Thomas Frank: the backlash returns

Thomas Frank, who coined the term “the Great Backlash,” and made it famous in his book, “What’s the Matter with Kansas?” notes in his column in today’s Wall Street Journal that it didn’t take long for the Obama Honeymoon to end.

traders revolt1 Thomas Frank: the backlash returnsA scary new populism made the cover of Newsweek back in March.

But then we skipped a step. Some new version of the Bonus Army never marched on Washington. No Huey Long materialized to haunt the wealthy and we have endured no wave of sit-down strikes.

Instead, we proceeded straight to the backlash, raging against a leftist upsurge that maybe should have happened but that didn’t.

Today, from the floor of town-hall meetings and the heights of the Republican Party, alarmed Americans fret about secret socialists and denounce the president as a dictator. They make plans to pull their children out of school rather than have them exposed to his hypnotic oratorical powers. They quail at imaginary death panels, storm at imaginary threats to gun rights, and froth at an imaginary birth-certificate scandal. And it has required only eight months of Democratic administration to bring the right to a boil.

We remember people telling us at the beginning of the year that “we elected Obama, so now the Right is defeated, they don’t matter any more.”  This was, of course, rather discouraging for filmmakers who’d spent years making a documentary about the conservative movement.  Ah, how quickly things change.

Liberalism will never triumph in America until liberal politicians institute policies that demonstrably improves the lives of most Americans – and then explain to the public how liberal ideas work for them.

As long as Obama muddles around with bipartisan compromise without really standing for anything the public can make sense of — except for spending an awful lot of money — he will lose every battle. Eventually, the most he will be able to aspire to is — Bill Clinton’s presidency.  Of course, some folks would be quite satisfied with just that.

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