The Death of Contrarianism

The New Republic returns to its Progressive roots as a cheerleader for state power.

(Page 3 of 3)

So what can we expect from the new New Republic? Judging from its output since the redesign, this is a magazine that is prepared to spend (and therefore lose) more money than it has in a generation, which is good news for liberal journalists at least. Top-shelf writers Michael Lewis, Walter Kirn, and Michael Kinsley graced the Obama interview issue; Sam Tanenhaus and Julia Ioffe anchored the next.

But the political discussion proceeds as if the failed liberal experiments of the 1960s, ’70s, and ’80s never happened. “Progressives have achieved the impossible: They balanced California’s books,” proclaims David Dayen, brazenly ignoring the Golden State’s $28 billion wall of debt and estimated $300 billion in unfunded pension liabilities (not to mention the fact that the balanced-budget claim was based on the kind of overly optimistic projections that have long caused eye rolling among Sacramento journalists). Walter Kirn spends thousands of words elegantly describing the nuanced cultural aspects of being a lifelong gun owner, pointing out that much of the anti-gun policy debate is hysterical, but then punts on the policy conclusion: Owners should accept feel-good gun restrictions, Kirn says, in order to look “civilized” and “reasonable” to the rest of the country.

The great irony is that The New Republic is repudiating contrarian neoliberalism precisely when we need it most. Obama proposes in his State of the Union address to jack up the minimum wage to $9 an hour, and instead of surveying the vast skeptical academic literature, or asking (pace Charles Peters) whether such liberal gestures are “more about preserving their own gains than about helping those in need,” TNR columnist Timothy Noah declares, “Raise the Minimum Wage! And make it higher than what Obama just proposed.” The president announces in the same speech a plan to create universal, federally funded preschool, and instead of reflecting on the well-documented failures of the K–12 system, Jonathan Cohn congratulates the president, because “first somebody has to start the conversation.” A more accurate take: First somebody has to ignore the conversation of the previous four decades.

In the spring of 2010, liberal commentators began advancing a meme that the conservative movement’s intellectual wing was heading toward “epistemic closure,” shutting out any viewpoints that didn’t match their skewed version of reality. Paul Krugman and Eric Alterman deploy the term readily to mock the closed-minded groupthink of their opponents. Like a lot of partisan insults, the closure crack contained some truth: Witness the conservative-journalism freakout in February over a group, called “Friends of Hamas,” that eventually turned not to exist. But it was also a reminder of the Pendulum Rule of politics: You quickly become that which you criticize.

Somewhere, some day, a left-of-center critique of the Obamaite consensus will emerge, perhaps even one that revives the neoliberal economic ideas currently out of fashion. It’s hard to know where the epistemic opening will come from, but we can say for certain where it won’t: The New Republic.

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  • John||

    Somewhere, some day, a left-of-center critique of the Obamaite consensus will emerge, perhaps even one that revives the neoliberal economic ideas currently out of fashion.

    I don't think so Matt or at least not until things have turned out really badly, like French Revolution bad. Liberals have gone past the point of no return on this. They have too much of their own personal self worth invested to turn back. This is the wages of the personal is political.

  • Pro Libertate||

    What has struck me over the last decade is how openly statist and socialistic many of the left have become. Something happened to strip off the veneer or to turn things a more radical direction. I'm not sure what it was, but it definitely happened.

    It may very well be the willingness of the right to go down statist, socialist road as well that drives some of this.

  • NoVAHockey||

    i think it's associated with the "demographic changes ensure we will never lose" mentality that the left has. this has freed them to be more open.

  • Libertarius||

    You'd have to be retarded and economically backwards to say "Yayy, having everyone on welfare means we can never lose!"

    Yeah until the damn thing collapses under its own dead weight. Rand gave the metaphor of a big oak tree that had rotted from the inside out, that is exactly what the left has done to the intellectual foundation this country once had. But evil cannot win, and the left will self-destruct, as all light timbers must.


  • wareagle||

    You'd have to be retarded and economically backwards to say "Yayy, having everyone on welfare means we can never lose!"

    or you could just be interested in political power and growing dependency on govt provides power for those doling out the benefits. Yes, the left is both retarded and economically backward, but it does not care about that.

