‘The rule is, jam tomorrow and jam yesterday—but never jam today.’
June 15, 2012
Jonah Goldberg has an interesting piece at National Review Online today: “The Myth of the Good Conservative” (“For liberals, he always existed yesterday”). The thesis is as the subtitle implies: that certain liberals are always praising particular conservatives of the past and/or hypothetical conservatives in general, to whom particular conservatives and conservative policy proposals of today supposedly compare unfavorably.
He doesn’t link to sources in this piece, but he gives enough specifics that I think it counts as an argument, to be taken seriously by people who don’t already agree with it; so I’m passing it on.
It also reminds me of a passage in Thomas Sowell’s excellent book The Vision of the Anointed: Self-congratulation as a Basis for Social Policy (Sowell does endnote his sources):
For many of the anointed, it was never sufficient to declare the Reagan administration’s economic, social, or foreign policies mistaken, malign, or even dangerous. It was necessary to ridicule them as the products of a consummately stupid president—an “amiable dunce”, as Democratic elder statesman Clark Clifford called him. This denigration of Ronald Reagan began even before he became president, and was in fact one of the reasons why his chances of becoming even the Republican nominee, much less president, were considered nil. As Washington Post editorial board member Meg Greenfield recalled the mood she saw among Washington insiders in 1980:
It was the wisdom of the other contenders and of most Republican Party leaders, too, not to mention of practically everyone in Democratic politics, that Reagan was: too old, too extreme, too marginal, and not nearly smart enough to win the nomination. The Democrats, in fact, when they weren’t chortling about him, were fervently hoping he would be the nominee. When he carried the convention in Detroit, people I knew in the Carter White House were ecstatic.
This assessment of Reagan remained, even after he defeated President Carter in a landslide in the 1980 elections. This view of him remained unchanged as he got major legislation—the “Reagan revolution”—through Congress over the opposition of those who disdained him, despite the fact that the Republicans were never a majority in both houses of Congress during the first Reagan administration and were not a majority in either house during the second.
(Emphasis added, endnotes omitted.)
That was then; now, by contrast, you’ll find the top liberal in the country praising Reagan as one who had a “unique ability to inspire others to greatness”, with a “gift for communicating his vision for America”, for whom “we remain forever grateful”.