The Closing of the Liberal Frontier?

Gagagaga: Where does it stop? Thomas Hegghammer argues that general disgust at encroaching Western cultural decadence is far less important, as a cause of Islamist terrorism directed at the U.S., than the Palestinian issue:

To the extent that Westernization causes militancy, the violence it inspires is nearly always directed at other Muslims, typically against regimes in Arab countries, because these legislate over matters of public morality. Jihadists are idealists, but they are not so utopian as to think they can stop Westernization by attacking America. However, they do think that by installing Islamist local governments, those governments can take measures to limit social liberalization.

This seems a little pat. Just because outrage at Lady Gaga currently leads to attacks only on Target A doesn’t mean it will continue to do so in the future. If (as Reza Aslan, for one, suggests) Al Qaeda is best seen cynically as an organization bent on growth but flexible as to means, it should be able to switch to an “anti-Westernization” recruitment theme should the anti-Israel theme peter out. … Hegghammer soon retreats to the near-inarguable point that resolving the Palestinian issue would “likely” reduce recruitment. … 11:14 A.M.


Decimal, Schmecimal: Sunlight Foundation overstates Stupak group earmarks by a factor of 10. … 10:45  A.M.


Tomorrow’s Yesterday’s David Brooks column today: With the enactment of a form of universal health insurance, is the edifice of the modern American welfare state complete? Sure, there’s tinkering to be done: Add a public option? Increase the Earned Income Tax Credit? But is there some huge badly-needed state-provided benefit or entitlement that’s not now on offer?  Or is the job of New Deal Liberalism (Benefits Division) largely complete? … You have to wonder if this will have an impact like the closing of the frontier. Will the Democratic party turn inwards, directing its now-diminished energy and idealism into satisfying the smaller concerns of its interest groups? (And how will we tell the difference in California? Just kidding!) … Will this be like the moon landing–not the beginning of dramatic achievements for NASA, but the end, at least for a long time. … When the parties are competing domestically mainly on the issue of who can rev up the economy, will the relatively small differences between them (neither party’s socialist, neither is for killing Social Security or Medicare or–soon–Obamacare) yield more vicious campaigning, faculty politics style? … 1:51 P.M.


Maybe I can dramatize it this way: If CNN’s Jon Klein were a unionized L.A. teacher, he’d still have his job! … What’s that you say? You’re kidding. … Well, check back and see if he’s still there in a month. … 7:31 P.M.


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  1. Posted March 31, 2010 at 12:47 am | Permalink

    Did you see Clive Crook’s column on the same topic in yesterday’s FT (“Obama throws out the political rules”)? He suggests another possibility, that new frontiers could open up for Dems, depending on how November goes.

  2. Mickey Kaus
    Posted March 31, 2010 at 5:44 am | Permalink

    I don’t see the new frontiers. But it’s a good column. Thanks–I’d missed it.

  3. noahp
    Posted March 31, 2010 at 1:33 pm | Permalink

    Mickey, did you miss the polling re the unpopularity of Obamacare and rhetoric (perhaps farfetched) about repeal or defunding?

    Now that you officially a candidate, what is your position on reducing the drficit? The CBO has projected even higher cumulative deficits than Obama and since they are using static analysis which in the past has underestimated the stimulative effects of tax cuts aren’t they likely to be overestimating the projected revenues of tax increases?

  4. Anthony Howe
    Posted March 31, 2010 at 2:35 pm | Permalink


    Disagree with your premise. Or, perhaps more accurately stated, I think your premise is fast-becoming obsolete. The tea-partiers, formal and informal ( a much, much larger population), do not hold social security and medicare as “rights”, anymore than they hold healthcare to be a right. Indeed, a Constitutional Convention would seem long overdue just so that we can catch the old girl up to the new rights we keep creating out of the ether (I almost forgot; we also created a near right to home ownership with predictably disastrous consequences). I’m hopeful that during the proposed CC, we might formally reject such rights and add precise provisions governing earmarks, taxation, deficit spending and term limits.

    But back to the matter at hand. Which major party has to at least entertain such “heresy”? Ahem…it would appear the differences, or at least the potential differences between the major parties, are more profound than you suggested.

  5. Steve Gerow
    Posted March 31, 2010 at 4:36 pm | Permalink

    Your statement that the Democrats are not socialists is astonishing. They’ve sure been doing a great job hiding that since they came to power!

  6. OSweet
    Posted March 31, 2010 at 5:03 pm | Permalink

    I remember the late 70s and early 80s, so I predict malaise. With no end in sight, excepting the respective eschatological prognostications from the fringes of left and right.

    And also a fad to sprinkle into every sentence the word ‘stagflation,’ mainly by otherwise slick talkers who otherwise understand economics about as well as they understand quantum physics.

  7. Luke Lea
    Posted March 31, 2010 at 7:11 pm | Permalink

    New Democratic Agenda: Across the board wage subsidies for non-supervisory wage-workers to be financed by a graduated consumption tax (which is basically a graduated income tax with savings tax-exempt). Otherwise we will be forced to introduce protective tariffs to protect American wages.

