In the aftermath of a presidential election, the outcome of which some people predicted, but I’m not one of them, Dave Barry points to the ever-morphing nature of “serious” politicians’ political beliefs.
In Washington, Democrats who believed in a strong president wielding power via executive orders instantly exchange these deeply held convictions with Republicans who until Election Day at roughly 10 p.m. Eastern time believed fervently in filibusters and limited government.
That’s a point that happens to be both clever and true–politicians do seem to take to heart Groucho Marx’s maxim, “Those are my principles, and if you don’t like them… well, I have others.”
But, as Matt Welch writes over at Reason, those “others” are sounding awfully familiar. With nationalism and populism rising across America, Europe, and beyond, the ideological center of gravity is shifting in a familiar–and frightening direction.
In the post-neoliberal era, parties of the left are going hard democrat-socialist (think Bernie Sanders and Jeremy Corbyn), while parties of the right increasingly adopt the welfare-state nationalism of Donald Trump, Viktor Orban, and France’s ever-advancing Le Pen family. The areas around the center are as dead as the political careers of, well, Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush.
Shades of the 1930s! Everything old is new again, indeed–especially withdrawing inward, and looking for a strongman to reclaim imagined past glory by force of will. And by force of arms, if need be.
Not that the lost center was much of anything to mourn, but as elitist and warlike as it was, people from America to France to the Philippines seem to be rejecting it in favor of a rawer, more grassroots authoritarianism.
There may be an opening here for people favoring liberty and autonomy. But I suspect that most libertarian relief for the near future will be achieved outside of and despite government policy, not through the political system.
In the meantime, break out your copy of The Road to Serfdom. The insights in there, put on paper in reaction to another moment when faith in individualism and freedom was waning, seem strikingly current.