5 years ago
Peter Berkowitz has an insightful column in the The Wall Street Journal.
He points out the inherent contradiction between the beliefs professed by the Left (tolerance, respect for diversity, the betterment of humanity) and their increasingly vicious rhetoric.
The voters’ message [from the 2010 elections] was clear: Cut spending, compel the government to live within its means, and put Americans back to work. In short, the president and his party badly overreached in 2009 and 2010; and in 2011 the Republicans, to the extent their numbers in Congress allowed, have effectively pushed back.
But that’s not how progressives have tended to see things. They have ferociously attacked congressional Republicans, particularly those closely associated with the tea party movement, with something approaching hysteria.
Consider the unabashed incivility of progressive criticism, its tone dictated from the top. During and after the budget negotiations, we heard that tea party representatives were content with “blowing up our government” (Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne). Then came accusations that “Tea Party Republicans have waged jihad on the American people” (New York Times columnist Joe Nocera), while acting like “a maniacal gang with knives held high” (New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd). At the height of negotiations, Vice President Biden either said, or agreed with House Democrats with whom he was meeting who said, that Congressional Republicans “have acted like terrorists.”
How often they have haughtily lectured the nation on the vital importance of civility in public discourse, the urgency of constraining executive power under law, and the need for impartial expertise in public affairs to pragmatically weigh competing public-policy options. But in the debt-limit debate the virtues they profess could hardly have been more spectacularly absent.
The evident panic of the progressive mind stems from a paradox as old as progressivism in America. Progressives see themselves as the only legitimate representatives of ordinary people. Yet their vision of what democracy requires frequently conflicts with what majorities believe and how they choose to live.
Add to this the progressive belief that human beings can be perfected through the rule of experts, and you have a recipe—when the people make choices contrary to progressive dictates—for generating contempt among the experts for the people whose interests they claim to alone represent. And not just contempt, but even disgust at diversity of opinion, which from the progressive’s perspective distracts the people from the policies demanded by impartial reason.
The progressive mind is on a collision course with itself. The clash between its democratic pretensions and its authoritarian predilections has generated within its ranks seething resentment for, and rage at, conservatives. Unless progressives cultivate the enlightened virtues they publicly profess and free themselves from the dogmatic beliefs that undergird their political ambitions, we can expect even more harrowing outbursts to come.
Mr. Berkowitz’s analysis could not be more correct, in so far as it goes. The problem is that it does not go far enough.
When he writes that “we can expect even more harrowing outbursts to come” he is (consciously or not) pulling his punches. Words, after all, are just words. The old “sticks and stones” proverb comes to mind. There is, then, nothing “harrowing” about what these Leftists have to say. The real trouble is that this type of vituperation too often leads to corresponding action. That would be the “sticks and stones can break my bones” part of the equation. This is where Berkowitz should have gone with his “harrowing” comment. Because the real, and deeper, contradiction with Liberals and Leftists is that they do not stop at name-calling when their utopian visions of reform at the hands of their elitist programs are resisted.
The lesson of the 20th century is clearly that Leftist visionaries were not averse at “breaking a few eggs” in order to make the proverbial omelette. Bolshevism, Communism, Fascism, Socialism and even Islamism all seek to subvert the individual to a mindless, communal creature. If that means gulags, re-education camps, mass starvation and even genocide, that is a price that the Left has always been willing to pay.
And this is where the rhetoric of Democrats and their Leftist enablers is leading. And that is truly “harrowing.” How long did it take after the shooting of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords before the Left was engaging in the violent rhetoric that they claimed should be out of bounds in the aftermath of the shooting? Months? Weeks? Days?
The point is that the philosophy of the Left is incompatible with freedom because its sole criteria is to gain power over others and reform them whether the subject wants to be reformed or not. They are the true Don Corleone who make an offer that society cannot refuse. Because they are without a moral foundation to constrain them, every tool of coercion and compulsion is available to them. Deceit, flattery, subterfuge, blackmail, intimidation, violent rhetoric and— finally– actual, physical force.
Recall the rhetoric of the Left during George W. Bush’s presidency. Beyond ridiculous comparisons of Bush to Adolph Hitler, there were more than a few Liberals openly calling for Bush’s assassination. The vehemence of those days was palpable. Now, 3 years later, despite having control of the White House and the Senate, the Left is again reaching frenzied levels of calumny. What do you suppose will happen if the Left loses the Senate and White House in 2012? Does anyone think that the Left will respect the results of that election any more than they have respected the results of 2010?
Thankfully the Left is a minority in this country, perhaps some 21% of the population according to one Gallup poll and, according to this same poll, outnumber Liberals in every state except Washington, D.C. (big surprise). But this is not grounds for complacency or comfort. This minority of people are extremely well organized and occupy a disproportionate share of the positions of power in government, academia, media and entertainment. In short, this minority holds the levers of power and propaganda in their hands. Combine this power with their philosophy to do whatever it takes to cement and expand their power and the new social media that allows mobs to gather literally in an instant and there is considerable damage that the Left can do. And do not think that they will hesitate to resort to violence. They already have in Wisconsin when their union power was challenged by a duly elected majority in the State house.
How will the rest of us respond? Time to start thinking that through, very seriously.