The most cynical observation about this election was a tantrum written on the eve of the elections by Michael Kinsley, the columnist and sometime editor of left-leaning publications. Disdaining the approaching success of those for whom he felt contempt and disdain, he argued that it's not only naive but dangerous to put faith in the fundamental wisdom of the American people.
"The important message of this election is not from the voters, but to the voters," he wrote in Politico. "Maybe it can be heard above the din. It is: 'You're not so special.'"
Like many liberals (and liberals who now call themselves "progressives"), he sneers at the pride Americans take in their country, and at the notion of "American exceptionalism," that America is something special among the nations. He cites Barack Obama as an ally in the sneer, recalling that when the president was asked in 2008 whether he believed America was really exceptional, he said yes, but. "I suspect the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism." Americans believe, with no ifs and without the but. That's what the president has yet to get.
In the New York Review of Books, Michael Tomasky, angry about the way the "progressives" have lost control of the message, argues that Democrats crippled themselves "by ceding to Republicans the strong claims of love of one's country." He thinks it's merely a problem of rhetoric not reality, easily corrected with a profusion of the right words, not understanding that the progressive rhetoric reflects the reality.
The president in his press conference revealed another misreading of what happened to him on Tuesday. His administration, he said, was so eager to get things done that it didn't take enough care in figuring out how things get done. He's wrong about that, too, because the rout of the Democrats was accomplished by Americans reacting to both process and substance. The president now promises a civil conversation, and that's a start, but he'll have to serve more than civility with the strong tea.
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