Jewish World Review Feb. 20, 2001 / 27 Shevat, 5761
Liberal idealism: Where have all the flowers gone?
I AM currently reading Paul Johnson's "Modern Times," a history of the world from the 1920s to the 1990s. In one chapter, Johnson traces the brutality of the twin totalitarian regimes, Hitler's Nazi Germany and Stalin's Communist Soviet Union.
It is fascinating that these two "devils" were mutually inspired by each other's methods of consolidating power and indirectly borrowed ideas and techniques from each another. Just as interesting are the different reactions these tyrants evoked among the world's opinion leaders.
While most of the world was at a minimum critical of Hitler, Western intellectuals (read: leftists) were typically sympathetic to Stalin. They bent over backwards to apologize for him, turning a blind eye to his oppression and terror.
Do you think I'm making this up, just to place liberals in a bad light? I admit, it would have been tempting, but here are some examples from the book:
"Hewlett Johnson, Dean of Canterbury, described (Stalin) as leading 'his people down new and unfamiliar avenues of democracy.' The American Ambassador, Joseph E. Davies, reported him as having 'insisted on the liberalization of the constitution' and 'projecting actual secret and universal suffrage'. ... 'A child would like to sit on his lap, and a dog would sidle up to him.'" In the meantime, Stalin himself was busy exterminating some 10 million of his fellow countrymen.
But those were the good old days; the days when the left openly romanticized communism. That was back when the left was full of idealism, as perilously misguided as that idealism obviously was.
As I was reading about this and remembering similar liberal apologies for the Communist position during the Vietnam War, it occurred to me that today's liberals have lost their idealism.
Of course the left would deny having sympathized with the Soviet Union or the Communist cause in Vietnam (just after having defended each to your face). But that's another subject.
With history having condemned socialism and communism as morally, politically and economically bankrupt systems, Western "intellectuals" were ungraciously robbed of a large body of their secular theology. Forgive me. I know, I'm bordering on McCarthyism for even flirting with such blasphemy. So let's move on.
Forget the past. But do tell me what the left aspires to now. What are the limits on its prescriptions for a utopian society? Does it even seek utopia anymore?
What are the left's ideals today with respect to the major issues? Education? The best education for all children or protecting teachers' unions at the expense of the children?
Abortion? Protecting the innocent or some fabricated and dubiously glorified constitutional "right" of women?
Social Security and Medicare? Trying to find a solution to make them pay for themselves or postponing reform?
Strategic Defense Initiative? Placing the nation's security first or wringing their hands about an imaginary new arms race (one that will proceed irrespective of whether we arrange to defend ourselves and our allies)?
Race relations? Seeking to bring together the races in peaceful, mutually respectful harmony or fanning the flames of racial prejudice and fomenting distrust and disharmony?
Or what about the all-important economy? What is the liberal ideal for the economy today? It seems to me that leftists want to have it both ways. They resisted the dismantling of the manifestly failed welfare state, yet they take credit for its completed reform. Plus, they are forever devising new schemes to redistribute societal wealth. On the one hand they appear vaguely aware that capitalism is the engine that drives the prosperity that makes their redistributionist schemes possible. Yet they are forever trying to use the tax code to suck all of the oxygen out of that engine.
Isn't it hard to deny that the left, whose utopian ideas have been vanquished in a real-life social laboratory from the '60s to the '90s, has been sapped of its idealism? Is it not equally apparent that it has replaced that idealism with a destructive politics of polarization and divisiveness? It is now reduced to pitting groups against each other (class, race, age, sex) not in furtherance of some lofty goal, but the raw acquisition of power.
From the irresponsibly false charges that Republicans tried to disenfranchise black voters in Florida, to the Ashcroft hearings and the unconscionable class warfare tactics of Tom Daschle and Dick Gephardt against George Bush's tax plan, it's time for the left to rise above its negative politics and bring back its hapless
commentator. Send your comments to him by clicking here.
