Whenever death or scandal visits a famous actor or director, conservatives find a way to blame liberalism. Did addiction kill Philip Seymour Hoffman? Not according to National Review’s Ben Shapiro. He blamed what he called “libertinism,” explaining that “the Hollywood demand is for more self-abasement, less spirituality, less principle, less [sic] standards.” He then added: “[W]ithout a sound moral structure around those in Hollywood who have every financial and talent advantage, the path to destruction is far too easy.”
The comment recalled nothing so much as Newt Gingrich’s 1992 observation that “Woody Allen had non-incest with his non-daughter because they were a non-family. It’s a weird situation, and it fits the Democratic Party platform perfectly.” The connection? “The left-wing Democrats will represent the party of total hedonism, total exhibitionism, total bizarreness, total weirdness, and the total right to cripple innocent people in the name of letting hooligans loose,” explained the madman who briefly led the rest of the Republican candidates for the party’s 2012 presidential nomination.
According to conservative politicians and pundits, Americans are always just one “aha” moment away from wising up. When the Affordable Care Act website did not initially work as planned, Charles Krauthammer—recently America’s number-one bestselling nonfiction author—promised that it would likely “discredit Obama’s new liberalism for years to come.” So much for that: the site is up and working fine now. So what’s the latest threat? Well, it may be Hollywood. It may be Woody Allen. Or it may be the Congressional Budget Office’s prediction that the promise of health insurance for all will allow people to leave jobs to which they had previously been “chained” by the need to plan for illness and injury. One might think that conservatives would have a hard time objecting to mothers and fathers having the opportunity to devote themselves to their families and to other private pursuits. That is, after all, a pretty good definition of personal freedom. Alas, not so much. As Representative Tom Cole told This Week: “Anything that discourages work—and that’s essentially what the CBO found, that this discourages some people from working—is not a good thing at a time when the economy’s still struggling.” Representative Trey Gowdy added, “What the liberals and the Democrats want you to believe is, ‘Well, but you’ll have time to write poetry.’ Well, that’s great until you try and buy your grandkid a birthday present or you try and pay the heating bill.”
This is the way the game has always been played, to be sure. And we have never experienced a shortage of right-wing intellectuals ready to join in the fun and explain why—from a historical, psychological, sociological or whatever perspective—once you start believing in progressive taxation, the next thing you know, you’re addicted to heroin and sleeping with your girlfriend’s daughter.