June 27, 2005
Seinfeld LiberalsBy Ed Lasky
Seinfeld was a television marvel. Perhaps the most successful situation comedy series of all time, it ran from 1989 to 1998, and has become an omnipresent aspect of our lives as it continually runs in syndication and lives on in best—selling DVD box sets, making fortunes in the hundred millions for both of its co—creators.
But there is yet another facet of Seinfeld at which we can marvel: the cast of characters on the show weirdly foreshadowed the rise to prominence of a large component of the dominant urban liberal wing of the Democratic Party. With a nod to Brian Anderson's South Park Conservatives and a quick glance backward at yesterday's Matt Bai New York Times Magazine article King of the Hill Democrats, let us join the craze for television series politics, and call them Seinfeld Liberals.
Their emergence has not been beneficial for our nation.
In recent decades, a certain cynicism about the character of Americans seems to have taken hold, at least in the filmed and televised entertainment we see. We have gone from John Wayne and Jimmy Stewart patriotically defending America and standing up for the little guy to the egocentricism displayed by the likes of Robert DeNiro in Taxi Driver, Al Pacino in Dog Day Afternoon and The Godfather, and Tom Cruise in Risky Business and Mission Impossible. We have gone from a pantheon of heroes serving as symbols for everyone to a motley group of self—serving characters raised in the ethos of the endless Me Decade.
This process of erosion in character among those presented to us for emulation reached its apotheosis in Seinfeld. The characters on Seinfeld are a simulacrum, albeit exaggerated for comic purpose, of many of the liberals we find on the political landscape today.
Their aversion for small—town America was never made more manifest than in the concluding episode, where a run—in with the Main Street folks of a small New England town lead to their arrest, conviction and imprisonment, when non—urban America took its long—delayed revenge. Activities beyond urban centers were not to be respected or indulged in, but instead became stories to be mined for humor.
Jerry was the only character who ever disclosed his religion: Jewish, revealed obliquely and late in the series. While religion is rarely touched upon in any television series or movie, a void much commented upon by critic Michael Medved, the rare times it was treated on Seinfeld clearly showed that the practice of religion was not to be respected, and its leaders were to become objects of mockery. Religious figures were to be mined for humor.
A rabbi who showed up in a few episodes was nasal and boring as he droned on in a monotone voice. Plus, he seemed to violate religious norms by being a gossip! George briefly attempted to fake an intent of converting to a fictitious branch of Eastern Orthodoxy, but that was merely to enable him to date a girl from a pious family. Of course, he could not endure the tedium.
Another episode involved Elaine's boyfriend of the time, Puddy, dressed up for a New Jersey pro hockey game in devil—like regalia and makeup. He approached a car with a priest inside, who expressed paralyzing fear at the approach of an actual devil incarnate. Priests, you see, are gullible, dumb and paranoid!
This tendency annoy was true in their work lives, as well (George's difficulties within the Steinbrenner organization, Elaine's problems with her bizarre bosses, Jerry's conflicts with other stand—up comedians. For Kramer this was not an issue, as he did not work — also a trait disproportionately found among Democrats).
The paramount source of the humor in the series was that every trivial idiosyncrasy of others became something to be loathed. This infantile quest for perfection would inevitably lead to an adult version of temper tantrums — the peremptory dismissal of the worth and value of other people. They were unable to find happiness or satisfaction with anyone else (and they seemingly recognized this trait in themselves during the famous 'Master of My Domain' episode).
This mania to personalize the hatred of George Bush was exemplified by Jonathan Chait in his The New Republic article, Mad About You: The Case for Bush Hatred. In the first paragraph of that screed, Chait wrote,
'I hate the way he walks——shoulders flexed, elbows splayed out from his sides like a teenage boy feigning machismo. I hate the way he talks——blustery self—assurance masked by a pseudo—populist twang. I even hate the things that everybody seems to like about him. I hate his lame nickname—bestowing—— a way to establish one's social superiority beneath a veneer of chumminess (does anybody give their boss a nickname without his consent?). And, while most people who meet Bush claim to like him, I suspect that, if I got to know him personally, I would hate him even more.'
Bush hatred, so often expressed as a dislike for his personal idiosyncrasies, is a manifestation of the same attitudes routinely expressed by the Seinfeld characters towards others. The disdain the Seinfeld characters came to feel for other people and their solution of dismissing them from their lives can serve as a comparison for the way many liberals treat George Bush and other Republicans. Banishment from the series is the sitcom equivalent of death. Ask any actor denied a continuing role.
While working to oppose his reelection or even calling for his impeachment are legitimate ways some people wish to express their disdain for George Bush, others have called openly for more extreme measures. Web sites are well—populated with calls for his death and the novel Checkpoint has been published with an alarming premise — a blueprint for his assassination. When you routinely demonize George Bush as a modern—day Hitler, such calls for action may have some resonance. As the Seinfeld crew routinely dismissed from their lives people who bothered them in any way, so some of the extremist Seinfeld Liberals seem to adhere to the dictum expressed by Joseph Stalin, "No Man, No Problem."
Conversely, there is as little self—examination by Seinfeld characters of their own mistakes or imperfections as there is among the liberal Democrats who harbor Ted Kennedy, Robert Byrd, and Al Sharpton within their ranks. Yet perfection is demanded of George Bush.
George W. Bush, in contrast, tackles the big issues and thereby runs the risk of being attacked by Seinfeld liberals eager to find fault with other people. Endlessly attacking Bush and America during this time of international tension only emboldens our enemies, a point whose mere mention causes screams of outrage and accusations of McCarthyism.
It is telling that after Illinois Senator Dick Durbin foolishly compared the treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo to the behavior of the Nazis, Pol Pot and Stalin, the left's new moral guidepost, Markos Moulitsas, of the Dailykos website, argued that while Durbin's comparison might have been inappropriate, the important question is why our behavior was not more different from that of the Nazis. In the Seinfeld liberals' mindset, if the prisoners at Guantanamo do not receive that sensitive "Hyatt Gold" touch, then we are not different enough from the Nazis.* Such is the moral compass of people who have lost the ability to make distinctions, even large and obvious ones.
This type of help is not necessarily going to bring glad tidings to the Democratic Party. As the Democrats continue to lack new ideas, engage in the ridicule of religious people, make a mockery of the concept of family life, obsess with endless fault—finding and nit—picking, they have become the natural heirs of the Seinfeld show: They have become Seinfeld Liberals: Democrats who stand for and are about nothing.
*The famous "Soup Nazi" episode had no compunction in comparing a bossy proprietor of a soup restaurant to a Nazi—while in some ways humorous, it also displays a lack of sensitivity.