  • Lord Humungus||

    The left became rabid under Bush. At least that's how I see it. Once they got the leashes of power, they went full crazy.

    Also, their base of power has shifted. It used to be working class (many whites) who were more socially conservative.

  • Randian||

    Yes. They marinated in their own craziness and then the lid got taken off.

  • EDG reppin' LBC||

    You've just become a paranoid libertarian, and see a socialist conspiracy everywhere you look. As your dangerous individualism becomes more fully realized, you stand in more contrast against the collective of both the right and left.

  • Pro Libertate||

    I'll report to the reeducation center immediately.

  • np||

  • np||

  • John||

    The most disturbing part is how they have made a living by division. They don't even pretend to care about the white working class anymore. Their entire sales pitch consists of providing a way for people to hate and feel superior to the white working class. That is not going to end well. Eventually the white working class is going to coalesce as their own victim group and we are going to end up with real Balkanization.

  • Lord Humungus||

    It's gotten to the point that any affection I had for this country has diminished to the point that I really don't care what happens to it. The past few years - Bush II included - of running roughshod over the entire concept of "America" - freedom, individual rights, etc - has changed the character of this nation. These aren't coming back.

    Not that things have been dandy for the past 50-100 years, but the bones - the very reason for the 1776 Declation - were still there. Now?

  • Lord Humungus||


  • Randian||

    Pfft. Pipe down there, Sad Sack.

  • Lord Humungus||

    make me!

  • geekster||


  • R C Dean||

    Eventually the white working class is going to coalesce as their own victim group

    They can and will be bought off. Food stamps, expanded Medicaid, EITC, ObamaCare subsidies, higher minimum wage, blah blah blah.

    Now, when the whole thing takes a dump because there just ain't any more money, things will be really, really ugly. Who knows who they will direct their anger at when their gov checks dry up and they've got nothing else left?

  • Pro Libertate||

    I know. The libertarian menace.

  • John||

    This is why they want them disarmed.

  • XM||

    A coalition consisting of disparate factions (their hatred for the ruling class partially binds them) will form cracks eventually. Asians, Latinos, and blacks have little natural attraction to another. Some of them are social conservatives.

    The massive student loans and Obamacare disaster should lead to some soul searching among their ranks.

  • Drake||

    They used to be very careful to keep a lid on their nuttiness. They kept the moderate liberal mask on very tight for decades.

    I too am disturbed that they tossed aside their masks so casually.

  • Almanian!||

    Agree. The irony of the "Fight the Power!" left BECOMING The Establishment™ is delicious on one level, but frightening and horrifying in real life.

    And I definitely don't see it changing or being challenged "from within". It's rotten to the core, thus precluding any self correction.

    Hail Ceasar!

  • John||

    The scary part is that the best way to get people to start killing others is to convince them they are victims. The Germans happily killed the Jews because they felt like they were victims of the Jews. The Russian and Chinese Communists killed the upper classes because they felt they were victims of the upper classes.

    American liberals control virtually every institution in America. Yet they still see themselves as victims and as fighting authority. That is scary.

  • sarcasmic||

    Liberals worship force. Everything they do involves force.

    So when someone opposes liberals using force, the liberals feel that they are victim.

    Recall how liberals despise the notion of self defense and equivocate it to vigilante justice?

    This is because they see the mugger as the victim when some bitter clinger pulls a gun on them.

  • Loki||

    This is because they see the mugger as the victim when some bitter clinger pulls a gun on them.

    They see the mugger as a poor starving minority (usually) while the bitter clinger who pulled a gun on them is usually a white suburban middle to upper class male. So the mugger is almost always seen as a victim of the EVUL CAPITALIZM and the bitter clinger as some rich white dude jealosly gaurding his "property".

    They're icapable of seeing the mugger as an individual who made the decision to try and rob someone and the bitter clinger as being an individual who made the decision to defend themselves.

  • Raven Nation||

    "icapable": freaking Apple. Now they're taking over vocabulary as well.

