The Magazine

It’s a Conspiracy!

The (non-existent) plot to destroy the American economy for partisan advantage

Aug 15, 2011, Vol. 16, No. 45 • By NOEMIE EMERY
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Obama no doubt believed that the stimulus would hold down unemployment, that people would come to love his health care policies, and that he’d be cruising to reelection on the crest of these measures, instead of hoping that people forget all about them and changing the subject to anything else. Ours is a system that does not reward failure. It has tools known as the “midterm elections” and the “two-party system” built in as brakes on unpopular programs, not to mention long-term and multi-year plans for creative destruction, which may work out in the minds of deranged academics but never take hold in a working democracy.


Sabotage fantasies may be seductive at moments, but sometimes the simplest answers are really the best ones, and things really are as they seem. Obama pushes big government policies because he believes they are good for the country, and Republicans fight him because they think otherwise. That, in a nutshell, is all there is to it. Finish of story. The end.

But this is seldom the end for numerous people who have the will and the need to believe the worst of their opponents. Some think their beliefs are so true and self-evident that principled and/or informed opposition to them is simply impossible, and that their opponents must be fools and/or villains. They also feel themselves under permanent siege, from the press, from the establishment, and most of all from the centrists in their parties, who work day and night to frustrate their efforts and keep them from the positions of permanent power they would be sure to have otherwise, and know and believe they deserve. 

The result is a sense they are surrounded by enemies, whose guile and strength knows no bounds. “On both the left and the right, there’s a tendency to assume that the other side—particularly when it is running the government—is both really evil and really competent,” as Jonah Goldberg has said. Conservatives know Democrats are running the government, and liberals thought Republicans were running it even when they were outnumbered in both houses of Congress, making it easy for each to exaggerate the other’s capacities for evil. And liberals these days have an added incentive to fantasize: Not only are their theories enlightened and correct, but their president is the most intelligent man ever to serve in that office. Michael Beschloss has said so. Chris Matthews says Obama’s IQ is 160. If this president fails, the fault must lie elsewhere, and the blame must be anything but his.

It is better, however, not to plunge down this slope. As early as March 9, 2009, Kevin Hassett, director of economic policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute, wrote an article claiming that if “some hypothetical enemy state spent years preparing a ‘Manchurian Candidate’ to destroy the U.S. economy once elected,” this imagined Manchurian Candidate would do just what Obama had done. Point by point he went through the steps taken by the new president, explaining the adverse effects they were going to have on the economy. Yet he refused to say this was part of any devious plan. “It’s clear that President Obama wants the best for our country,” he wrote.

Two years later, he stands by his statement. “Though the recent acts of the National Labor Relations Board [in trying to stop Boeing from building a factory in South Carolina] do make me wonder,” he said.

Noemie Emery is a contributing editor to The Weekly Standard and a columnist for the Washington Examiner.

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