Will Liberalism Implode?

Will Liberalism Implode?

By Heather Wilhelm - November 15, 2013

Over the past few weeks, depending on where you sit on the political school bus, you’ve probably either had (a) a stream of guilty “I told you so” happiness; or (b) a dreadful, stomach-sinking horror while watching Obamacare, the president’s oft-labeled “signature achievement,” make its national debut.

It has been, in short, an epic disaster. It is a drunken, hair-mussed, ill-shod debutante tripping and tumbling down one of those long, open, curving, red-carpeted staircases, and then, at the bottom, plowing directly through a gaggle of gasping society ladies.

And that was just the website. Add the alarming swath of health care cancellations across the country, and you’ve got the boozed-up debutante struggling to her feet, swigging from a whiskey bottle at the bar, and inexplicably punching her great-grandmother’s sweet best friend Trudy in the face.

But here’s what’s weird about the whole thing: Despite watching this debacle from the beginning, and despite a clear viewing of the debutante’s utter inability to operate in the real world, many of the gasping society ladies are not horrified. They are in denial. Millions of people losing health plans, these grandees intone, is actually a good thing -- and Obamacare, if we just give it a chance, is a great thing.

Matt Yglesias, a columnist for Slate, noted this week that it is “good that you can’t keep your insurance plan. … The wave of cancellation letters is part of Obamacare doing what it was supposed to do. There’s little to regret about these plans vanishing from the earth.” (Well, except that many people are having to pay thousands of dollars more to get an equivalent plan, and that certain doctors and hospitals are murmuring about revolting from the new system, but, gee, who’s counting?)

Taking the ball even farther down the field, Josh Barro, a columnist for Business Insider (and, as his many journalistic frenemies like to remind us, “one of Obama’s favorite writers”), blasted the following snootiness out on Twitter on Oct. 29: “Vast swathes of policy are based on the correct presumption that people don't know what's best for them. Nothing new.”

Nothing new indeed: If anything, “people don’t know what’s best for them” could be the central credo of the modern nanny state, and the binding tenet of liberalism. In this view, of course people shouldn’t be able to choose “inadequate,” inexpensive health insurance -- which, in the government’s definition, apparently includes any insurance that doesn’t cover mammograms for 20-year-old males.

Of course consumers shouldn’t drink giant sodas or eat even a teaspoon of trans fats a year. Would-be business owners, meanwhile, certainly shouldn’t be able to braid hair in a salon without a government license, and prompt, clean private town car services like Uber sure shouldn’t make government taxis look bad. The list goes on and on.

But if you look closer, modern liberalism isn’t all nannyism, all the time -- and for all of the talk about a pending conservative “civil war” over social issues, if you’re paying attention, it might be the liberals who are in trouble in the long run.

Take abortion. In “After Tiller,” a recent documentary, Susan Robinson, a late-term abortion provider, offers the following justification for why she does what she does: Women, she argues, “are the greatest expert on their own lives.” First of all, really? Has she heard of Miley Cyrus or Kim Kardashian? Does she know the latter named her baby North West? Also, just my opinion, but if you’re 27 weeks pregnant with a viable baby and still haven’t figured out whether or not you want an abortion, you might not have a Ph.D. in Expert Choices.

I know, I’m “judging,” I know. I am so old and crotchety and boring. Or, as policy expert (and twerking expert!) Miley puts it in her hit song, “Remember, only God can judge us.”

Judging is another big no-no in modern leftism, as the creators of the latest wave of Colorado-based “Thanks Obamacare!” ads remind us. One of the more memorable new ads featured a grinning, slightly crazed young woman clutching a pack of birth control pills. She’s standing next to a guy, and, no offense, but she’s got “stalker” written all over her. I quote: “Let’s hope he’s as easy to get as this birth control. My health insurance covers the pill, which means all I have to worry about is getting him between the covers.”

In response to criticism of the ad -- along with widespread, open-mouthed disbelief that our society has fallen this far -- a spokesman, Adam Fox, gallantly offered that the ad “shows a strong woman making a decision for herself and taking control of her situation.” Let’s agree with crazy Adam for a second and pretend that “desperate” is the same as “strong.” In any case, under modern liberal thought, wouldn’t Birth Control Girl “making a decision for herself” and “taking control of her situation” be bad? As always-certain guys like Josh Barro repeatedly inform us, she certainly doesn’t “know what’s best” for her, right?

This is a prime example of the paradox of modern liberalism, as well as the mixed messaging it often produces. In leftist thought, when it comes to free exchange, or basic market issues, the government should be the decider of first resort. Have a simple supply and demand issue? Government bureaucracies are right there to muck up the process, forcing you to buy things at a more expensive price.

When it comes to social issues, however, we get the left’s repeated intonation on issues like abortion -- that people are, as the late-term abortion doctor argued, the “greatest experts on their own lives.” In the social realm, the chief value is “freedom” -- including freedom from consequence.

Will the insurance market/government hybrid/utter disaster of Obamacare end up cracking liberalism, exposing its contradictions for the nation to see? Perhaps. But Obama and his health-care boosters are still scrambling. Meanwhile, in other news, the New York Times recently reported that China is still building mass-planned, central-controlled imitation “cities” and transporting uneducated farmers to work and live there. What could go wrong? Sometimes the simplest lessons are the hardest to learn. 

Heather Wilhelm is a writer based in Austin,Texas. Her work can be found at and her Twitter handle is @heatherwilhelm.

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