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Nasty As Well As Incompetent

The always must-read Walter Russell Mead discusses Thomas Edsall’s New York Times op-ed, where Edsall blames mean-spirited white racism for Obamacare’s failures:

Middle America isn’t frothing over Obamacare because we are a nation of racist policy wonks who did the math and hate the blacks. The public is angry first (as Edsall mostly seems to understand) because of the supremely infuriating blend of incompetent arrogance our Second Lincoln has brought to the greatest domestic challenge of his presidency. They are angry because an expensive and cumbersome new piece of social engineering looks badly engineered. But in the second place, they are angry because the liberal wing of the Democratic Party and its journalistic spear carriers in the MSM systematically misrepresented the nature of the new system.

The modern administrative state depends on public faith in the administrative elite. Intellectually brilliant and eminently fair, the public spirited servants of the technocratic state are supposed to develop programs and policies that serve the general good. But what if they have other agendas? What if the administrative class has its own class interest which it attempts to advance under the cloak of disinterested social science?

Shifting the Middle America’s view of the technocracy was one of Ronald Reagan’s signal achievements. Enlightened professionals became officious and bumbling bureaucrats as many Americans lost faith in the government institutions that, liberals hoped and believed, would protect them against the forces of private greed.

Edsall is giving them a third reason to be angry.  The public knows full-well why it doesn’t like Obamacare, and it knows full well that it isn’t racism.  Just as the public knew that it wasn’t to blame for Carter’s incompetence.  Reagan made full use of Carter’s malaise speech, reminding people that Carter had made a hash of things, and then blamed them.

The trick for Republicans will be to nominate someone who can channel this anger into something that appeals to the positive, hopeful, and optimistic strains in the American spirit.  If that can be done while reminding people that government gifts always come with strings attached, it’ll be a great lesson for this generation.

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