Peter Berkowitz, a senior fellow at Stanford’s Hoover Institution, wrote a perceptive op-ed in the Wall Street Journal about the Tea Party derangement syndrome that’s sweeping the left side of the political spectrum. Titled “The Debt Deal and the Progressive Crack-Up,” the essay examines “the implications of what the democratically negotiated [debt-limit] settlement revealed about the panic of the progressive mind.”
Berkowitz discussed how the Democrats led by Obama “badly overreached” and the opposition “effectively pushed back.” Progressives, their tone “dictated from the top,” reacted irrationally by claiming the conservative opposition “[was] blowing up our government,” “waged jihad on the American people,” “[acted] like a maniacal gang with knives held high,” and—in a claim taken up by Vice President Joe Biden—“have acted like terrorists.” (Too late to be included in the op-ed was Sen. John Kerry’s authoritarian plea to the media not to give equal time to the Tea Party because its notions are “absolutely absurd…not factual.”)
Berkowitz noted that “progressive legal scholars concocted a wild theory to justify an executive power grab by means of which President Obama would unilaterally raise the debt ceiling to avoid having to hammer out a deal with congress.” He further pointed out that “Progressive partisans also displayed economic illiteracy, refusing to recognize the respectability or even the existence of alternative economic views.”
Citing the frequent lectures from progressives on civility, restraint of executive power, and the need to weigh competing public policy options, Berkowitz said their “hypocrisy…reached truly breathtaking proportions” during the debt-limit crisis.
Progressives see themselves as the only legitimate representatives of ordinary people. Yet their vision of what democracy requires frequently conflicts with what majorities believe and how they choose to live. Add to this the progressive belief that human beings can be perfected through the rule of experts, and you have a recipe—when the people make choices contrary to progressive dictates—for generating contempt among the experts for the people whose interests they claim to alone represent. And not just contempt, but even disgust at diversity of opinion, which from the progressive’s perspective distracts the people from the policies demanded by impartial reason….The clash between [the progressive mind’s] democratic pretensions and its authoritarian predilections has generated within its ranks seething resentment for, and rage at, conservatives.