02/14/01: The Clintons and selective media outrage
02/12/01: Bush's tax cut challenge: A historical view
02/07/01: Democrats' Dubya dilemma
02/05/01: Dubya is confounding the media
01/29/01: The Teamsters, the DNC and the reformers
01/29/01: The Old Limey
01/25/01: Clintonís disgraceful departure
01/22/01: Ashcroft: Principle above self
01/17/01: Justice for Riady?
01/15/01: Ashcroft: A hill to die on
01/10/01: Returning to the supply side
01/08/01: Reasons for optimism
01/03/01: Bush's daunting challenges
12/28/00: Ashcroft: A triumph for the rule of law
12/26/00: A tinge of revenge?
12/20/00: GOP: Breaking the race barrier
12/18/00: Civility doesn't require surrender
12/13/00: Al Gore: Innocent victimizer
12/11/00: Judicial restraint and ordered liberty
12/06/00: The four years war
12/04/00: Debunking Gore myths
11/29/00: Defending the smaller principles
11/27/00: Albert O'Gore and the little people
11/22/00: Doing 'anything to win'
11/15/00: Enough is enough, Mr. Gore
11/13/00: Al Gore: Thy country or thyself?
11/08/00: Bill and Al: Your time is up
11/06/00:The impending Bush mandate
11/01/00: Can't stop thinkin' 'bout tomorrow
10/30/00: George: Give Gore the ball back
10/25/00: Mr. Gore: A few more questions
10/23/00: It's the big government, stupid
10/18/00: Gore's down, so will he panic?
10/16/00: We're fresh out of new Al Gores
10/11/00: Gore: Fuzzy math = dirty politics
10/10/00:Gore: Renaissance man or unbalanced?
10/04/00: Where have you been, Albert Jr.?
10/02/00: Clintonís fragmented presidency
09/27/00: Liberal media doth protest too much
09/25/00: AlGore: Turning dreams into nightmares
09/20/00: Something fishy's going on
09/18/00: It's the liberalism, stupid
09/13/00: An open letter to open-minded cynics
09/11/00: The virtues of going negative
09/06/00: On a mission for marriage
09/04/00: Al Gore's 'Trivial Pursuits'
08/30/00: Lieberman and the paradox of liberal 'tolerance'
08/28/00: A campaign divided against itself
08/23/00: Al Gore's trickle-down populism
08/21/00: Prosperity without a clue
08/16/00: AlGore can run but he can't hide
08/14/00: When hate speech is OK
08/09/00: Bush: The pundits' enigma
08/07/00: GOP convention: Live or Memorex?
08/02/00: The first attack dog
07/31/00: The Cheney taint?
07/26/00: The anti-gun bogeyman
07/24/00: The raging culture war
07/19/00: Is Hillary 'Good for the Jews'?
07/17/00: How dare you, George?
07/12/00: Jacoby's raw deal
07/10/00: The perplexities of liberalism
07/05/00: Big Al and big oil
07/03/00: Partial-birth and total death
06/28/00: Some questions for you, Mr. Gore
06/26/00: Supreme Court assaults religious freedom
06/21/00: Waco: We are the jury
06/19/00: "Outrage" just doesn't quite cut it anymore!
06/14/00: Al Gore: Government's best friend
06/12/00: Say goodbye to medical privacy
06/07/00: Elian: Whose hands were tied?
06/05/00: Who, which, what is the real Al Gore?
06/01/00: Legacy-building idea for Clinton
05/30/00: Clinton: Above the law or not?
05/24/00: Not so fast, Hillary
05/22/00: Gore's risky, fear-mongering schemes
05/17/00: Can Bush risk pro-choice running mate?
05/15/00: Right to privacy, Clinton-style
05/10/00: Patrick Kennedy and his suit-happy fiddlers
05/08/00: Don't shoot Eddie Eagle
05/03/00: Congress caves to Clinton, again?
