Despite the fact that hes a registered Republican (or perhaps because of it) few people rival Josh Barro when it comes to pissing off the right. His latest transgression, a rather innocuous tweet stating that public policy can be paternalistic, has got the right-wing Twittersphere more worked up than its been since he penned his seminal defense of derp. He even got his own piece on Michelle Malkins Twitchy, the online equivalent of being designated the subject of the rights daily two minutes hate.
Whats fascinating about the brouhaha over Barros tweet, however, isnt the thudding familiarity of the right-wing outrage-industrial complex, but the half-baked libertarianism the outrage reveals. Stripped of the bad jokes, the incoherent references to the Founding Fathers, and the mock horror that someone could say such a thing in public, the rights response to Barros tweet can be reduced to a simple cry: Dont tell me what to do! Here, from Twitchy, is a representative example:
Or how about this one:
Or this one:
Or my personal favorite, not included in Twitchys roundup but a melodramatic gem nevertheless:
As Barro pointed out in subsequent tweets, this dont tell me what to do!-style libertarianism, if taken seriously, would have some pretty radical implications. No public education, for one. No regulations on food or consumer goods, for another. Workplace safety? Forget it. Through the lens of this vulgar individualism, any kind of collective action besides those undertaken by the military, of course becomes an unbearable infringement on these conservatives liberty, or as Twitchy puts it, freedom to choose.
What the response to Barro from the right also makes plain is the enduring salience of the politics of resentment. In many ways, Barros the ultimate embodiment of an elite: his fathers a celebrated economist, while Barro himself is a Harvard grad. Hes articulate, erudite, polished and, perhaps worst of all, frequently appears on MSNBC. Hes exactly the kind of country club Republican that the Twitchy set the folks who revere Ted Cruz for taking on the ill-defined but thoroughly supine establishment hates. A RINO if ever there was one.
You cant understand the level of vitriol directed Barros way unless you keep in mind this resentment and how much of it fuels Twitchy-styled libertarianism. The anger is framed as an opposition to governmental control, but thats not really whats going on. These are the same people who want to criminalize abortion, after all. And lord knows theyre not OK with open borders. Rather, what animates Twitchy, perpetual outrage machine that it is, is resentment over who sits in positions of influence and power, not the existence of those positions in the first place. Its petty envy, pure and simple.
Josh Barros greatest crime, then, is simply being Josh Barro. Any policy considerations are secondary, if theyre considered at all. So when Barro tweets the following, hes just a bit off:
These people arent necessarily stupid or disingenuous (though many certainly are one or both). Theyre bitter and frustrated, angry and aggrieved. Theyre resentful; and dammit, you cant tell them what to do!
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Josh Barro and the right’s resentment-fueled freakout