Posted by Curt on 17 November, 2016 at 5:45 pm. 2 comments already!


Rich Lowry:

President Barack Obama won’t explicitly say that Donald Trump is on the wrong side of history, but surely it is what he believes.

The president basically thinks anyone who gets in his way is transgressing the larger forces of history with a capital H. During the 2008 campaign, he declared that John McCain “is on the wrong side of history right now” (the “right now” was a generous touch — allowing for the possibility that McCain might get right with History at some future, undetermined date).

Obama has returned to this phrase and argument obsessively throughout his time in office. It is deeply embedded in his, and the larger progressive, mind — and indirectly contributed to the left’s catastrophic defeat on Nov. 8.

The notion that History takes sides ultimately traces back to the philosopher G.W.F. Hegel and borrows heavily from the (genuine and very hard-won) moral capital of the abolitionists and the civil rights movement. Obama is given to quoting Martin Luther King for the proposition that the arc of the moral universe bends toward justice. Whoever is deemed to be on “the wrong side of history” by progressives is always loosely associated with the opprobrium directed toward the Southern Fire-Eaters and the defenders of Jim Crow.

This means that the left wields History as a weapon and makes it an occasion for constant self-congratulation. But there is a downside in the accompanying sense of smug inevitability that is off-putting at best and blinkered and self-deluding at worst.

For the left, History is not a vast, unpredictable, untameable force, but just like someone who might be standing in line next to you at Whole Foods. History is a board member of Planned Parenthood. It reads The Huffington Post and Vox, and follows Lena Dunham on Twitter. It really cares whether transgender people are allowed to use the appropriate bathroom. History was probably hanging out at the Javits Center on election night and collapsed into a puddle of tears right around the time Wisconsin was called.

The political dangers of this point of view should be obvious:

It assumes that certain classes of people are retrograde. Why would Democrats bother to try to appeal to working-class white voters if they are stamped with the disapproval of History? According to POLITICO’s reporting, when poor Bill Clinton piped up at strategy sessions and wondered why Hillary’s campaign wasn’t trying to appeal to these voters, he was treated as an embarrassing relic, out of touch with the inexorable tide of the future.

It becomes a warrant for all manner of overreach. History evidently favored trying to get nuns to sign up for contraceptives they didn’t want — and morally opposed — and forcing small businesses to bake cakes for gay weddings. There was really no amount of coercion on behalf of social liberalism that History wouldn’t heartily embrace.

And, if History is thought to have an ascendant electoral coalition (and a hell of a data operation), it creates an unjustified sense of electoral inevitably. This is what the theorists of the “emerging Democratic majority,” and most of the pundits on the left, bought into. Sean Trende of RealClearPolitics has long been a scourge of this thesis, rightly pointing out that the allegedly unstoppable coalition was vulnerable to relatively small changes in voting behavior and turnout, and of course larger events.

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