The Corner

The Issues That Affect People in Their Daily Lives

This is the standard trope, cliche or talking point used by Democrats and liberals to explain the sorts of issues they think their party is better at dealing with. If you ever watch West Wing, paid attention to Bill Clinton’s eight year rule, listen to Hillary Clinton, read liberal magazines or blogs or care about politics at all than you’ve heard some variant of this 8 hundred katrillion times. I understand what they mean: Maternity leave, health care etc.

Fine. Good. Nice.

But here’s the thing I’m missing. These people who hate Bush with such blinding passion, the ones who talk about fascism this and lost civil liberties that: when I ask them what they hate about Bush and his policies they almost never talk about the issues that affect their daily lives. It’s all this righteous indignation about Abu Ghraib or Gitmo or Jose Padilla. Or it’s about the Patriot Act. Or the tax cuts.

But in almost all of these cases these folks can’t describe in concrete terms how Bush’s policies affect their daily lives (let’s leave gay marriage out of this for a moment). I think it is entirely legitimate, even necessary, to complain about political decisions on principle even if they have no affect on your own comfort. The Patriot Act, Abu Ghraib etc are all real issues. But they are not issues that affect 99.999999% of these gripers’ daily lives. Show me a hundred thousand people picked at random who say the Patriot Act has made their life worse and I will show you nine hundred and ninety nine thousand nine hundred and ninety nine liars.

How you can talk about creeping fascism under the Bush administration and joke about how you might leave the country when nothing, nada, zip has happened to you or anyone you know that would provide evidence for such views is beyond me — if your yardstick for political merit is how it affects your daily life.

It seems that the “affect our daily lives” criteria for politicians is really an expression of a preference for politicians who will “give me stuff.” And politicians who don’t give me stuff are automatically fascists.

Discuss amongst yourselves.

Jonah Goldberg — Jonah Goldberg holds the Asness Chair in Applied Liberty at the American Enterprise Institute and is a senior editor of National Review. His new book, The Suicide of The West, is on sale now.

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