Leftists versus the People
Do they really hate ordinary people that much?
Yes, they do. For liberals, the distinction between the "dumb masses" and their enlightened selves renders life meaningful. Disdain for ordinary folks is not just an ancillary trait of liberalism. It is fundamental to the its nature.
At its heart, liberalism is a gnostic religion, and the essence of that religion is the believer's faith that he possesses the means of changing the world for the better. The belief that the world must be changed requires there to be a mass of individuals whose lives are in need of change. Following this logic, it is the liberal, not those deplorables in need of change, who knows what must be changed. For liberals, there must be a mass of people in need of this knowledge for life to make sense.
Above all, liberalism is a hubristic faith. Its followers share the fatal flaw of pride in their own intellectual capacity. This is why liberalism appeals so strongly to those in the knowledge trades: teachers, journalists, writers, psychologists, and social workers. The sense of "knowing more than others" is its strongest attraction – particularly to the young, who otherwise know so little. Liberalism confers, or seems to confer, almost immediate power and authority to those who embrace it.
The left's obsession with superior knowledge runs through its entire history. As Woodrow Wilson remarked, the "instrument" of political science "is insight. A nice understanding of subtle, unformulated conditions." Lyndon B. Johnson thought "a president's hardest task" is "to know what is right." And the most hubristic of all is Obama's "We are the ones we've been waiting for." Yes, we are wonderfully bright, and we've been waiting eons for ourselves to appear.
The problem for the liberal is that most people do not want to be transformed. They want life to be better but not qualitatively different. It is only the liberal, or the "progressive," as he prefers to be called today, who welcomes revolution and relishes the violent tactics necessary to bring it about. For the progressive, it is an article of faith that the masses will resist change and must be forced to swallow it.
This is a crucial difficulty, and it gives rise to all sorts of persuasion, nudging, compulsion, and outright violence. If the masses don't know what's good for them, they must be made to change. Every liberal in history, from Jean-Jacques Rousseau to Barack Obama, has adopted this course of action. The current liberal lions, Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi, and their lion cubs – New Jersey's Sen. Cory Booker and California's Sen. Kamala Harris – appear to be even more radical.
Booker speaks repeatedly in favor of what he calls "the collective good." Apparently, he knows what that good is, and others do not. And he seems willing to use uncivil means to achieve that collectivist end, such as lashing out at DHS secretary Kirstjen Nielsen. His humiliation of Nielsen was not just embarrassing. As I saw it, it revealed a cold, vicious, Leninist temperament, a willingness to sacrifice individuals in the service of the collective and of his own political ambition.
Then there is Harris. "Loose regulations and lax enforcement ... That's abandoning the middle class," she says. What she seeks, apparently, is more government control with herself in charge.
Both of these über-liberals claim to know more than the rest of us, but what is it they know?
In a truth worthy of Wittgenstein, one could say that what they "know" is that they know, and nothing else. And what they oppose is any suggestion that they do not know.
In other words, liberalism is a temper, not a philosophy. It has no fixed content – it can be either communistic or fascistic, racially "progressive" or virulently anti-Semitic, pacifistic or militaristic – but in one respect, it never changes. It exerts control and demands obedience.
At its core, liberalism can be defined in gnostic terms as the human mind's idolizing of itself. In this sense, Obama's famous aphorism is spot on. The liberal mind really is what the liberal mind has been waiting for.
What it seeks is not, however, goodness, or security, or higher living standards, or even better health care. What it seeks is the celebration of its own brilliance. "Smug" is a small word that perfectly captures the nature of the progressive mind.
This gnostic trait is the source of all of the damage liberalism has wrought for more than 300 years. From the French Revolution to the Third Reich, from Stalinism to North Korea, liberalism has brought with it repression of liberty, death camps, and executions on a mass scale. What's often not well understood is the fact that violence and repression are inevitable because liberalism seeks to change what does not wish to change – and it does so not for the purpose of making things better, but as an attempt to confirm the superiority of the liberal mind and its ability to manage society.
Most Americans find this conception of existence repulsive. They follow the true path of love, marriage, childbirth, hard work, and faith in God and country. Liberals actively seek to destroy this conception of existence because it rejects their mission of transforming society. It's either the true path or liberalism. Both cannot be true.
To succeed, liberalism must acquire and retain clients in need of change. It is not in the interest of the liberal to solve problems. What the liberal needs is continually to discover new problems and hold them up as in need of solution. The fate of the "DREAMers," held in limbo by generations of liberals, is one example. The "downtrodden," as they were once called, are indeed the pawns of liberal politicians.
There are fewer pawns lately, what with President Trump's determination to actually solve problems rather than exploit them. But as the 2018 and 2020 elections draw nearer, there will be an explosion of media accounts of victimization. It will be theater nonstop, and it will express perfectly the liberal's need to transform the world whether it wishes to be transformed or not.
There is a point at which liberalism's hubris turns into bloodlust. The act of exerting force becomes reflexive and then pleasurable. It is not likely that Stalin suffered any remorse on March 5, 1940 after signing the order for the Katyn massacre. Every smug theorist of liberalism has morphed into a vicious mass murderer – or, like Jean-Paul Sartre, an apologist for such. Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Castro, Pol Pot, Kim Il-sung – they were all brilliant theorists who grew to savor violence.
It is chilling to realize how imperiled we are in the USA. No country is now at greater risk than America, where the young have been warped by state education and the nation intentionally divided along lines of race, class, and sex.
Our task as conservatives is to speak out against liberalism, with its inevitable tendency toward compulsion and violence. It is to offer an alternative that is truer and more generous. The alternative of liberty and freedom is not the construct of the human mind, but the natural condition of mankind wrought by our Creator.
Jeffrey Folks is the author of many books and articles on American culture including Heartland of the Imagination (2011).