The Patronizing Premise Behind the Modern Left
New York Times columnist David Brooks recently argued that Democrats’ proposed trillions of dollars in new government spending would provide dignity for the common man. Brooks misses not just the fact that the Biden agenda would undermine work, robbing millions of middle-class Americans of the dignity of a job, but also the patronizing premise underlying the left’s goals.
In the first century BC, the Roman poet Virgil coined the phrase Amor omnia vincit: “love conquers all.” By contrast, the left remains obsessed with creating new entitlements, believing Americans will overlook the country’s myriad problems under Democratic rule because voters care only about obtaining “free” benefits and programs from the government—Welfare omnia vincit.
Contrary to their name, modern progressives view most Americans as regressive—fundamentally incapable of succeeding beyond life on the dole.
Witness Democrat Terry McAuliffe’s comments at his recent Virginia gubernatorial debate with Republican Glenn Youngkin. Asked why in 2016 he vetoed a bill that would have allowed parents to block their children’s exposure to sexually explicit material, McAuliffe explained: “I’m not going to let parents come into schools and take books out and make their own decision….I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they teach.”
McAuliffe has company in thinking parents incapable of teaching their own children. In 2019, Harvard University professor Elizabeth Bartholet wrote a law review article calling for “a presumptive ban on homeschooling,” in part due to the Christian beliefs of most parents who homeschool.
Viewed from this perspective, Democratic proposals for “free” child care, pre-kindergarten, and community college appear less a well-intended move to help families than a ham-handed attempt to “save” the children of the unwashed masses.
Does Biden Think Voters Are Stupid?
Consider too the recent behavior by the current chief executive. Over the past four years, Joe Biden and his wife Jill used a tax loophole—one his administration now wants to eliminate—to avoid nearly $517,000 in Obamacare and Medicare payroll taxes.
Keeping aside the legality of Biden’s “pretty aggressive” tax avoidance scheme, why would someone who ran on making “the rich pay their fair share” and expanding Obamacare choose to dodge Obamacare and Medicare taxes while spending $2.7 million on a beach house?
Doubtless, the president hopes a complacent press will hide the plutocratic hypocrisy behind his “Middle-Class Joe” facade. But Biden’s behavior is part and parcel of the same progressive moral vacuum that has seen countless elected officials flout their own COVID restrictions: a belief that laws simply do not apply to elites, because voters will not recognize their putative leaders’ double standards.
Donald Trump may have spoken of his love of the poorly educated, but the Left apparently thinks American voters downright obtuse. Why else would Biden claim that his $3.5 trillion spending program will cost exactly “zero?”
Sure, The Country’s a Mess—Here’s Another ‘Stimmy!’
That same mentality explains Democrats’ obsession with their spending blowout, with its true focus not on health care or education but power—expanding the permanent underclass dependent on a bloated welfare state to solidify political control.
Leftists consider voters so feeble-minded, or desperate for more “free” programs, that they will ignore the United States’ humiliation at the hands of the Taliban, rising crime, skyrocketing inflation eating up Americans’ wages, a president who campaigned as a moderate embracing Sen. Bernie Sanders’s socialism, and Biden’s refusal to “pay his fair share.” But democracy generally frowns on political leaders who treat their constituents as fools, and the progressive message does just that.
Brooks misses the point that a left offering $6 trillion, or $3.5 trillion, or $1.9 trillion in spending values Americans as worth exactly that amount, and not a penny more. The subtle but unmistakable thread throughout progressivism rings clear: Most Americans have little chance at accomplishing more in life, but expanding the welfare state—the left’s new opiate of the masses—can make their lot in life slightly less miserable.
While progressives offer only crass transactional politics—vote for us and we’ll give you “free” stuff—conservatives should respond with an aspirational agenda, one that empowers people to choose the schools their children attend, and breaks down government-imposed barriers so they can succeed on their own. That contrast will reveal the patronizing premise at the heart of the progressive agenda.
This post was originally published at The Federalist.