Ed Driscoll

Looping The Mobius Loop

We’ve written a few times about the left’s stuck-in-the-1970s Mobius Loop-like state. Two posts today help illustrate just how pervasive it is.

First up is Roger L. Simon, who looks at the tens of thousands of gallons of ink the media spilt over an isolated incident such as Abu Ghraib, or inventing similar incidents out of whole cloth where none exist, while virtually ignoring the hundreds of “honor murders” committed each year by Muslims in the Middle East:

There is a deep psychological disturbance in our mainstream media, a kind of willed need to ignore the world around them. It probably was, more or less, forever thus, but modern communications, specifically the internet, have brought this willed ignorance to the surface as never before. And yet the MSM continues in the same direction, even in the face of seeming economic failure.

Sheryl and I were discussing this phenomenon this afternoon with our friend Gerard who reminded us of the obvious. Many of these media outlets that keep ignoring what is happening in the world while trumpeting every US failure are increasingly playing to niche audiences in our society. They have no real interest, financial or otherwise, in the truth – or in the future of humanity, really (that last is my observation).

Meanwhile, Paul Mirengoff of Power Line asks, “Who will be the last Democrat to lose for a mistaken narrative?”

Vietnam and Watergate are seminal events for almost all liberals my age. Vietnam taught them to distrust the use of force by our military, and to despise leaders who aggressively use military force in the name of the national interest. Watergate confirmed that a leader who projects military force overseas for that purpose can be expected to usurp power at home.

These “lessons” were rejected by most baby-boomers even at the time of Vietnam and Watergate. And despite the dominance of Vietnam and Watergate-obsessed boomers in academia, subsequent generations have found the lessons even less worth learning.

The Democratic party, however, has not just learned the lessons, it has internalized them. And to its great detriment. The electoral tide turned against the Democrats during the Vietnam era, and hasn’t turned back. One can argue that the Vietnam/Watergate syndrome — fear of the exercise of American power based on profound distrust of our military, our government, and our motives — is the main cause of the decline of the Democrats.

Many liberals seem not to dispute this. In fact, they acknowledge the “failure” of most Americans to embrace “harsh truths,” and see this as further evidence that something is wrong with our country (“what’s wrong with Kansas?”). We witnessed this phenomenon quite vividly last November following the defeat of John Kerry — perhaps the purest messenger of the Vietnam/Watergate lessons. Like some conservatives of the past, many liberals seem to relish their minority status as a badge of intellectual superiority.

At the same time, most liberals long to be vindicated in the public mind. If Americans were belatedly to embrace the lessons of Vietnam and Watergate, this would simultaneously confirm liberal superiority and restore liberal dominance.

Liberals look at Iraq, “torture,” and now domestic spying, and can taste full public vindication. And therein lies their problem. If Iraq is Vietnam, it will soon enough confer great political advantage on the Democrats. But the Democrats (Hillary Clinton aside) are psychologically incapable, after so long in the wilderness, of “letting the game come to them.” Or perhaps they understand that Iraq is not Vietnam. Thus, they overreach — being too quick to compare Iraq to Vietnam, to eager to insist that we are failing there, and too quick to cry foul over domestic spying that targets mass murderers, not Larry O’Brien and Daniel Ellsberg. And the public recoils.

It’s not surprising that the failure of many liberals to have learned anything truly new since 1974 constitutes a huge political disadvantage. But I’m fascinated by the ways in which this failure continues to confound them.

It was President Clinton who promised a bridge to the 21st century, and Bob Dole who countered–unsuccessfully, of course–with his own “bridge to the past”. And yet, as I wrote at the start of the month, it’s now the left who finds themselves living 30 years in the past. What does that hold for their future? Here’s but one possible scenario. Here’s another, more shorter-term look.