Now that we have reached the black comic post-portem stage of the John Edwards scandal with Andrew Young’s book out and pundits playing mop up, it’s time to address an interesting question: To what degree did John Edwards’ “leftism” affect his extraordinarily narcissistic behavior?
The quotes around leftism are, of course, deliberate because Edwards wasn’t a real leftist. He is the poster boy for a faux-leftism that permeates our culture. Nothing could be more obvious than that Edwards, who took the furthest left stance of the three Democratic presidential candidates in the last election, cared next to nothing for “the people” but excessively for himself, building the McMansion of McMansions, etc. And “stance” is the operative word here, because his positions always seemed adopted, not felt.
Is there a cause and effect relationship here? We do live in an era when the private behavior and lifestyles of liberal-left politician seem completely out of whack with their public pronouncements. Besides Edwards, Al Gore and Nancy Pelosi come quickly to mind, but there are others. It’s doubtful Gore and Pelosi lived personal lives anywhere near as execrable as Edwards’ but there are parallels, especially in the area of personal enrichment (“green” or otherwise). And then there are liberals (or should I say faux-leftists) operating in the public sphere from George Soros to Ariana Huffington about who similar charges could and have been made. And then there’s Hollywood, the indigenous home of this kind of behavior.
Why has this happened? Well, it’s certainly not new. Back in the Thirties, New York was suffused by a kind of radical chic about Stalin’s Soviet Union. This was named “Penthouse Bolshevism” by journalist Eugene Lyons who was the UPI’s Moscow correspondent and had seen life the Soviet Union up close. When he returned, he was amazed at the naivete of Le Tout New York’s adoration of Stalin. Lyons wrote about this and ended up ostracized for a time. The more things change, etc.
People want to be seen as left, but not be left. Or at least have to live as left. This behavior seems more extreme now because there is more of it, an almost willed separation between what you say and what you do. The MSM has participated greatly in covering up this division, because they are frequently a part of it, profiting from this illusion-reality game whose aim is to fool the self as much as it is to fool others.
But it is breaking down. The Tea Party Movement, with its disdain for hypocrisy, is on the rise. But more importantly, there is a great contradiction (to use a marxist term) confronting us. Almost everyone realizes that socialist economics are ridiculous. They have never worked. That is more than ever the message of our times. So how do you take a position of faux-leftism when you can no longer advertise the faux part? You’re trumped.
So most likely no more John Edwardses, at least for now. We’ll have to find a new form of scalawag. That shouldn’t be hard, alas.