“Liberalism Is Eating Itself,” Jon Gabriel writes at Ricochet, adding that it’s always “a grand time sticking it to The Man until the moment when The Man is you:”
As President Obama assumed power, his Alinskyite past served as the template for a renewed politics of envy, personal grievance and payback. The One Percent must be punished for their wealth. Traditional marriage supporters are hateful bigots on the wrong side of history. Mitt Romney gave old women cancer and locked the younger ones in binders. “The Cambridge police acted stupidly” and “if I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon.”
As one blogger notes, “Barack Obama thinks his job is to lead the mob, not the country.”
But as is often the case with politics, the Left’s success bore the seeds of its own destruction. Any ideology that stokes anger and neo-Jacobin tactics is innately unsuited to popular governance. It’s a grand time sticking it to The Man until the moment when The Man is you.
And The Man isn’t only in charge of the White House and Senate. He owns a controlling interest in the television industry and movies and technology and classrooms and music and art and sports. What’s a self-styled revolutionary to do once he has eliminated his most prominent enemies?
Create new enemies, of course.
Read the whole thing; I believe it’s outside the Ricochet 2.0 paywall.
Of course, this isn’t the first time that Democrats devoured themselves and took plenty of innocent bystanders with them in the process. With the exception of Barry Goldwater’s stillborn candidacy in 1964, virtually all of America’s internal conflicts in the 1960s were Blue Versus Blue, starting with the Vietnam War and its later discontents, as David Gelernter wrote in his 2012 book America-Lite:
That the liberal establishment came to oppose the war bitterly makes it hard to remember that America in Vietnam was a liberal idea—especially the militarily disastrous first phase, before Abrams replaced Westmoreland in command and Nixon replaced Johnson as president. But more than that, America in Vietnam represented just the same kind of heedless intervention by intellectuals in real life that was vigorously pursued by left-liberal intellectuals at home.
And as Gelernter wrote elsewhere in America-Lite, the antiwar movement actually preceded Johnson’s escalation; it was a creation of the nascent new left, about to devour the staid old left, which birthed the New Deal and Great Society:
What caused the American mood to crumble [in the period between the mid 1960s through the 1970s]? The civil rights struggle couldn’t be the answer; for one thing, it united rather than divided the country, except for the segregationist Old South. Maybe the bitter split over the war in Vietnam explains it. But that can’t be right; can’t be the whole truth. Antiwar protests were powered by the New Left and “the Movement,” which originated in Tom Hayden’s “Port Huron Statement” of 1962, before the nation had ever heard of Vietnam. And the New Left picked up speed at Berkeley in the Free Speech Movement of 1964 and early ’65, before the explosion of Vietnam. Bitterness toward America was an evil spirit shopping for a body when Vietnam started to throb during 1965.
The ’60s was leftism at war with itself all the way down: The Civil Rights movement was the New Left versus Democratic National Committeeman Bull Connor. Center-left JFK was assassinated by Communist true believer Oswald. Bobby Kennedy ran ads in 1968 repudiating his brother’s New Frontier optimism before he in turn was assassinated by a Palestinian nationalist. The riots in Detroit happened on the watch of Democrat mayor and Kennedy acolyte Jerome Cavanagh; the riots at the Chicago Democrat National Convention were, again, the New Left versus the last gasps of the New Dealers.
The GOP’s Richard Nixon understandably became synonymous with the words “Law and Order” that year, but again, upon election, in terms of domestic policy, governed as a continuation of FDR and LBJ’s alphabet soup bureaucratic-birthing New Deal and Great Society. Under his administration, the EPA, OSHA, the DEA, CPSC, and Amtrak were all spawned, and Nixon would attempt to curb inflation by — disastrously — attempting to institute wage and price controls, and was quoted as proclaiming ”I am now a Keynesian in economics.” (Hence the recent, albeit grudging reappraisal of RMN by those who once hated his very existence, such as uber-Keynesian Paul Krugman, in-between calling for alien invasions and a rerun of World War II.)
Twenty years after the birth of the Great Society, as President Reagan liked to say, “In the sixties we waged a war on poverty, and poverty won.” And since then, we’ve recorded numerous doomsday global final countdowns having expired without the sky falling. But what happens when so many leftwing policies all come a cropper at the same time? That’s the topic — after a lengthy warm-up referencing the dreaded word “diverticulitis” (I feel your pain, brother), Jonah Goldberg explores in his latest G-File, titled, “When Liberalism Fails:”
I read some reviews of Jody Bottum’s new book (which I’ve now ordered). In, An Anxious Age: The Post Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of America, Bottum argues that today’s liberal elites are the same liberal elites that we’ve always had. They come from the ranks of mainline Protestants that have run this country for generations (with some fellow-travelling Jews and Catholics, to be sure). But there’s a hitch. They champion a
social gospel, without the gospel. For all of them, the sole proof of redemption is the holding of a proper sense of social ills. The only available confidence about their salvation, as something superadded to experience, is the self-esteem that comes with feeling they oppose the social evils of bigotry and power and the groupthink of the mob.
This strikes me as pretty close to exactly right. They’re still elitist moralizers but without the religious doctrine. In place of religious experience, they take their spiritual sustenance from self-satisfaction, often smug self-satisfaction.
One problem with most (but not all) political religions is that they tend to convince themselves that their one true faith is simply the Truth. Marxists believed in “scientific socialism” and all that jazz. Liberalism is still convinced that it is the sole legitimate worldview of the “reality-based community.”
There’s a second problem with political religions, though. When reality stops cooperating with the faith, someone must get the blame, and it can never be the faith itself. And this is where the hunt for heretics within and without begins.
Think about what connects so many of the controversies today: Mozilla’s defenestration of Brendan Eich, Brandeis’ disinviting of Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the IRS scandal, Hobby Lobby, Sisters of Mercy, the notion climate skeptics should be put in cages, the obsession with the Koch brothers, not to mention the metronomic succession of assclownery on college campuses. They’re all about either the hunting of heretics and dissidents or the desire to force adherence to the One True Faith.
It’s worth noting that the increase in these sorts of incidents is not necessarily a sign of liberalism’s strength. They’re arguably the result of a crisis of confidence.
Which brings us to the other story of the week that’s been making the rounds, particularly on the Drudge Report: the Federal government siccing 200 armed agents on Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy. As to where that stands now, Rick Moran has you covered at the PJ Tatler.
Apparently, this front in the left’s ongoing Cold Civil War deescalated before becoming hot, but if so, do you get the feeling it’s only because the Obama administration (or perhaps Harry Reid) is having flashbacks to Ruby Ridge and Waco as distinct mile markers on the road to the GOP controlling both houses of Congress in 1994, and they want to avoid firing up a Republican base even more, one that’s already pressed to crawl over broken glass in November?