Democrats' Hot-Tub Time Machine


Democrats cart out the ghost of George W Bush in a new campaign advertisement. Dubbed “Big Choices,” the ad depicts the 2010 elections as a contest between Barack Obama and his predecessor, a man whose name has not appeared on a ballot in six years. If only Democrats can convince the electorate that it’s 2008 and not 2010, everything should go smoothly. 

Liberals are summa cum laude graduates of the Hot-Tub Time-Machine School of American Politics. When present politics aren’t going your way, the Hot-Tub Time Machine transforms current controversies into a debate about the distant past—the more distant the better, as voters have a tough time discerning historical fact through the fog of politically convenient fictions. 

The summer’s hot-button issues—the economy, illegal immigration, the Manhattan mosque, to name a few—leading into November’s election all have been infused with new meaning by the left’s Hot-Tub Time Machine. 

The President has been getting clobbered over his tin-ear endorsement of the construction of a mosque at Ground Zero. Though there are sound arguments—mainly regarding the property rights of the deed holders trumping the wishes of people with no legal connection to the land—not to interfere with the project, the left has instead invoked the script learned at the Hot-Tub Time-Machine School of American Politics. 

Cynthia Tucker of the Atlanta Journal Constitution calls the mosque uproar the “GOP’s new McCarthyism against Muslims.” The Hartford Courant editorializes against a supposed “outbreak of anti-Muslim McCarthyism” in the wake of the controversy. In other words, this isn’t about the insensitivity of Muslims building a mosque on the site where their co-religionists murdered several thousand Americans; it’s about the 1950s. Come again?  

The routine equation of any liberal crusade with the civil rights movement is a familiar enough tactic. 

When Californians voted that marriage should remain a one-man, one-woman institution, one judge responded earlier this month by usurping the most basic civil right in any republic. He invalidated the ballots of more than 7 million Californians. Similarly, in Arizona, “civil rights” became the rationalization to award rights to non-citizens and deny the citizenry’s duly elected legislature their right to make a law empowering local police to aid the expulsion of illegal aliens. So magical is the Hot-Tub Time Machine that it repackages the abrogation of voting rights as a victory for civil rights. 

When it comes to the economy, the Jedi Mind Trick may be a better analogy than the Hot-Tub Time Machine. Before he declared the economy “in the early stages of a third depression” earlier this summer, Paul Krugman dubbed the President-elect “Franklin Delano Obama.” This narrative implicitly casts George W. Bush as the Herbert Hoover who got us into this mess and Barack Obama as the Franklin Roosevelt who will rescue us. 

But like FDR’s “rescue,” Obama’s has failed to materialize. Without the stimulus, the Obama Administration assured America, unemployment would rise above 8%. Now, in the post-stimulus economy, unemployment stubbornly remains at 9.5%. Growth slows. The national debt approaches the GDP. This year’s record deficit eclipses last year’s record deficit. And the specter of income and capital gains tax hikes, a pending healthcare bureaucracy leviathan, and the coming maze of financial-reform regulations makes producers more skittish. 

Don’t blame Obama. Blame Bush. These are not the droids you’re looking for. 

Every war is the next Vietnam; every Republican president, Herbert Hoover; every de rigueur political cause, the new civil rights movement; every opponent of gay marriage, a Bull Connor unleashing German shepherds and fire hoses upon black people. That’s how the left’s Hot-Tub Time Machine works. 

It matters little if Democrats provided the most massive voting bloc against the Civil Rights Act of 1964, or if the real Herbert Hoover less resembles the one of the left’s imagination than he does his tax-spend-and-borrow successor. What matters is diverting attention away from the present. Running against George W. Bush on the stump and in their ads, Democrats hope to distract the electorate from their abysmal governance. 

People who don’t have much happening in the present are wont to take that yearbook off the shelf, pop in an eight track, don the old varsity jacket, relax in the Hot-Tub Time Machine. Neither dipping into the Hot-Tub Time Machine nor clicking ruby-red slippers together will make November 2 disappear.