WASHINGTON -- Following two years of poor economic performance and electoral repudiation, liberalism is casting around for narratives to explain its failure -- narratives that don't involve the admission of inadequacies in liberalism itself.
For some, the solution is to lay the blame on President Obama. He hasn't been liberal enough. He can't communicate. "I cannot recall a president," says Robert Kuttner in the Huffington Post, "who generated so much excitement as a candidate but who turned out to be such a political dud as a chief executive." Obama is "fast becoming more albatross than ally."
This is an ideological movement at its most cynical, attempting to throw overboard its once-revered leader to avoid the taint of his problems.
But there is an alternative narrative, developed by those who can't shake their reverence for Obama. If a president of this quality and insight has failed, it must be because his opponents are uniquely evil, coordinated and effective. The problem is not Obama but the ruthless conspiracy against him.
So Matt Yglesias warns the White House to be prepared for "deliberate economic sabotage" from the GOP -- as though Chamber of Commerce SWAT teams, no doubt funded by foreigners, are preparing attacks on the electrical grid. Paul Krugman contends "Republicans want the economy to stay weak as long as there's a Democrat in the White House." Steve Benen explains, "We're talking about a major political party ... possibly undermining the strength of the country -- on purpose, in public, without apology or shame -- for no other reason than to give themselves a campaign advantage in 2012." Benen's posting was titled, "None Dare Call it Sabotage."
So what is the proof of this charge? It seems to have something to do with Republicans criticizing quantitative easing by the Federal Reserve. And opposing federal spending. And, according to Benen, creating "massive economic uncertainty by vowing to gut the national health care system."
One is tempted to respond that it is a trillion dollars in new debt, the prospect of higher taxes and a complicated, disruptive health reform law that have created "massive economic uncertainty." For the purposes of this argument, however, it is sufficient to say that all these economic policy debates have two sides.