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On the wrong side of history

TOM BURGUM
Staff Columnist
burgum@lbknews.com

We’ve heard a lot recently about someone, or maybe a political party or even a country being on the wrong side of history. As Jonah Goldberg noted, “it is one of the president’s favorite ways to describe whatever side he isn’t on.”

It would be unfair to paint the president as the only malefactor in this venue as there are other ways to suggest your opponents surrender rather than face the verdict of history. In September 2008, John McCain, when speaking to reporters about the situation in Georgia, denounced Russia’s aggressive posture in Georgia, saying, “In the 21st century nations don’t invade other nations.” That is a rather absurd statement given that Russia was in the act of doing just that. It is even more absurd when you recall that the United States invaded Iraq in 2003.

Russia’s increasingly aggressive posture in the Ukraine elicited more nonsense. Secretary of State John Kerry took to the Sunday shows on March 2, 2014 and admonished Putin with, “You just don’t in the 21st century behave in 19th century fashion by invading another country on a completely trumped up pretext.” Kerry’s warning is quite passive. When you admonish someone in the “you-just-don’t-do-something,-it-just isn‘t-done;” tone of voice you should most likely be telling them not to eat their peas with a knife or blow their nose in the table napkin.

President Obama early in his administration believed the arch of history moved toward an Israeli-Palestinian peace settlement. Ignoring the Palestinian cries of “death to Israel, death to the Jews” on the one hand and the Israeli’s reluctance to play the victims in Holocaust II on the other, the president pressed Israel to make concessions it was either unwilling or unable to make. It didn’t help that Israelis noticed no demands were made on the Palestinians.

The whole process collapsed in 2014 when Secretary of State John Kerry attempted to produce a draft peace accord. Seems the reality of the Mideast trumps the arch of history concept.

The next Middle East crisis that defied the arch of history, one that was far more important than the Israeli – Palestinian problem, was brought about by the Assad regime’s savage use of military power against the Syrian populace. Obama repeatedly called for Assad’s removal and then informed the Syrian dictator that nations that use chemical weapons in the 21st century are on the wrong side of history and the use of such weapons would trigger an American military response.

Assad’s view of 21st century do’s and don’ts differs from Obama’s and chemical weapons were used while the presidential rhetoric proved, to use the phrase,  meaningless, full of sound and fury signifying nothing. (Apologies to the Bard)

There is no need to dwell on the tragedy playing out in the Ukraine where American aid to the embattled Ukrainians is limited to bandages and counseling while Putin, not at all worried about being on the wrong side of history, continues his aggression. Yet again, Obama’s notions of what is or is not on the wrong side of history loses when tangling with 21st century reality.

Domestic politics is not free from this political shibboleth. According to Democratic National Chair, Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, the values expressed by the Republican candidates during the FOX debate have no place in 21st century America. On the wrong side of history, no doubt.

But, Republicans might contend that they’re not the party on the wrong side of history. The Democrats were triumphant in 2008. Obama was president and the party was dominant in both the House and had a veto-proof 60 member Senate caucus. Today, there are 46 members of the Senate Democratic caucus and only 188 Democrats in the House, the Democrats worst showing since 1929.

It’s even worse in the state precincts. Republicans now hold 31 governorships, nine more than in 2009. It is even worse when you realize that Republicans have won in even deep blue states such as Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Maryland, Wisconsin, Illinois, New Mexico, Nevada and Ohio.

It becomes a political blood bath when considering state legislatures. In 2009, Democrats were in full control of 27 state legislatures while Republicans held full power in only14. Now the Republicans control 30 state legislatures while the Democrats have power in just 11. In 24 states Republicans control the governorship and both houses of the legislature.

Just how this tectonic plate shift happened is a bit hard to understand. There was no great depression, at least one that could be hung on the Democrats, and there was no criminal conspiracy in the White House of the Nixon variety. It is one of those mysteries, like the Trump stampede, that perplex the political wise men. But, it does make it difficult to agree with Debbie’s assertion that whatever the Republicans are selling at the moment has no place in 21st century America.

This whole business of the right or wrong side of history, or what belongs or doesn’t belong in the 21st century, must rest on the assumption that human nature underwent a miraculous transition at 12:01 a.m. on January 1, 2000. Unfortunately, there was no phenomenal improvement in man‘s condition. The idea there is a right side of history ought to be scrubbed for the useless conceit it has proven to be.

 

 

 

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