Sunday, July 20, 2014

Goldberg Variation

Following up on the Friends Like These post from last week (on Sen. Tom Coburn and the cross ideological friendships in the Senate), the conversation continues at Ricochet with some insightful comments from the membership over there. 

This weekend, Jonah Goldberg also had an excellent analysis on the way liberals mask their political arguments that I think gets to the root of how people like Coburn can believe someone to be a destructive, wasteful, scoundrel and a great person and good friend. When Coburn says things like ...

They are great people. But, they lack the judgment to see what they’re doing. They’re blinded by their own ambition. A great person is .. I’m not questioning their motives, I’m questioning they’re lack of experience. That’s the difference. If you continue to send people here who have no real world experience, no real hardship, no real difficulty, no real successes in life outside of politics, you’re going to continue to get the same result. 

...  I think he’s just showing that he falls for the strategy they employ, as described by Goldberg: 

 … liberalism hides behind seemingly value-neutral or benign language in order to advance a value-laden and not necessarily benign agenda. Conservatives argue as conservatives. Liberals tend to argue not so much as liberals, but in a variety of disguises, each of which tries to draw on authority unearned by liberalism itself. Indeed, the history of American liberalism can be understood as a series of costume changes. A new nominally non-ideological discipline emerges — political science, engineering, public health, psychology, environmentalism, neuroscience and, these days, various forms of data prestidigitation — and liberals flock to it. They don the latest fashionable version of the white smock and say — à la Bill Murray in Ghostbusters — “back off man, we’re scientists.” Or to be more fair, they claim to be speaking for the scientists, engineers, psychologists, and other experts. “We’re not ideologues, we go with the facts.” 
… Today, the political landscape is littered with earnest, well-intentioned, and often, incredibly sanctimonious liberals who insist that they are simply pursuing truth and fact regardless of ideology. 

Both Coburn and Goldberg agree that this approach is rarely vindicated in the long run by being on the right side of the truth in a matter. Coburn seems to hold out hope that someday they’ll learn (or that the people will elect more practical, logical liberals), while Goldberg notes that landing on the truth is not the point of the argument strategy, and before anyone can stop and reflect on the false arguments of yesterday, they’re already on to the next intellectual pose.