Friday, January 14, 2011

Why the Left Lost It (Daniel Henninger)

The accusation that the tea parties were linked to the Tucson murders is the product of calculation and genuine belief.

There has been a great effort this week to come to grips with the American left’s reaction to the Tucson shooting. Paul Krugman of the New York Times and its editorial page, George Packer of the New Yorker, E.J. Dionne of the Washington Post, Jonathan Alter of Newsweek and others, in varying degrees, have linked the murders to the intensity of opposition to the policies and presidency of Barack Obama. As Mr. Krugman asked in his Monday commentary: “Were you, at some level, expecting something like this atrocity to happen?”

The “you” would be his audience, and the answer is yes, they thought that in these times “something like this” could happen in the United States. Other media commentators, without a microbe of conservatism in their bloodstreams, have rejected this suggestion.

So what was the point? Why attempt the gymnastic logic of asserting that the act of a deranged personality was linked to the tea parties and the American right? Two reasons: Political calculation and personal belief.

The calculation flows from the shock of the midterm elections of November 2010.

That was no ordinary election. What voters did has the potential to change the content and direction of the U.S. political system, possibly for a generation.

Only 24 months after Barack Obama’s own historic election and a rising Democratic tide, the country flipped. Not just control of the U.S. House, but deep in the body politic. Republicans now control more state legislative seats than any time since 1928.

What elevated this transfer of power to historic status is that it came atop the birth of a genuine reform movement, the tea parties. Most of the time, election results are the product of complex and changeable sentiments or the candidates’ personalities. What both sides fear most is a genuine movement with focused goals.

The tea party itself got help from history—the arrival of a clarifying event, the sovereign debt crisis of 2010. Simultaneously in the capitals of Europe, California, New York, New Jersey, Illinois and elsewhere it was revealed that fiscal commitments made across decades, often for liberally inspired social goals, had put all these states into a condition of effective bankruptcy.

This stark reality unnerved many Americans. The tea partiers’ fiscal concerns were real. Despite that, a progressive Democratic president and congressional leadership spent 2009 and 2010 passing the biggest economic entitlement since 1965 and driving U.S. spending to 25%, or $3.5 trillion, of the nation’s $14 trillion GDP. A public claim of that size hasn’t been seen since World War II.

They expected to take losses in November. What they got instead was Armageddon. Suddenly an authentic reform movement, linked to the Republican Party, whose goal simply is to stop the public spending curve, had come to life. This poses a mortal threat to the financial oxygen in the economic ecosystem that the public wing of the Democratic Party has inhabited all these years.

The stakes for the American left in 2012 couldn’t possibly be higher….

Against that grim result, every sentence Messrs. Krugman, Packer, Alter, the Times and the rest have written about Tucson is logical and understandable. What happened in November has to be stopped, by whatever means become available. Available this week was a chance to make some independents wonder if the tea parties, Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck and Jared Loughner are all part of the same dark force.

Who believes this? They do.

The divide between this strain of the American left and its conservative opponents is about more than politics and policy. It goes back a long way, it is deep, and it will never be bridged. It is cultural, and it explains more than anything the “intensity” that exists now between these two competing camps. (The independent laments: “Can’t we all just get along?” Answer: No.)

The Rosetta Stone that explains this tribal divide is Columbia historian Richard Hofstadter’s classic 1964 essay, “The Paranoid Style in American Politics.”

Hofstadter’s piece for Harper’s may be unfamiliar to many now, but each writer at the opening of this column knows by rote what Hofstadter’s essay taught generations of young, left-wing intellectuals about conservatism and the right.

After Hofstadter, the American right wasn’t just wrong on policy. Its people were psychologically dangerous and undeserving of holding authority for any public purpose. By this mental geography, the John Birch Society and the tea party are cut from the same backwoods cloth.

“American politics has often been an arena for angry minds,” Hofstadter wrote. “In recent years we have seen angry minds at work mainly among extreme right-wingers, who have now demonstrated in the Goldwater movement how much political leverage can be got out of the animosities and passions of a small minority.”

Frank Rich, Oct 17: “Don’t expect the extremism and violence in our politics to subside magically after Election Day—no matter what the results. If Tea Party candidates triumph, they’ll be emboldened. If they lose, the anger and bitterness will grow.”

