We Should Probably All Calm Down a Bit

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I am going to be a killjoy tonight. I have two things to say:

  • Liberals, you should rein in the triumphalism. Obama won a narrow 51-49 percent victory and the composition of Congress changed only slightly. This was not a historic vindication of liberalism, and it doesn’t mean that we can suddenly decide that demography will sweep us to victory for the next couple of decades. The plain truth is that although an increasing number of voters are turned off by what Republicans represent, that doesn’t mean they’ve become lefty converts. A lot of them are still pretty nervous about a big part of our agenda, and we have a lot of work ahead to get them more solidly on our side. Also: No matter how much you hate to hear it, long-term deficit reduction and entitlement reform really are pretty important. Just because conservatives abuse the point doesn’t mean there isn’t something to it.
     
  • Conservatives, you should rein in the apocalytpic despair. Increasing top marginal rates to 39.6 percent is not a harbinger of torches and pitchforks in the streets, it’s a limited corrective to decades of skyrocketing incomes at the high end. Obamacare is not a sign of incipient tyranny, it’s a modest attempt to provide broad access to healthcare that’s based on a Republican plan and operates largely through the private sector. Universal access to contraceptives doesn’t represent the end of religious liberty, it represents a fairly narrow disagreement over the responsibilities of organizations that occupy a gray area between secular and religious. Fifty million people on food stamps doesn’t mean the final triumph of takers over makers, it means that we’re still recovering from the biggest economic downturn since the Great Depression. (Outside of healthcare, spending on low-income programs is actually pretty low.) America is still America, and it’s still the best place in the world to be if you’re an entrepreneur. More generally: You really do need to update your attitudes on a raft of social issues, but honestly, if you can manage to do something about your crackpot wing and your blood oath to Grover Norquist, you’d be in reasonably good shape.

Oh, and smart people on both sides of the aisle should start thinking seriously about how to handle a future in which smart machines do more and more work and humans do less and less. I’m dead serious about this.

That is all. For now. You may now start tearing me apart in comments.

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