05/01/00: The resurrection of outrage
04/28/00: A picture of Bill Clinton's America
04/19/00: President Clinton: Teaching children responsibility
04/17/00: Elian, Marx and parental rights
04/12/00: Elian, freedom deserve a hearing
04/10/00:The fraying of America
04/05/00: Noonan: End Clintonism now
04/03/00: Bush: On going for the gold
03/27/00: Treaties, triggers, tobacco and tyrants
03/22/00: Media to Bush: Go left, young man
03/20/00: Stop the insanity
03/15/00: OK Al Gore: Let's go negative
03/13/00: Deifying of the center
03/08/00: The media, the establishment and the people
03/01/00: McCain's coalition-busting daggers in GOP's heart
02/28/00: Bush's silver lining in McMichigan
02/24/00: A conservative firewall, after all
02/22/00: Bush or four more of Clinton-Gore?
02/16/00: Substance trumps process
02/14/00: The campaign finance reform mirage
02/09/00: President McCain: End of the GOP as we know it?
02/07/00: From New Hampshire to South Carolina
02/02/00: SDI must fly
01/31/00: Veep gores Bradley
01/26/00: The issues gap
01/24/00: GOP: Exit, stage left
01/20/00: Nationalizing congressional elections
01/18/00: Do voters really prefer straight talk?
01/12/00: Media's McCain efforts may backfire
01/10/00: Conservative racism myth
01/05/00: Just one more year of Clintonian politics
12/27/99: Al Gore: Bullish on government
12/22/99: Bradley's full-court press
12/20/99: Bush: Rendering unto Caesar
12/15/99: Beltway media bias
12/13/99: White House ambulance chasing
12/08/99: Clinton's labor pains
12/06/99:The lust for power
12/01/99: In defense of liberty
11/29/99: Are Republicans obsolete?
11/24/99: Say you're sorry, Mr. President
11/22/99: Architects of victory
11/17/99: Trump's tax on freedom
11/15/99: GOP caves again
11/10/99: Triangulation and 'The Third Way'
11/08/99: Sticks and stones
11/03/99: Keyes vs. media lapdogs
11/01/99: Signs of the times
10/27/99: The false charge of isolationism
10/25/99: A matter of freedom
10/20/99: Clinton's mini-meltdown
10/18/99: Senate GOP shows statesmanship
10/13/99: Senate must reject nuclear treaty
10/11/99: Bush bites feeding hand
10/06/99: Jesse accidentally opens door for Pat
10/04/99: Clinton and his media enablers
09/29/99: Reagan: Big-tent conservatism
09/27/99: The Clinton/Gore taint?
09/22/99: Have gun (tragedy), will travel
09/20/99: Hillary's blunders and bloopers
09/15/99: GOP must remain conservative
09/13/99:Time for Bush to take charge, please
09/10/99: Bush's education plan: Dubya confounds again
09/07/99: Pat, savior or spoiler?
09/02/99: Character doesn't matter?
08/30/99: Should we judge?
08/25/99: Dubyah's drug question: Not a hill to die on
08/23/99: Should Dubyah start buying soap ... for all that mud?
08/16/99: 'W' stands for 'winner'
08/11/99: The truth about tax cuts
08/09/99: Hillary: Threading the needle
08/04/99: What would you do?
08/02/99: No appeasement for China
07/30/99: Hate Crimes Bill: Cynical Symbolism
07/26/99: Itís the 'moderates', stupid
07/21/99: JFK Jr. and Diana: the pain of privilege
07/19/99: Smith, Bush and the GOP
07/14/99: GOP must be a party of ideas
07/12/99: Gore's gender gap
07/08/99: Clintonís faustian bargain: our justice
07/06/99: The key to Bush's $36 million
06/30/99: Gore: a soda in every fountain
06/28/99: 'Sacred wall' or religious barrier?
06/23/99: GOP must lead in foreign policy
06/21/99: Crumbs of compassion
06/16/99: Compassionate conservatism: face-lift or body transplant?
06/10/99: Victory in Kosovo? Now What?
© 2000, CREATORS SYNDICATE, INC.