    It is also time re-consider a reduction of the standard workweek as a way to reduce the supply of labor and raise its price. FDR proposed a 30 hour week 75 years ago!

    The real hourly wages of American working families is the big issue of the future!

  8. Posted March 31, 2010 at 7:23 pm | Permalink

    Politics won’t change because there is an endless supply of people who can be convinced that getting something free from the government is a good idea . Among the rest of the people there are many who would suppport government imposition of news laws to make their lives better. We get progress(ivism) – the subsidized want more subsidies, the lawmakers make more laws and lawyers and rules and rulers. Naturally, producers get less of what they produce. I’m happy to oppose that trend but not optimistic (today anyway)

  9. Mark Robinson
    Posted March 31, 2010 at 8:36 pm | Permalink

    Mickey, I was surprised by your talk of the end of liberalism/building the welfare state. If you are the same guy who wrote “The End of Equality”, then I thought you could mention that our country still hasn’t dealt with the problem that lots of people who want to work don’t have jobs. You once wrote that liberals should advocate for a neo-WPA. Do you still support that idea? If so, why don’t you spend more time talking about jobs and unemployment? I’ve been reading your blog for the past few years, so I know you support the 1996 welfare reform, but surely that law hasn’t eliminated the need for a neo-WPA? Anyway, I thought this blog post was a good place to mention it since it concerned the future direction/purpose of liberal affirmative government, and I was disappointed that you didn’t.

  10. Mickey Kaus
    Posted April 1, 2010 at 1:52 am | Permalink

    Good point!

  11. Posted April 1, 2010 at 6:07 am | Permalink

    Not new frontiers in the ‘benefits division’ but new frontiers in terms of substantive new legislation (e.g., a McCain-Kennedy style amnesty bill to increase the number of net benefit recipients). There’s also the small matter of figuring out how to pay for the benefit division. That will probably go beyond the scrum between the 40 yard lines that has characterized Clinton-Bush 43 tax policy. It will probably require new, broad-based, regressive taxes (e.g., a VAT).

  12. noahp
    Posted April 1, 2010 at 11:04 am | Permalink

    Gee I was sort of excited to see you run but if the comments above are any indication of the typical Kaus supporter then clearly they are expecting you to run to her left. Good luck with that.

  13. Jackit
    Posted April 1, 2010 at 10:19 pm | Permalink

    Democrats not socialist?
    What is wrong with you Mickey?
    I had hopes for your campaign, but you are a dope, a real dope.
    Then what should I excpect from someone who hopes Boxer wins.

  14. Y.
    Posted April 1, 2010 at 11:01 pm | Permalink

    I wonder what can boost terrorist recruitment more than showing publicly that they are scary and effective enough to get Western countries to change their policies and priorities, and publicly arguing which grievances we should give in to.

    Then again, I find this whole “terrorist recruitment” meme silly; it’s like Westmoreland’s bodybag count in reverse – with the difference measurement is even more difficult and more worthless. After all, it took only 19 people to carry 9/11. There’ll always be enough fanatics to try this again. Terrorist organizations end when either the ideology is fulfilled or when people lose interest in the ideology (either due to despair of ever succeeding, or being replaced by another set of dreams) or when (in centralized organizations) the leadership decides to end it.

  15. Posted April 2, 2010 at 2:16 pm | Permalink

    not just palestine – a general feeling of muslims getting short end of stick, kashmir, break up of pakistan/bangla desh, arab economic dependence on selling oil to west, westernized development and government policies…

    western decadence could actually make non-westerners feel superior, chance to make a stand suppressing this or that; on this they are in control; things not in their control are what upset them

  16. Matthew in Austin
    Posted April 2, 2010 at 2:21 pm | Permalink

    Yesterday, your post led off with “Gaga Gagaga”, and now it is just “Gagaga”. I am dying to know the thinking behind that un-noted correction!

    I thought you were going for something from the opening of her Bad Romance song…
    Roma Roma-ma
    GaGa, Oh-la-la

    But that didn’t quite fit.

  17. Richard Cook
    Posted April 2, 2010 at 4:11 pm | Permalink

    I’m with Y. on the terrorist-recruitment business [and of course with the Senator!]. What they are against isn’t all that relevant; it is what they are for that matters. It’s unhelpful to review the long course of American history to figure out what wrong we did that could defuse the Islamist movement. I question the value of the Western-educated, upper-middle-class jihadis’ critique. The relevant issue is for us to decide on our policy, re: Israel or anything else, as we see fit. It isn’t quite “Damn the torpedoes,” but it lay on that side of the spectrum.
    And now that it’s [nigh] Senator Kaus, it’ll be a foreign policy blog! [Speaking of which, what committee(s) are you angling for?]

  18. Mickey Kaus
    Posted April 2, 2010 at 10:56 pm | Permalink

    I misremembered the lyrics. Thought she said “gaga” twice.
    Old law school joke on judgment calls: “Mississippi is a very long word. You don’t know where to stop. But you’ve got to stop somewhere.”

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