September 1, 2006
Why the Dems Don't Get ItBy James Lewis
The descent of the Democrats into seeming madness is both frightening and puzzling. To those paying attention and of stable mind, the Democrats look something like Samuel Taylor Coleridge's Ancient Mariner:
Coleridge wove madness into his poem to show that the Ancient Mariner was still living with his albatross around his neck. It makes for wonderful poetry. But it's not exactly comforting when one of our great national parties tries to grab voters with its skinny hand, trying to stop them in their tracks with its glittering eye and floating hair. It's scary.
The Republicans are hardly the last word in human wisdom, but right now they are the only ones acting normal. Sure, Democrats think they are making sense, but that's only when they talk to each other. There aren't enough grey—beard loons in the country to win national elections. What the Dems don't get is that they have flagrantly and repeatedly crossed a clear red line in American politics: The line between being for our country or against it.
Forget the word "patriotism." The question is, do Democrats favor a strong and vigorous America that protects itself ——— and the entire West ——— against a monstrous and aggressive ideology? Americans don't want to be in doubt about that. For the Democrats to be so completely blind to the signals they constantly send out is weird beyond words. It is self—destructive, and it degrades our political dialogue. We need sensible Democrats. As it is, the sensible ones who speak up are purged, like Joe Lieberman and Zell Miller.
The only explanation I can think of is that liberals have in their minds substituted internationalism for nationalism. They have slipped into a belief they can't own up to.
But the plain reality is that our nation is the only vessel in which we all sink or swim. Punch a hole in the bottom and we all go down. In a nuclear age, with North Korea and the Khomeiniacs getting the Bomb, it's not just a scare headline any more. Give enough Bombs to enough rogues with enough hate for the West, and Boom! It's over. Back to the Dark Ages.
That's obvious to the average voter. It's so obvious that it's not even worth debating. It was average Americans who spontaneously broke out a great blizzard of American flags in the months after 9/11. That was the instinctive and natural expression of our pain, the feeling that we had been personally hit by a mad and ruthless enemy ——— an inhuman enemy who was willing to use utility knives to butcher female airline attendants, and then fly hundreds of innocent people into buildings filled with more than fifty thousand ordinary people. The whole barbarian piece of butchery was simply unimaginable to normal Americans. It still is.
That spontaneous flowering of flags was eloquent, solemn and silent. It did not need words, because we all understood what it meant: "We are all hurt, we are all Americans, we are all healed by acknowledging who we are. We are one." Words were not needed.
But to liberal Democrats, the great spontaneous wave of flags in those bitter days made no sense at all. They saw it as a throwback to jack—booted Jingoism; as if they had utterly forgotten what country they were living in. To liberals, our shared destiny in the frail craft of nationhood was no longer obvious. They were afraid of those millions of little flags, because they felt excluded by them.
It can only be that the Left has absorbed a Marxist assumption about the world, and done it so completely that don't even realize it themselves. That unconscious assumption could be called "internationalist supercessionism." It is the idea that the nation—state is out of date. Nations are doomed, and furthermore, it's really good that they are destined to die, because nations will be superceded by some international body that will abolish war and create welfare and equality for all.
"Internationalist supercessionism" is a big mouthful, but it's seems to capture what liberals really believe. In the liberal imagination it is actually good to sink the ship of state.
That never made any sense. Suppose ——— just for the sake of argument ——— that the whole fantasy is true, and that nation states will crumble in the best Marxist fashion and be superceded by an ideal government for all the world, a government that is good, decent, equitable, generous, honest, fair, prosperous, and gives welfare benefits for all, for ever and ever, amen. Don't laugh. Let's just assume it.
How do we get from here to there? By allowing Islamofascists to win in Iraq or Lebanon? By teaching multiculturalism, to discredit our own time—tested values and sabotage our survival? By hoping that Hillary brings healthcare for all, with no limits and no tough choices? As soon as you start to ask questions, the whole Tinkerbelle wish—upon—a—star fantasy becomes obvious. Even to liberals.
When the Communists were prominent ——— many still are, but they don't call themselves that anymore ——— they had an answer to any questions about the ideal world to come. They were convinced that Marx had proved once and for all that nobody could answer the question, because the world would be so different in the communist future that we, with our historically limited understanding, could not even imagine it.
Shazzam! They had a wildly intellectualized way of saying "just don't ask!" Swaddle that in a barrage of Hegelian verbiage and nobody dares to ask any more questions.
Marxism has fallen on hard times ——— big sigh of relief! ——— but the Left still doesn't have any answer. It doesn't even ask questions ——— choosing instead, for example, to bury their heads in the sand in the face of an open Third—World corruptocracy at the United Nations. They need to believe. Don't ask.
The internationalist assumption has spread, because none of the insiders raise questions; and those who raise questions are purged. That's exactly how cults work. I think I know that, because I keep asking my liberal friends to answer simple questions, but I never get to the end of my sentence. Instead, they just keep changing the subject when I try.
It's very strange. Here are very intelligent people, living in unprecedented prosperity and security in the most freedom—loving nation on earth. Yet they are obsessed with an otherworldly dream, so that their lives are filled with passionate loves and hates. They love whoever sings their dream song, and they hate anybody who doesn't. The Left loved Kennedy and hated Nixon with a deadly hatred. They hated Eisenhower and loved Adlai Stevenson. Today they love Hillary and hate Bush. It's all very black and white. There are the Children of Light and the Children of Darkness, and that's all there's to it.
It is as if liberals are too frail, too weak to think freely about some of the most important questions in the world. Skeptical questions seem to hurt their feelings. My liberal friends seem thrive on warm social groups that confirm their beliefs. Nationally, they have converted a gloriously argumentative newspaper industry into dull conformity, after the invention of television made an intellectual monopoly possible. Vibrant intellectual institutions like Harvard University have been degraded into places where the president gets fired, simply for asking questions.
I believe that's what happened to the Democrats. They have become intellectually hollow, allowing themselves to drift into cult—like, otherworldly fantasies. Just by shutting out questions, by controlling the national narrative, they have turned a viable political party into an empty shell, interested only in winning power and privilege, but unable to tell the voters why they deserve to win.
What keeps the Democrats alive at all is their ability to control the discourse, the public narrative Americans are supposed to tell themselves. Question that politically correct monopoly, and the emptiness at the heart of the Left becomes obvious. The cry of today's Left is "Don't make me think!"
Let's hope they get better soon.
James Lewis is a frequent contributor.