August 30, 2002

JACK SHAFER WONDERS WHAT’S HAPPENED TO THE LEFT? I think he’s right about this, and he does a good job of capturing why I no longer consider myself a leftist, even though not many of my actual positions have changed:

While the right seeks converts, trying both to persuade and entertain, the left spends its journalistic energy policing the movement.

And here’s a quote from the John Powers article that Shafer’s writing about:

Back in the ’60s, the left was the home of humor, iconoclasm, pleasure. But over the last two decades, the joy has gone out of the left — it now feels hedged in by shibboleths and defeatism — while the right has been having a gas. . . .

And so, rather than rethink the possibilities of a “progressive left” (to use one of its prize terms), the editors [of The Nation] have remained content to belabor what its readers already know (e.g., Bush is a bum) while avoiding tough-minded journalistic coverage of the left. It settles for easy analysis, like suggesting that Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney lost her renomination bid simply because of the Jewish money sent to defeat her. Is this really true? The left would be better served if the magazine investigated such claims rather than merely assuming their truth, although this would involve actually going to Georgia.

Powers is ostensibly writing about the difference between the Weekly Standard and The Nation, but it’s really the whole Left that went wrong, shifting its focus from Abbie Hoffman’s pranks to Andrea Dworkin’s prudery over the course of a decade — a decade in which, surprise, the Left lost its popular support.