  • wwhorton||

    ...from a real conversation I had:

    "Yeah, seriously, if someone mugged me, threatening to injure or kill me for my wallet, and I had a gun handy, I would shoot them. Even if it killed them, and, yes, even if they were 12. Are you seriously telling me that if someone threatened to kill you unless you gave them anything they wanted, you wouldn't fight back at all?"

    "Well, no, that would be horrible! I couldn't live with myself. I'd rather they kill me and take my purse than me kill them."

    "...but...but...this is a person who has decided to threaten you, who might kill you anyway, and who may do it to someone else!"

    "Exactly. Imagine what that person's life has to be like to drive them to do that!"

    And that's the mentality you're fighting against. Welcome to Progressivism.

  • PapayaSF||

    This is one of the downsides to civilized life, and may yet be its doom. In a harsher world, such fools would die out and leave few if any offspring.

  • wareagle||

    liberalism relies on perceived victimhood for its very survival. It's one reason the left can never honestly outline a policy position. The ideology plays on the worst of man's emotions, always trying to convince the masses that any problem they face is someone else's fault.

  • DarrenM||

    Hail Ceasar!

    Napoleon might be more appropriate.

  • Jon Lester||

    I think it's already emerging. The gun issue in particular has done much to expose the authoritarian statists on the left, and those of us who believe in natural rights have been quick to notice when some resort to disrespecting the First Amendment, and even openly calling for violating the Fourth, in their desire to repeal the Second. Simply put, these are not who you want to trust with defending any of your rights.

    Much can be said of the defeat of DiFi's new "assault weapons ban," the threat of which was what moved me to join the Liberal Gun Club's forums (and to visit here more often), but I'd say it also means I'm not alone in pushing for new ways of doing things. The old model of a linear ideological spectrum is as simplistic as it is obsolete, and it's time to challenge establishment-types on all sides.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    So if libertarians take the country's helm, The New Republic will suddenly extol the virtues of personal liberty? Or gradually implode?

  • Way Of The Crane||

    You spoke last summer about your election potentially breaking the fever of the Republicans. The hope being that, once you were reelected, they would seek to do more than just block your presidency. Do you feel that you’ve made headway on that? *SLURP* - *MNUM* - *GLARGH* - *SLURP* - *GAG* - *COUGH* - Mmmmm More - *SLURP*”
  • Kyfho Myoba||


  • SumpTump||

    Now there is a dude that clearly knows what time it is. Wow.

  • Alan Vanneman||

    Nice article, baby face! But re the Tannenhaus piece, please explain to me why the Republican Party isn't the white man's party. For more on this, go here to my blog,, and search for "Republican racism"!

  • Lord Humungus||

    The Anal Canal can type.

  • ||


  • ||

    Why is race important to you? Projectionist supreme.

  • PapayaSF||

    You see, in the old days, if a set of opinions was popular among the darker races, that was supposedly proof that it was wrong. That attitude is called "racism."

    Today, though, progressives have enlightened us, and we know that if a set of opinions is popular among whites, that proves that it is wrong. This attitude is called "anti-racism."

  • ||

    Finally the left has a media outlet so they can get their message out to the masses... er... wait... wha?

  • SiliconDoc||

    I'm certain it's not really left, it's just what worked, what the people want, it's what comes naturally, people demand it...

  • phandaal||

    I can't fucking stand the word "wonk." When did it become common usage, and how can I kill it?

  • Pro Libertate||

    Yes. Use it in what you believe to be its original and correct meaning:

    wonk (n.)
    "overly studious person," 1954, American English student slang, popularized 1993 during Clinton administration in U.S.; perhaps a shortening of British slang wonky "shaky, unreliable." Or perhaps a variant of British slang wanker "masturbator." It was earlier British naval slang for "midshipman" (1929).
  • ||

    So an overly studious, shaky, unreliable, masturbating midshipman?

  • Pro Libertate||

    Yes, exactly.

  • Suellington||

    My British wife uses "wonky" all the time to describe something that is not quite level or appears to be broken.

