The essay opens with what Bergner calls "The Narrative" - a liberal distortion of the story of America, a story of:
...progress toward the fulfillment of the ideal of equality. The end of slavery and the achievement of women’s suffrage are landmarks in this story. All fair enough. So is—less plausibly—the federal income tax, originally established to fund the government but later used to redistribute wealth and tax advantages among Americans. Then came the many programs of direct payments to individuals, the so-called entitlements, beginning with Social Security and extending to Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps, aid to dependent children, farm subsidies, and myriad others.If income taxes were "fair" (i.e. didn't redistribute wealth) it would be like having nothing but toll roads. And the only thing fairer than toll roads is getting rid of entitlements. I don't like everything the government does; not even close. But he's trying to claim that things in America were perfectly fine until all these entitlements came along. If you slept through US History and don't understand how incredibly wrong this is... I will explain.
Back in the day, unemployment was the fast track to poverty for most people. It didn't matter why you couldn't get a job, or if there were no jobs to be had. Unless you had enough saved up to last as long as you needed (which might be "until you die") you depended on charity. If you were elderly or disabled, you either had family who could take care of you, or you begged in the street. If you were a poor single mother, you went to the local church and hoped they'd gotten some donations that week because there were no food stamps. If no one was feeling generous, these people would either steal or go hungry. But at least they weren't dependent on the government, right? That would be so demeaning.
I don't think this was an accidental omission, and this is because he goes on to tell us the progressive ideal of equality (and the "entitlements" that come with it) are a giant con:
... [The Narrative] permits the easy assignment of virtue and vice. Virtue belongs to those who advocate the fulfillment of equality; they are on the “right side of history,” moving the country “forward.” In opposition are those who seek to take the country “backward,” often identified as “special interests” who favor their own well-being over the equality of all.Now, if you hadn't caught his historical omission, then that paragraph might seem kind of reasonable. Progressives do talk about equality an awful lot... and they call conservatives backward and greedy a lot. Gosh, maybe this guy's got a point - maybe equality is just an oppressive liberal dogma. I'd better take him seriously; I wouldn't want to be an oppressive liberal sheep!
But that doesn't work so well if you notice what he's not telling you, and reject his assumptions about the "good ol'd days". In reality they were pretty bad if you were the wrong kind of person. I am aware of this, and so I am 100% certain that I disagree with him because I think that letting people starve if they can't work is pretty fucked up, not because he's questioning some made-up dogma.
It only gets more ridiculous from there. He describes how all progressive view the government as the means of making their Narrative a reality, and they just don't understand that a strong federal government is exactly what the founders were against! And all this time I thought they were opposing the monarchy.
The next several paragraphs go along the same train of thought. Liberals don't believe that America is the bestest country ever or that the founders were infallible gods, because this contradicts the Narrative. Everyone believes the Narrative, even Republicans. It has been taught to us by the Liberal Academic Elite who think they're so clever, but they're just more Oppressive Liberal Sheep who force The Narrative on their poor unwitting students. The Narrative is why Harry Reid can "liken opposition to government-run health care to support for human slavery". Conservatives would never do something like that.
...These two issues have nothing to do with each other. They aim at different ends, and they have been advocated by different parties. Indeed, one could make a reasonable case that government-run health care—with its mandates, penalties, rationing, and the like—has more in common with enslavement than with freedom.Nope. Never.
The way he tell it, countless Brave Noble Conservatives have tried to tell us about the Narrative, but no one listens to them - not because they're wrong, but because all of America has been hypnotized by The Narrative. You may notice that all of this looks familiar. That's because they're all the same conservative talking points you hear on Fox all the damn time. They've just been cleverly edited into an original-looking tale about the Cult of Liberalism, which apparently is like a creepy Dominionist church that infiltrates the government with more government instead of with Jesus.
But! What if Republicans could only wake up and see that progress is actually not inevitable, if only they made the government smaller?!
What if they considered every policy initiative through this lens: Does it help Americans become less, rather than more, dependent on the government? Their goal would then be to create—as best they can, and over time—a nation of self-reliant citizens, not merely “consumers” and “providers” and “practitioners” and “beneficiaries” and “recipients” and all the other less-than-fully-human descriptors of the left.I'm really curious as to how he defines "self-reliant", and also what the hell he thinks government is even there for if being "dependent" on it is so terrible. Are we eventually going to be hunter-gatherers again or something?
He then tells us how in only four simple steps, the Republicans can liberate us from our our oppressive Big Government - just like they liberated women and black people!
1. Get rid of those entitlements. They'll start by continuing to do nothing about healthcare, because clearly paying more and getting less than every country in the world means we're doing it right. Welfare can go next because poor people just need to learn to use them bootstraps. Lastly they will
2. Protect freedom of speech, which is apparently "under assault by the left". He thinks someone is keeping people from expressing their religious views, that colleges should not be given federal funds if they infringe on student's rights to shout racial slurs at each other, and that NPR should not be given any money at all. But Citizens United can stay, because while the government is an evil tyrannical beast, but for-profit corporations are completely trustworthy.
3. Make government jobs more like private sector jobs. That means lowering their salaries and taking away their unions and job security. I think this says a lot more about the private sector than about the government.
4. American exceptionalism. People don't have to love us, but they should respect us because we're a bunch of special fucking snowflakes. This entire concept pisses me off, because you can love your country without believing that it's perfect and denying any evidence to the contrary. And the part about "helping people in other lands who share our values" sounds to me like Secret Republican Code for "oh and we might throw the whole fiscal conservative thing out the window and go nation-building again because um FREEDOM FRIES."
The very last paragraph in this riveting tale contains a sentence which makes me want to laugh and cry at the same time.
Unlike the left’s initiatives, too many of which must be disguised and misrepresented at every turn, these initiatives can be crafted to win genuine popular support.And all of their "crafting" will be totally honest, because Republicans never lie. Not ever. It's inconceivable. If you disagree, then the Liberal Sheep have won.
This article isn't about the Liberal Narrative. It's the conservative fairytale where they get to be misunderstood heroes and oppressed victims. Even f I thought for one moment that most elected Republicans actually believed this crap, the best I'd be able to say about it is that it reminds of a middle-schooler who still believes in Santa - cute, but kind of sad.