Politics & Policy

Which Is the Real Party of Fear?

President Barack Obama participates in an interview with Vox’s Ezra Klein (center) and Sarah Kliff at Blair House in 2017. (Carlos Barria/Reuters)
Vox's Ezra Klein would do better to examine his own party’s many phobias.

Few techniques enrage more effectively than a single-word admonition to “relax.” Try it sometime when someone is upset; it’s lighter fluid on the fire, every time. Smug people know this, including the Sultan of Smug, Ezra Klein.

The founder of the young-adult site Vox is back with yet another essay saying, “Relax, conservatives.” This one repeats a favorite myth of the smug-progressive Left, which is that conservatism is powered by “fear.” Klein thinks that if only conservatives would relax about inevitable “change,” and vote accordingly, we could all march forward together into a shiny new era of tolerance, compassion, free-thinking, and love. It’ll be like Woodstock, only with better toilets.

When Klein talks about “change,” he is thinking of demography. He believes conservatives are getting driven off the rails by fears of black people and Muslims and documentation-challenged immigrants and maybe feminists and abstract art. Going back a bit, we had an “inordinate fear of Communism,” in Jimmy Carter’s famous words. Klein is chill about all of these things and urges us to be as fear-free as he is. As all the smugprogs are. As the Democratic party inherently is.

All Klein is actually doing here is proving his status as a bubble boy who never sets foot outside his comfortably furnished, intellectually climate-controlled living space. He is so intellectually dishonest that he is able to fool even himself.

In fact, Klein and his party are all about fear. The Democratic party is defined by fear of climate change, of the police, of incipient theocracy, of white supremacists with tiki torches. It fears that the American Dream is dead, that the next generation will be far worse off, that abortions will have to be performed with coat hangers, and that capitalism is corrupt. It fears fascism, racism, Donald Trump, and the millionaires and billionaires who are hogging all the wealth. It fears GMOs and fast food and food deserts and that people are eating too much meat and that the planet will run out of food. It fears toxic masculinity, rape culture, and college fraternities. It fears gentrification and charter schools. It fears that fake news and Fox News and the Russians are going to steal the next election. It fears that the Koch Brothers and Ben Shapiro and Sinclair Broadcasting are warping millions of minds and that their reach is growing. It fears money spent by corporations in political campaigns and that millions of Americans are about to lose their health insurance. It fears voter suppression and voting machines. It fears the “change” that might be wrought by the Supreme Court and it fears the “change” that Amazon might have brought to Queens. It fears nuclear energy and school shootings and Chick-fil-A and anti-vaxxers. It fears that we are living on Page One of The Handmaid’s Tale. It fears having babies who will surely grow up in misery because of all of the above.

I don’t have to go to the Left’s equivalent of Sean Hannity to find all this. It’s right there on Klein’s own site every day. Vox’s motto might as well be, “All the stuff that young adults fear.” Even the smugprogs whom Klein singles out as examples of fearless politicians are avatars of fear.

In his kickoff speech on Monday, presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg expressed fear of “the politics of the past,” of “tectonic” change, of school shootings, and of the prospect of being “defeated by the changes beneath us.” He spoke of “a generation that stands to be the first ever in America to come out worse off economically than our parents if we don’t do something truly different.” He stoked fears of “the bleakness of this moment,” credit card companies, gerrymandering, Citizens United, white nationalism, medical bankruptcy, losing a job, losing health care, losing democracy, police, the pro-life movement, county clerks, election fraud, cyberfraud, floods, tornadoes, hurricanes, and fires. He said of climate change, “Our economy is on the line. Our future is on the line. Lives are on the line. So let’s call this what it is, climate security, a life-and-death issue for our generation.” He advised fear of just about everyone: “Your neighbor can make you unfree. Your cable company can make you unfree.” Fine. But if I’m going to fear my neighbor or my cable guy, maybe I should just buy a gun. Buttigieg didn’t state that he alone could fix all of this. He merely implied it.

All of this comes from Klein’s shining knight of hope-based, rather than fear-based, politics. I can hear the Voxxers saying, “wait a minute, our fears are legit! All that stuff really is scary!” That is arguable. But to say it is to concede my point. Note that I haven’t offered an opinion on whether any of these fears are justified. I didn’t use the word “hysteria.” I merely said that progressives are afraid of a lot of stuff. That is simply inarguable. The Democrats are a party riddled with fear.

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