Ezra Klein's Magical Mystery Meme Machine

There’s a growing trend in the core of the Washington punditocracy. People with little real world experience beyond the confines of think tanks and ideologically driven publications are becoming standard bearers of thought for the media and ideologues who populate the Washington to New York corridor. What may be drivel and dumb is treated as high brow and serious within the small world of the beltway chattering class. Take this Ezra Klein bit at the Washington Post.


Klein is a member of the Juice Box Mafia, a group of twenty and early thirty-somethings that all think the same, have the same backgrounds devoid of much real world practical experience, and are slowly working their way into positions of influence via the appropriate left connections within the Washington punditocracy circles, whether or not they have relevant backgrounds. Juicebox Mafia members think things like this. To his credit, however, at least he is not Matt Yglesias.

When Ezra Klein writes (and to his credit he is a very good writer), his friends listen. His friends have more and more transitioned from left-wing publications into mainstream media circles, so we will start hearing more of this drivel coming out of supposedly objective newsroom sources treated as gospel when even a bull would recognize the smell and steam of it on the ground for what it is.

In the supposedly reality based community, reality is a construction of intricately woven dung huts sheltering left-wing tropes as fact. “Memes,” as the kids these days call them, get started here. They are the thoughts that affect the presuppositions people make when weighing in on the news of the day.

According to Ezra Klein, first in the New Yorker and now in the Washington Post, if the Supreme Court throws out the individual mandate it will be because “[o]ver the past two years, the Republican Party has slowly been building a permission structure for the five Republicans on the Supreme Court to feel comfortable doing something nobody thought they could do: Violate the existing understanding of the Commerce Clause and, in perhaps the most significant moment of judicial activism since the New Deal, overturn either all or part of the Affordable Care Act.”


A permission structure . . . .

That’s right, the Republican Party had seized on an idea from the Heritage Foundation to counter Hillarycare in 1993. The idea was the individual mandate.

For seventeen years they did absolutely nothing to advance the individual mandate. But all along they knew it was constitutional and only flipped their opinion when Barack Obama came out for it. Then they orchestrated a campaign to make it okay for the Supreme Court to also change their mind.

To Klein’s reading of history — which is more wishful thinking than actual reading — the GOP made it a centerpiece of reform. In fact, it was such a centerpiece of reform that when the Republicans took over Congress in 1994 they did exactly nothing with it.

In his excellent Transom the other day, Ben Domenech really breaks this down for us in a way Klein couldn’t be bothered to do if only because Klein would have to actually pay attention to history instead of setting up a talking point.

[O]ne of the other bills Klein has cited as an example of Republican endorsement actually reveals what happened when conservatives were challenged on the mandate, even two decades ago. Note the second bill in this list, a proposal by Oklahoma Senator (and prominent conservative) Don Nickles introduced in 1993, one with 24 Republican co-sponsors. The bill is here, and you’ll note a bit of text at the bottom of the first page which says “Star Print”. Unless you’re a Hill staffer (or in my case, a former one), you probably don’t know that a Star Print is what a member does when there’s an error or problem with a bill and they want to retain the co-sponsors and date of introduction in the original. It’s there because Nickles swapped out his bill… to remove the mandate. Nickles explains why here – he changed his mind when confronted with opposing arguments.

And guess who was apparently behind that change of opinion? None other than David Rivkin, writing in the Wall Street Journal with Lee Casey almost two decades ago, with total prescience of the arguments the Court is tackling this week. “In the new health-care system, individuals will not be forced to belong because of their occupation, employment, or business activities — as in the case of Social Security. They will be dragooned into the system for no other reason than that they are people who are here. If the courts uphold Congress’s authority to impose this system, they must once and for all draw the curtain on the Constitution of 1787 and admit that there is nothing that Congress cannot do under the Commerce Clause. The polite fiction that we live under a government of limited powers must be discarded — Leviathan must be embraced.”


What the left likes to ignore is how much diversity there actually is within the Republican Party. Just as Klein is trying his best to set up a meme through his various outlets — a meme that the GOP only recently embraced the unconstitutionality argument — the left has long embraced and inculcated within the media the meme that the GOP is a homogenous group of troglodyte conservatives.

In fact, the varied approaches to both conservatism and policy within the Republican Party is pretty wide spread. The big government conservative approach had been quite popular for a while. The Gingrich Revolution produced a notable increase in the size of government.

Only toward the end of the Bush Administration and his decision to kill the free market to save it did the actual small government conservatives come back in vogue. With them came the same arguments they’ve been making since the mid-90’s. Included in that list is the argument that the individual mandate was unconstitutional.

Concurrent to the resurgence of this small government philosophy came something the conservatives did not have last time — Citizens United. That decision broke the dam of money that had otherwise not flowed to challengers. In 2010, not only were small government conservatives vocal, they were well funded. Instead of just beating Democrats, they cleaned house with the Republican Party as well, including tossing out some of the old guard who had supported the individual mandate.


There was no orchestrated effort to create a “permission structure”. There was raw electoral carnage and, in something Klein and his Juice Box Mafia cohorts routinely choose to ignore, a majority of the American public standing with those small government conservatives.

Sometimes people change their minds. Sometimes those positions change over time. Sometimes events necessitate that change happen more rapidly than at other times. Sometimes correlation and causation can be confusing. If anyone on the left is shocked that a group of politicians can change their mind quickly, they need merely look at the rapid reversal of opinion about the Iraq War within the confines of the Democratic Party.

But it’s always so much more fun to create an elaborate and well orchestrated conspiracy to sell to friends in the media than actually fess up to being on the wrong side of history and the public.

“A permission structure.” Hahahahahahahaha.


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