The Tyranny of Conservative Cliches


By: David Bozeman
National Review‘s Jonah Goldberg has penned a brilliant and   lively critique of what now passes for political discourse.  In The   Tyranny of Cliches he frequently chides both sides of the aisle for   ducking behind bromides and pieties in lieu of independent thought, but   he saves his deadliest salvos for liberals, hence the subtitle How   Liberals Cheat in the War of Ideas.
Goldberg employs history and common sense to deflate such puffed-up,   annoying liberal cliches as ‘unity,’ ‘no labels,’ ‘the war on scientific   inquiry,’ ‘unlimited democracy,’ spiritual but not religious,’ etc.  But,   unfortunately, Goldberg stands no less guilty himself, though, granted, the   offense is minor and barely detracts from his compelling thesis.  At   the end of the chapter ‘An Ounce of Prevention,’ which is largely a rebuke of   government-run health care, he writes, “On countless fronts, the natural   pastures of daily liberty have become circumscribed by dull-witted but   well-meaning bureaucrats slapping down the paving stones of good intentions on   the road to Hell.”
Well meaning bureaucrats.  Yes, the good-intentioned liberal.    Conservatives have been programmed to cushion any criticism of big-government   policy with the cloying, irritating disclaimer that liberals and Democrats   mean well, but their ideas are just not practical.  It pops up a handful   of additional times in Goldberg’s book, though its prevalence in daily   discussion is as deadly as a landmine and as visible as a speed bump.
Why is it always Democrats and liberals who mean well?  When   conservatives disagree, why does one never credit the other with such    lofty goodwill that the real-world folly of his plans is lost in the glare   of his over-abundant love for humanity?  Imagine a conservative   columnist writing the following:  No Child Left Behind was a massive,   bureaucratic federal power grab on the part of George W. Bush that left   over-worked teachers and poorly performing students in its wake. But, hey, at   least Bush’s heart was in the right place.
The dominant issues of our time are always framed by the notion that   liberals care more.  President Obama’s re-election bid fuels itself on   the mythology that he cares more for women (Obama’s online slide show   The Life of Julia is a sickening, one-dimensional tribute to   government’s dependency-inducing ‘good intentions’), gays, Hispanics and other   minorities, the labor movement, etc.  In banking on such a Balkanizing,   us-against-them strategy, the president, who boasts a record that is, at best,   anemic and uninspiring, can garner millions in contributions by exploiting his   so-called good intentions to groups founded on identity politics.
Outrageously, the president has failed to condemn the anarchists and   Occupiers who battled police at the recent NATO conference in Chicago.    One of the leading protestors told CNN that anarchism “has a tradition of   fighting for the oppressed.”  So, does that proud tradition excuse   violence, including injuries to police officers and damage to   businesses?  The good intentions of liberalism and other enemies of   freedom are, if not a trump card, a jump start, a wide field of latitude in   terms of rhetoric and behavior that conservatives just don’t possess.
But the pertinent question is not whether conservatives are as   well-intentioned as liberals.  We are.  What matters is knowing if   liberals truly want for America what most of us perceive as good.  Are   their intentions really that noble?  But for massive public opposition   and, arguably, a Republican congress, the president’s economy-stifling   Cap & Trade proposal never became law, and he has yet to “fundamentally   transform America.”  Obamacare and the creeping entitlement culture   resemble western Europe, particularly France, far more than the America most   of us cherish.  Are statists really motivated by benevolence or by a   bloated sense of their own importance?  This would be perfect fodder for   a ‘national discussion’ (another cliche ready for the dustbin), but look at   who controls the narrative.  Just consider that Goldberg spends much of   his volume not simply rebutting liberal cliches but defending western   civilization itself.  If we must justify the very fundamentals of   our existence, then the crowds outside are not hordes of over-protective   social workers.  The barbarians are clammoring at the gate, determined to   get in.

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