Why is this so? How can they not realize that the positive outcomes they promote actually cause harm? It is not from a want of intelligence, because many liberals are highly intelligent. Nor is it from a lack of knowledge, because many are very knowledgeable.
What then is the answer? I suggest that their mistakes flow from a deeply ingrained pattern of self-deception. What is more, I believe their errors are reinforced by the pervasive culture of self-deception in which they are embedded.
The war of poverty did not work. Trillions were spent, but poverty remains with us. Affirmative action did not work. Countless thousands of minority students were admitted to schools for which they did not have the appropriate preparation, and then were forced to drop out.
Progressive education did not work. Social promotions and the new math left American students falling behind the international competition with little hope of catching up. Head Start did not work. Despite temporary improvements, the long-term results were extremely disappointing.
The list of fiascoes goes on and on, now to include Obamacare and a foreign policy crafted by a kindergarten mentality. Liberals did not ameliorate crime, nor save the family, nor end the Cold War, nor bring about economic equality — yet they like to pretend they did.
To hear them tell it, our nation would be in a deep crisis without their generous interventions. If they have not been completely successful, it is solely because mean-spirited conservatives forced them to do too little, too late.
Or is there another reason? Could it be that their proposals are misguided? Would an empirical investigation reveal that they have over-promised and under-delivered because whatever their intensions, their policies are grounded in fantasy.
The only way for good people to remain ignorant of these facts is to engage in willful self-deception and to support an agenda of public mendacity. In short, it requires them to lie to themselves and to everyone else.
They must believe that Barack Obama “misspoke” when he told Americans they could keep their health plans and doctors. They must somehow miss the deceit at the center of the assertion that women earn 77 cents on the dollar compared with men — for the same work. Even the Census Bureau disowned that last one.
And what about Obama’s policy of bringing peace by apologizing for American grandiosity? We are not exceptional, so who are we to tell the Iranians they cannot have an atomic bomb or the Russians that they must not annex a nation whose borders they pledged to respect?
Nor should we pay down a national debt that was once decried as unpatriotic or investigate an IRS scandal that had been denounced as shameful. It is time to move on because there is nothing to see; that is, nothing the liberals wish us (or themselves) to see.
Liberals are good people; hence they can do no bad — ever. Liberals are extraordinarily smart; hence they can make no mistakes — ever. If others claim they do, it is because they are racist, sexist and homophobic idiots.
For some liberals, the endless cycle of self-congratulation will never stop. They are on a merry-go-round energized by ethereal ideals that they will not allow to founder on the shores of a harsh reality. Trapped as they are in a community high on pipe dreams, the best they can manage is to legalize their drug of choice.
Self-deception can be comforting. It can wish away bad economic news or conjure up a political rainbow at the end of a social storm. Meanwhile, the rest of us are tossed and turned by the consequences of their self-inflicted follies.
Melvyn L. Fein Ph.D. is professor of sociology at Kennesaw State University.