  • Bill Dalasio||

    So, in other words, all of the policies they're proposing now didn't work the last twenty times they were tried becuase The Right People(tm) weren't in charge. And worse still, this same little coterie seems to be metastasizing throughout the legacy media.

  • wwhorton||

    Give that man a prize!

  • margaretsusen||

    my friend's mother makes $65/hour on the computer. She has been out of a job for eight months but last month her pay was $15949 just working on the computer for a few hours. Go to this web site and read more

  • rbenchley||

    Lisa The New Republic: Your campaign seems to have the momentum of a runaway freight train. Why are you so popular?

    Mr. Burns Obama: Ooh, a tough question, but a fair one.

  • DarrenM||

    So, it's turned into just another propaganda rag. Too bad. It would be nice to have thoughtful critique of proposed government policies.

  • riseboroughandrea||

    Violet. if you, thought Rachel`s rep0rt is nice, yesterday I bought themselves a Lotus Elan since getting a check for $6499 this-last/month and in excess of ten k lass month. with-out any doubt it's the nicest-job Ive ever had. I started this six months/ago and almost straight away started to earn over $79 per/hr. I follow the details here,,

  • Scott Lahti||

    The TNR redesign is a train wreck. After the cover shot of the president, interviewed inside by Hughes and editor Franklin Foer, peering at the reader and by implication at his 310 million ... subjects like a mildly disapproving uncle ("'LET ME BE CLEAR...': The President Is Not Pleased"), the ensuing "busy", buzzy, bells-and-whistles sardine-can aspect of every squint-requiring page, about the Way We Live Now disposability of whose editorial content the less said the better, was probably a foregone conclusion. Still, even after correcting for nostalgia in recalling the journal's Stalinoid/Wallaceite flirtations during the New Deal era, and the post-1974 Peretz-era deformations, I can't help thinking that the shades of Edmund Wilson and Walter Lippmann have as of Winter 2013 taken unto themselves all the world's post-1859 contra-Darwinian reaction. To say that TNR is, largely thanks to the residual Trillingite humanism of the better back-of-the-book offerings under literary editor Leon Wieseltier, still as an English-faculty adjunct a clear notch above, g-ds help us all, the Goldberg/Lopez/Lowry/Nordlinger-era National Review, and that such among its neoliberal brethren as, e.g., The Atlantic, the NYRoB, the NYTBR and The New Yorker, are themselves long since mired in a like slough of Death-Throes-of-Legacy-Media ossified predictability in both Weltanschauung and regular in-group bylines, really is to damn in praise at its most whisper-soft.

  • SiliconDoc||

    Well I just read TNR's spew on the making of MSNBC and "Griffin" it's ideological creator, who according to the spew, just did what worked without any political bias or ideology whatsoever, unlike FoxNews the partisan agenda network for republicans and conservatives.
    That between claiming Griffin might be a democrat no one is really certain, since they just did "what the people wanted" the vast majority no doubt, and soon they will maybe perhaps in 5 years pass up Fox, even if they don't, it's great.

    Yeah, the cheer leading was incredible, the lies numerous and obvious and the author pretending obliviousness.

  • ||

    Every once in a while an article, like this one, lets me know I am not nearly enough, nor have I ever been, as intellectual as....I confess that I never understood the nuances and divisions that the author lays out.

    I've mostly been taken by the struggles, sometimes bloody, between labor and capitalists, woman's rights and the struggle of blacks for equality and justice. Those, I have always thought, were the defining causes of my liberalism, and add not so much gay rights as equality and justice for all individuals.

  • lap83||

    I think the death of contrarianism has been incubating. Baby boomers have been in power for a while now and their kids are grown up. The 60s ideals are status quo.

  • coradaved||

    uptil I saw the paycheck for $8029, I have faith mom in-law had been realy making money in their spare time on their computer.. there dads buddy has done this for less than 1 year and just now cleared the morgage on there villa and purchased a brand new Lotus Carlton. read more at,

  • jeffcng||

    my roomate's ex-wife makes $74 every hour on the computer. She has been fired for five months but last month her pay check was $13623 just working on the computer for a few hours. Read more here

  • Sesde||


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