You all remember the old saw that Americans are ideologically conservative but operationally liberal? It means that lots of Americans say they’re conservative and like to believe they’re conservative, but when it comes to specific government programs they turn out to be pretty liberal. They like Medicare and Social Security and federal highways and disaster relief and unemployment insurance and all that. Try to cut these things and you learn very quickly just how operationally liberal most Americans are.
Yes, I remember that old saw. It’s rubbish. Try it in another context: A lot of Americans say they eat healthy, and like to believe they eat healthy, but put a bunch of tasty junk food in front of them and, Bob’s your uncle, they turn out to be pretty unhealthy after all.
Of course people are not going to give up Medicare and Social Security after those programs have been dangled in front of them their entire working lives. (They’re just tax-and-spend programs, remember, so we’re not “investing” in our own “trust accounts”—we’re paying for them because we like them so much because, again, we’re all “operationally liberal.”) To suggest this means the whole thing’s a draw politically is pretty crooked scorekeeping.
In fact, I was surprised that Drum would be this transparent about the fact that, when it comes to underlying objectives concerning redistribution and centralization, liberals don’t bother appealing to intellect. They’re going to appeal to base desires, and they’re going to capitalize on crises when the value of principles is depressed. When people get something for nothing, they’re unlikely to give it up voluntarily, and in fact are probably going to ask what else is on the menu at the same price.
Drum goes on:
When Americans hear about free enterprise from conservative politicians, it’s usually accompanied by images of sunrises over wheat fields, hardworking farmers, and small-town construction workers heading home after a day of honest labor. It is very definitely not accompanied by images of well-coiffed guys in suits and green eyeshades, making millions by sitting in boardrooms and approving mass layoffs by adding a quick line to a spreadsheet before they head out to lunch. But guess what? That’s what you get with Romney whether you like it or not. Americans may be ideological free marketers, but operationally they’re just folks who believe in a day’s pay for a day’s work. If you rub their noses in the the true face of modern capitalism, they aren’t going to like what they see.
The condescension toward the cow-tippers in flyover country is palpable.