Liberals Are in Trouble – and They Know It
Conservatives often complain about the lamentable state of their movement. They would do well to look left. Liberals are in greater trouble, and they know it.
The recent special elections for vacant House seats made this evident. The thrashing liberals received in the 2016 elections were also a sign of an inability to communicate their message. Gone are the days in which liberals worked inside a consensus and engaged in debate with others. Everywhere, liberal democracy seems to be endangered by the breakdown of political discourse.
This is due to a great crisis inside the left worldwide. It is no longer a movement of ideas. Liberals have no new ideas because they have adopted such an extreme relativism that they no longer strongly believe in anything. Everything is fluid and undefined. In this way, they have undermined their own foundation of logic and authority that is essential to the functioning of any political movement.
As a result, the old days of rational debate are over. The left exploits emotions and resentments, but can no longer be held to the logic of ideas.
The left also has little passion. Passion requires strong beliefs worth fighting for. To be effective, it must be focused and directed by vision. However, many liberals now admit that they have no vision. Their ranks are full of aging militants who lack dynamism. More often than not, its most ardent activists, like those of “the resistance” or Black Lives Matter engage in erratic and irrational behavior that alienates the population as a whole.
In the absence of great ideas and passion, the left congeals around tired ideas of the past. Liberals resort to socialist class struggle narratives that have long grown old and irrelevant. The fragility of these ideas makes them brittle to the point that they would seem to break if opposed and compromised. Safety lies in not changing, and just repeating slogans of the past.
This explains the liberals’ stubborn attachment to political correctness that has so isolated itself from common sense and reality. It explains their willingness to suppress opposition even by sacrificing freedom of expression on university campuses. That is why the new liberals avoid debate and set themselves up as commissars to condemn those who oppose them on feminism, abortion, same-sex “marriage,” or global warming.
They know that all this causes intense polarization. However, the left lives upon this polarization. They only survive by hardening in their positions. It has reached a point where the more radical core does not wish to live in consensus with the right. It realizes that the minute it reaches a consensus, it is lost.
Thus, to advance, the left is restricted to looking to the right. Indeed, the only way the left can be saved is by exaggerating or distorting the right’s positions. It exploits any vulnerable point that might further liberal orthodoxy. It calls for media to create firestorms around minor issues that hide its weaknesses. The left creates myths about itself to make it seem more powerful than it is.
The weakness of the conservative cause is its failure to rise above the noise from the left as its shifts the debate to secondary issues. Conservatives are also weak when they fail to adhere firmly to the ideas and principles that are their cause. They are vulnerable to the extent that they timidly believe liberal myths and fear what they imagine to be the disapproval of the masses.
The strong point of the conservative cause is the fact that it retains the logic and discourse that support great ideas and strong principles. By nature, conservatives tend to buttress the structures of logic and authority that make movements vibrant.
Conservatives also tend to crystallize around ideas of the past. However, these ideas do not resemble the hackneyed slogans of the left. These ideas involve the joyful rediscovery of what Russell Kirk referred to as those “permanent things” that never grow old. These values of courage, duty, courtesy, justice, and charity are forever ancient, forever new, since they owe their existence and authority to a transcendent God. Amid the present chaos, they attract people in search of certainties. They have the capacity of regenerating cultures in decay.
If unmasked, the left is vulnerable. Indeed , conservatives have their own problems, but they should exploit the weaknesses of the left and capitalize on its strong points.
John Horvat II is a scholar, researcher, educator, international speaker, and author of the book Return to Order, as well as the author of hundreds of published articles. He lives in Spring Grove, Pennsylvania where he is the vice president of the American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property.