions that Americans who know what’s good for them vote a la Tytler. Nowhere in the Leftist world view is even a hint that the voters:

  • might object to the government taking from others simply to hand money out as it wishes.
  • might realize that there’s no such thing as a free lunch, and that they’ll ultimately pay the price for Frankian largesse.
  • might understand that, eventually, you run out of Other People’s Money.
  • might not want the economic scales tipped in some people’s favor, because they know that a rigged game is a game that people eventually stop playing.

They have a major obstacle in changing that world view: they’d have to admit that the masses aren’t as stupid as they believe. But, to do that, they’d have to abandon their central conceit. They’d have to concede that people might want to run their own lives, rather than have them run by the Best-and-Brightest on their behalf. They’d have to have an AHA! moment (see: David Brooks; David Mamet; Thomas Sowell, who was a Marxist when young; and even Milton Friedman, who supported the New Deal before becoming a libertarian in the 1940s).

That’s a tough nut to swallow for people who’ve spent their lives believing at their core that their ideological opposites are not just too dumb to know what’s good for them, but that this stupidity creates an obligation that they be managed. It’s why the progressives won’t let go of their delusions, why they insist on doubling down in the face of defeats of their own making.

And why they default to lame excuses like “the suburbanites who were smart enough to vote for Biden over Trump are so stupid that they believe a pack of Republican lies,” and “racism, racism everywhere!”

Some hope that the Left continues its march unabated, because it’ll alienate even more voters, and they’ll be chased out of office.

I don’t. Moments of clarity are not the norm, and it’s demonstrable that the siren song of OPM is mostly an effective path to power. That the Democrats have screwed that up this cycle should come as no surprise (it’s always worth remembering that New York City, a Democratic bastion, did the impossible by losing money running a gambling monopoly), but we’d all be better off if the moderates in the Party shunned the progressives instead of bending a knee to them. The alternative is a continuation of the ever-starker culture clash, regression in the realm of rights and liberties, and societal fractures that might take decades to heal.

Peter Venetoklis

About Peter Venetoklis

I am twice-retired, a former rocket engineer and a former small business owner. At the very least, it makes for interesting party conversation. I'm also a life-long libertarian, I engage in an expanse of entertainments, and I squabble for sport.

Nowadays, I spend a good bit of my time arguing politics and editing this website.

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