Robert F. Kennedy Jr., Tuesday in the Huffington Post: “Jack’s death forced a national bout of self-examination. In 1964, Americans repudiated the forces of right-wing hatred and violence with an historic landslide in the presidential election between LBJ and Goldwater. For a while, the advocates of right-wing extremism receded from the public forum. Now they have returned with a vengeance—to the broadcast media and to prominent positions in the political landscape.”

This isn’t just political calculation. It is foundational belief….

[“Why the Left Lost It,” by Daniel Henninger, Wall Street Journal, January 12, 2011, 10:57 P.M.]
Daniel Henninger is a sober observer, and there is so little in his column with which I disagree that it may seem petty for me to criticize him, but I must de-emphasize the significance of the 2010 election in the Left’s reaction to the Tucson Massacre.

Immediately after the John Doe calling himself “Barack Hussein Obama” was sworn in as President, he began a campaign of hatred against Rush Limbaugh, which was soon followed by similar campaigns against Fox News and Glenn Beck. Thus did “Obama” reveal himself to be the ultimate sore winner.

For at least the past three years, the New York Times’ Frank Rich has shrieked unrelenting racial and sexual hatred towards white Republican men, and indeed, the most revealing leftwing quote Henninger cited came from Rich.

Let’s make a slight change in Rich’s declaration: ‘Don’t expect the extremism and violence in our politics to subside magically after Election Day—no matter what the results. If leftwing candidates triumph, they’ll be emboldened. If they lose, the anger and bitterness will grow.’

Rich was engaging in pure projection.

One could argue that that is simply the dynamic of politics, but that would require that one take one’s irony supplement. You’d never know that Rich was for many years the Times’ chief theater critic. Or maybe you would. Perhaps at Pravda, it is part of the chief theater critic’s job description not to know the difference between iron and irony.

For almost 50 years, the Left has been the party of violence and lawlessness, of racial privilege, race riots, and racial genocide.

Look at the quotes from Richard Hofstadter and Robert F. Kennedy Jr. Hofstadter took pen to paper shortly after John Kennedy was assassinated by the Communist Lee Harvey Oswald, yet he wrote, “In recent years we have seen angry minds at work mainly among extreme right-wingers.”

Note that since 1964, American history professors have moved even more to the left.

RFK Jr.: “In 1964, Americans repudiated the forces of right-wing hatred and violence…”

The 1964 election followed not only Oswald’s leftwing violence, but paroxysms of racist, leftwing violence in cities across the country the summer of ‘64, and hundreds, possibly thousands more race riots that would continue throughout the Johnson Administration.

What “forces of right-wing hatred and violence…”?

For over 40 years, the Left has continued to defend the indefensible of black racist violence, and projected their own racism onto their opponents. So, no, this wasn’t about the 2010 election; it was just the Left being the Left.


Anonymous said...

The Left does this sort of thing simply because it can, that's the most important point. They still have a near monopoly on the media and public debate. The ghettos of talk radio and the internet aren't really competitors.

The last few sentences touches on the other important point: social and political violence on the Left is carried out mostly by non-whites, particularly blacks. It's been that way since the 60s when white radicals used to chide themselves for not being as violent as their black counterparts. Conservatives and Republicans simply don't have the nerve to tie Liberal politics to non-white racial violence no matter how blatant those ties are. The failure of the media to carry out the same sort of examination of influences in the Ft. Hood massacre, not only Islamic influence but the influence of multiculturalism on the ability of Islamic terrorists like the Ft.Hood shooter or the 9-11 terrorists to carry out their crimes makes the Liberal media complicit in Islamic terrorism. In the Omar Thornton case they not only didn't explore the degree that the anti-white racism of the Left, the "white privilege" industry or Tim Wise for example, might have influenced the murderer, they openly sympathized with the killer, and blamed his victims, while Conservatives and Republicans cowered in the corner. Control of the technology and a cowardly, corrupt Official Opposition afraid to label the Left as white-hating, genocidal racists means that the right, and whites in general, are always going to be on the end of this sort of assault.

Nicholas said...

I agree with every jot and tittle of what you wrote, but the most important part is what you identified as such:

"The Left does this sort of thing simply because it can, that's the most important point."