From the right, from the sophisticated right, there is an attempt to engage the liberals. House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan just did it by presenting a budget that cried out for intelligent response. President Barack Obama's response was to invite Ryan to sit in the front row for his "fiscal policy" speech at George Washington University. There Obama heaped scorn on an astonished Ryan and his work. He did not even mention Ryan's name. This is what Obama calls an "adult" debate?
From the rest of the liberals, there is generally silence. They prattle on about Glenn Beck or Sarah Palin, but they pay almost no heed to the think tanks on the right, to their journals of opinion or to the writers and figures of heft. The liberals are dead.
There are the zombies out there. Well-known politicians such as Al Gore or writers such as New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, who howls about The Heritage Foundation while fudging that think tank's findings or about the aforementioned Ryan, but there is no one capable of engaging the serious conservatives. None even tries. Their idea of dialogue amounts to hurling what are lines fit for a bumper sticker -- "I Am a Citizen of the World" or "War Is Not the Answer." Or perhaps they hurl a slur, such as "conservatives are extreme," though by now the conservatives have been around for decades and running the country more frequently than not -- the Reagan administration, both Bush administrations and the Gingrich Congress. Have the liberals not noticed this? As I say, liberalism is dead.
This has not always been the case. There was a time when liberals -- say, Daniel Patrick Moynihan -- engaged conservatives quite brilliantly. They knew what conservatives thought. They even could find elements of conservative thought that they disagreed with without disfiguring that thought and pouncing on the resultant red herring. This is not the way it is today. There has been a change in the politically charged audience in this great republic.