Not long ago, the New York Times ran a column called “The Agony of the Liberals,” by Ross Douthat (cool name). Go ahead and read it if you want, but it’s not the reason for this post.
The column inspired a handful of Letters to the Editor that ran in the Sunday edition. They’re all pretty good, but I was struck by one in particular. I’ve devoted any number of hours trying to articulate — verbally or in text — what this brief missive describes.
At the risk of inflaming the litigious passions of the Grey Lady, I’m going to repost the letter here, “fair use” or no.
To the Editor:
Liberals clearly pinned unrealistic hopes on the Obama presidency; had they paid attention to his campaign, they would have expected the centrism they’re getting.
But the anguish of liberals is not simply due to Mr. Obama’s being an insufficiently aggressive leftist. It is, rather, due to the deep disconnect between American politics and the reality on the ground.
Any reasonable observer would look at the dysfunction of Enron, of General Motors, of American International Group, of Bank of America and of BP, and the failure of the health insurance industry to either improve care or control costs, as overwhelming evidence that American faith in private enterprise is simply mistaken, and that it’s time for government to step up.
But no such thing. Despite our drowning in a sea of crises brought on by the failures of private enterprises, the American political class, and evidently the American electorate, is instead outraged at government, because fixing what the private enterprise system broke isn’t free.
The American ship of state is in danger of capsizing to the right, and Americans respond by leaning, inexplicably, ever further to the right.
This is the cause of liberal anguish, and will shortly be the cause of the anguish of us all.
New York, June 21, 2010