Defining Extremism Down
Democrats make a lot of silly statements. The trick isn’t finding a pronouncement by a liberal politician which — in a way nearly unique to politics — simultaneously brings a grimace, a giggle, and a groan, but figuring out whether the speaker is an outright liar or just living in a liberal echo chamber reminiscent of Pauline Kael (or at least the political mythology surrounding her).
Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL), chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, is a reliable representative of the outright liar camp: No echo is loud enough to make her actually believe that Democratic candidates will run (and win) on the issue of Obamacare, but she says it repeatedly, hoping that the Big Lie strategy will work just one more time.
Other irrepressible dissemblers in Congress include Jim McDermott (D-WA), Alan Grayson (D-FL), and House Democratic Leader Nancy “I wasn’t lying when I said you could keep your plan” Pelosi (D-CA).
But I’ve long wondered about the second-ranking Democrat in the House, Steny Hoyer. Hoyer has carefully crafted a public image as a pragmatic moderate, itself a remarkable achievement given that the rest of his party’s House leadership includes Pelosi along with James “if you disapprove of Obama, you’re probably racist” Clyburn (SC) and the rabidly leftist and economically ignorant Xavier “a government bond is the same as cash” Becerra(CA).
According to two vote-rating projects (one by the non-partisan National Journal and one by the liberal Americans for Democratic Action), Hoyer’s voting record is, in partisan terms, average for a Democrat. He doesn’t scream. He doesn’t whine (much). He looks and speaks vaguely like a statesman.
So was Mr. Hoyer misguided, or just lying, in a Tuesday morning appearance on CNBCwhen he asserted that there are no extremists in the Democratic Party?
More precisely, Home Depot co-founder and self-identified Republican Ken Langone pressed Hoyer, “There are extremists in the Republican Party and if you want me to throw out a name, I will. How about you throwing out a name of an extremist in your party?”
Hoyer responded, “I don’t think there are any extremists in my party.”
Langone, disgusted, said “What more can I say? The other guys are the bad guys, and we’re the good…”
For someone who isn’t a partisan Democrat, it is easy to believe that Hoyer is simply lying.
After all, who could look at Alan Grayson saying that the Republican health care plan is for people to “die quickly” and conclude that he’s not an extremist? (It’s with no small amount of schadenfreude that we learned Tuesday about Rep. Grayson, one of the richest members of Congress, losing $18 million to investment fraud.)
What about Jim McDermott? The leftist from Seattle (but I repeat myself) told conservatives who had been targeted by the IRS that theydeserved just what they got because they were involved in controversial issues.
What about the 69 Democratic congressmen named in 2009 as members of the Democratic Socialists of America? There’s not one “extremist” among them?
But Steny Hoyer, like his colleagues, lives in a world of exclusion and intolerance, a world where Democrats liken Republicans to the Taliban, where seldom is heard a discouraging word even if reality would seem to demand it.
And in such a world, where Barack Obama could at least for a time convince people that he was an open-minded center-left post-partisan, any sort of delusional Democrat group-think is possible.
After all, if Obama is a moderate, nobody on the left is extreme.
It is a world in which the tone is set at the top, by a president trained all too well by Saul Alinsky to “pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it.” Some recent examples of tone-setting by the president of the United States:
- November 2013: “You’ve seen an extreme faction of the Republican Party that has shown again and again and again that they’re willing to hijack the entire party and the country and the economy and grind progress to an absolute halt if they don’t get 100 percent of what they want.”
- October 2013: “Republicans…don't get to hold the entire economy hostage over ideological demands.”
- October 2013: Republicans “have been unwilling to say no to the most extreme parts of their caucus.”
- September 2013: Republicans are trying “to save face after making some impossible promises to the extreme right wing of their party.”
- August 2012: Mitt Romney has “signed up for positions, extreme positions that are very consistent with positions that a number of House Republicans have taken.”
So let’s get this straight: Republicans and libertarians who adhere to the plain writing of the Constitution (at least adhere somewhat more than Democrats do), who believe that an expanding public sector results in a diminishing private sector, who believe that people’s lives are better and more fulfilling when adults make their own decisions (though the GOP is sometimes hypocritical on this score when it comes to our personal lives), and who believe that pointy-headed ivory-tower bureaucrats should not be given more power over how and where we can get our health care, insurance, financial services, and other important, highly personal aspects of our daily lives — we are the extremists.
But radical leftists who believe the opposite of all of the above, who want to turn America away from freedom and capitalism, away from the economic and military strength that has made us the most admired nation on earth, who hate rich people except those who at least implicitly hate themselves for being rich, and who think that Americans are too stupid to make important decisions for ourselves — these rabid ideologues are well-meaning principled public servants and the very definition of moderation?
Fortunately, despite ever-present echoing of the myth of Republican-only “extremism” in the dominant liberal media outlets, the public isn’t buying it.
In a 2010 midterm election poll conducted by The Hill, “44 percent of likely voters say the Democratic Party is more dominated by its extreme elements, whereas 37 percent say it’s the Republican Party that is more dominated by extremists.” Democrats were at least slightly honest about their own party: “More than one in every five Democrats (22 percent) in The Hill’s survey said their party was more dominated than the GOP by extreme views. The equivalent figure among Republicans is 11 percent.”
It can’t be getting any better for Democrats in recent months.
Whether Steny Hoyer is deluded, or, like Debbie Wasserman Schultz, just lying, it is in the GOP’s interest to allow Democrats, dare I say urge them, to continue with their “only Republicans are extremists” talking points.
Nobody whose vote is potentially available to the GOP believes such obvious falsehoods anymore.
The disastrous rollout of Obamacare (the impact on the entire health insurance and health care systems, not just the web site’s epic fail), the many broken promises, and the plummeting belief in Barack Obama’s trustworthiness will cause independent voters to be skeptical of everything uttered by a Democrat candidate in 2014. It also damages one of the key perceptions underlying recent Democrat success: that the party understands and cares about the average American more than Republicans do. (It is remarkable how long a party can successfully campaign on good intentions despite providing useless or harmful outcomes.)
Republicans should reinforce voter skepticism of Democrats by rebroadcasting Hoyer, Wasserman, Pelosi, and Obama in their own obviously false words, and encouraging the echo chamber to keep on echoing their siren song of self-delusion, with nary a Ulysses to tie them to the mast as they sail into the perilous seas of 2014.
[First published at the American Spectator.]