Note: The Monday Taki post is up. Instead of the normally optimistic post, this week is a look at the court fights that lie ahead. No Sunday podcast this week, but I do have a post up on the Ray Epps story. This insurrection show trial could turn out to be an amusing and embarrassing debacle for the regime.
One of the striking features of public discourse in a liberal democracy is the narrowness of language used by people with speaking roles. This narrowness of language reflects the narrowness of acceptable thought. The people allowed on stage signal their conformity to the hive mind by using the approved language. This means using the popular words and phrases of the moment. It is why the mass media resembles fireflies at dusk, blinking at one another as if they are coordinated.
A ridiculous example was the aftermath of the 2010 election when Barak Obama came out and said his team had been “shellacked” in the election. This is an old fashioned term that used to be common in sports. The media, unfamiliar with sports and sports metaphors, spastically repeated it. They were sure their cult leader has just invented the term and they seemed to be sure it was designed to cure their pain. For weeks they found a way to insert the term in every story.
It was not just monkey-see-monkey-do with them. There was a strong odor of incense about how they kept repeating it. This mysterious new word was like a sound in the darkness telling one another of their presence, The repeating of it was a way to move past the disconfirmation of the election. Instead of facing the fact that Obama was not Black Jesus, they reassured one another that their beliefs were valid. The use of the leader’s new word was a form of re-confirmation.
We are seeing something similar happening in the aftermath of the failure to pass Biden’s big spending bill. The term Build Back Better has become a bizarre abracadabra phrase for the true believers. They are sure that every problem can be solved with Build Back Better. The far-left activists who chased Senator Kyrsten Sinema into a toilet were chanting “Build Back Better” as if they thought the phrase would magically transform her into a believer.
Senator Joe Manchin refused the Build Back Better sacrament over the weekend, thus scuttling the bill for this year. The result has been a flurry of incantations in the media using the term to mean everything. Here we have CNN explaining how the faithful were let down by the running dog heretic Joe Manchin. The phrase is used half a dozen times but there is no effort to explain what it means. Everyone knows that it means the final push to promised last stage of history.
Here we have a story telling us the long dark winter Joe Biden has been promising for two years is finally upon us. The reason is the Build Back Better plan was defeated by the forces of darkness. Goldman Sachs is now saying the economy, like the earth when Persephone returns to the underworld, will now go into a period of mourning over the loss of Build Back Better. How or why this will happen is not discussed, because to do so would possibly offend the gods further.
The fact that the bill itself is meaningless gibberish that only exists as a concept adds to its mystery. Since no one can point to the text and find fault, because the text is just word salad at this point, makes it unassailable. This allows the believers to cast onto it all of their hopes and dreams. Build Back Better is just a catchphrase to mean the great leap forward into the last stage of history. As a result, the believers are baffled as to why Manchin opposes this unalloyed good.
The fight over this bill is a good reminder that conservative explanations for left-wing behavior are mostly wrong. If they were about money and power, they would have done something different here. The fact that they have all of the money and power yet still engage in this ritualized behavior is another important point. The religious fervor over Build Back Better, the moralization of the slogan, suggests these people are acting from some sort of religious impulse rather than politics.
The root of that impulse is the assumption that once everyone agrees on the morality of something, the solution is self-evident and beyond debate. It is why they cannot accept that Manchin and others could be right that the trillions in new money creation proposed by the believers could create terrible trade-offs. There can be no practical objections to the plan when the morality of it is settled. There must be something else at work, which is why they will turn Manchin into Trotsky.
Another aspect of this morality-politics dynamic is that politics is now a sign of moral ambiguity or worse, dissent from accepted morality. Logically, if politics ends when the morality is settled, the continuation of politics means the moral issues have not been settled or some oppose the settled morality for some reason. What lies behind the structure of the Build Back Better bill is to end politics by delegating what should happen in the legislature to the administrative state.
Put another way, what the Left seeks is an end to politics, but they are not interested in debating the morality. From their point of view, the moral issues are settled so the task now is to stamp out the remaining political resistance. Given the slim differences between the two parties, they are not mistaken. A big Republican win next November will probably mean the Build Back Better plan gets passed as a way to “unite the country after a contentious and divisive election”.
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