Posts Tagged ‘George Washington’

Rhetoric the Right Should Repudiate

April 4, 2010

In the course of wondering whether an increasing federal role in health care will change the character of the American people, a perfectly sane thing to worry about, National Review’s Mark Steyn offers some questionable assertions, and links to arguments that are offensive to a degree that you don’t often see.

Here is the initial post that Mr. Steyn wrote.

An excerpt:

Ever since this health care “debate” got going, I’ve worried that American conservatives underestimate the ability of Big Government to transform the character of a people. After all, the Euro-weenies weren’t always Euro-weenies – else how would they have conquered the entire planet?

This is a rather strange considering that when various European countries built colonial empires their governments were far more tyrannical, and their people less free, than is the case today. Does Mr. Steyn believe a right-thinking American would be more at home in monarchical Spain prior to the defeat of the Spanish Armada, or Napoleonic France, or the England of King George, or the Germany of Bismarck or Hitler, than the prosperous social democracies that exist today? Mr. Steyn and I share a number of disagreements with the public policies embraced by many European countries, but yearning wistfully for the character that Europeans had at the height of their imperial power is ahistorical nonsense of the kind I’d never have expected from one of Western Civilization’s most prolific columnists before his affiliation with Rush Limbaugh’s radio show began.

In Mr. Steyn’s second post on this subject, he writes:

Even in the 13 colonies, a majority of people were not of an actively “revolutionary” disposition. In the last 40 years, the left didn’t hollow out every important American institution from the grade school to Hollywood because they represented mass opinion, but because they wanted it the most. The question is whether opponents of Obama’s dependency culture are up to their own “long march”.

The strange nostalgia is now aimed at Hollywood and elementary education circa 1970, as though they were whole then and hollow now. Again, I’ll bet Mr. Steyn and I would agree about a lot if we were both to critique the public education system circa 2010, but these sweeping assertions about recent history and the left’s “long march” would be a lot more persuasive were it grounded in specific complaints rather than talk radio style bluster.

This brings us to the post that Mr. Steyn excerpts (he leaves out the most offensive line) and links.

Kathy Shaidle writes (emphasis in original):

…the trouble with the Tea Party movement is that they tend to target their anger at only one source: Big Government.

However, angry Americans really need to face the unfaceable: that most of their fellow citizens are just as corrupt, incompetent and compromised:

Rahe talks about the American Revolution and so on. But the nation’s ethnic makeup is different now, for one thing. Way more residents/invaders/settlers from “manyana” cultures. More illiterates, more people with no sense of history.

Plus there’s the Katrina Culture. Did any of those “Help Us” types waiting on the “gubmit” to rescue them look capable of crossing the Delaware to you? They’d have been more inclined to steal Washington’s boots.

I’m honestly surprised that Mr. Steyn would link this. Even if he were comfortable with its casual bigotry against Hispanics and blacks — and I’d like to think he isn’t, though he shows no sign of objecting — he should be embarrassed by the ahistorical implication that Latin American cultures are too lazy to rebel against their governments, not to mention the hilarious sentence where Ms. Shaidle complains that people today have no sense of history, even as she asserts that there are more illiterates in today’s United States than there were in America circa 1776.

And if you want a perfect distillation of why the right has trouble attracting minority votes, here you have it: imperial Europeans were praiseworthy, Hispanics are “residents/invaders/settlers,” Katrina victims would just as soon steal George Washington’s shoes as help him, and together they’re responsible for the decline of American culture. Are these really the arguments for American decline that Mr. Steyn wants to uncritically pass along to Corner readers?

If anyone think that these are the strongest arguments for the proposition that a large federal role in health care at some point transforms the character of a people, please reconsider. Time permitting, I’ll have another post up making a stronger case for that plausible if uncertain proposition in the next few days.