Friday, May 13, 2016

Liberal in name only

Leftists have become the authoritarians they used to condemn

Do you support free speech, individual liberties and protections for private property? You must be a liberal.

Did that last sentence cause you to do a double take? I’m not surprised.

I’ve been reading a new book, “The Closing of the Liberal Mind,” and it shows that much of what passes for liberalism today is, historically speaking, anything but. Moreover, many who call themselves conservative today would have been considered “liberal” if they lived in the time of the Founding Fathers.

This distinction isn’t mere semantics, however. The shift I’m describing goes right to the heart of the political and culture wars that rage around us today. Author Kim Holmes demonstrates why the authoritarian stance adopted by many liberals today — as exemplified by speech codes, trigger warnings, boycotts and shaming rituals — is in fact more accurately described as illiberalism.

You don’t have to go back to the days of the Enlightenment, John Locke and the French Revolution (as Mr. Holmes, a former U.S. assistant secretary of state, does in his commendably thorough book) to see this trend at work. Consider the following quote from a famous politician. See if you can guess who said it and when:

“I am sick and tired of people who say that if you debate and you disagree with this administration, somehow you’re not patriotic. We should stand up and say, ‘We are Americans, and we have a right to debate and disagree with any administration’.”

John McCain talking about President Obama? Nope. That’s Hillary Clinton. She said it in 2003, in reference to the George W. Bush administration.

But as they say, that was then, and this is now. Apparently it’s patriotic to express your opposition to President Bush, but if you utter a word against President Obama, you’re a lying, racist bigot. And if you deny it? Well, that’s just what we would expect a bigot like you to say.

And so most of today’s liberals (or “postmodern leftists,” to use Mr. Holmes’ preferred term) are not championing the right to offer opposing views, as their intellectual forebears would have done. They’re suppressing them.

This campaign to stamp out dissent takes many forms. We see it in Internal Revenue Service witch hunts against conservative groups. On college campuses with administrators meekly bowing to angry demands that politically incorrect speakers be banned. In the push from state attorneys general to investigate groups that question climate change.

Ask Lennart Bengtsson. In 2014, this well-respected Swedish meteorologist working in the United Kingdom joined a group called the Global Warming Policy Foundation, which questions some of the climate change community’s findings. Mr. Bengtsson did so simply because he was concerned that some of the computer-model predictions didn’t match up with actual scientific observations over time.

Big mistake. “Within a matter of days, he found himself in deep trouble,” Mr. Holmes writes. “As happened to other scientists who question any aspect of the global-warming ‘consensus,’ Bengtsson was hounded by colleagues to the point that he felt forced to resign from the think tank.”

Mr. Bengtsson cited concerns for his “health and safety,” saying the pressure made “normal work” virtually impossible, and warned: “It is a situation that reminds me about the time of McCarthy.”

That’s how far today’s “liberals” have fallen. They’ve become the very thing they once denounced.

And so we wind up in a culture that punishes young children severely for first-time, minor infractions under “zero tolerance” policies. One with so many thousands of federal laws that we prosecute adults for committing crimes that they didn’t even know were crimes.

“I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” Unless we all, liberal and conservative, find some way to recover this classically American outlook, the climate of intolerance will only grow more stifling. How far do we dare push it?



What They Still Don't Realize About Trump Voters

As the smoke clears from the wreckage of Indiana, which brought down both Ted Cruz as well as John Kasich, we now know that the pundits and analysts who predicted Trump’s demise on so many occasions were wrong. We also know that Trump, who once remarked that some thought he could shoot someone in Times Square in broad daylight without losing supporters, appears to have been right about himself.

Some 40% of those voting in Republican caucuses and primaries this year have voted for Trump. In what he has constantly derided as the Republicans’ “rigged system,” that sufficed to garner enough delegates to clear out the competition.

Who are these Trump voters? Why was the accumulated conventional wisdom so wrong about Trump and his political chances at every turn?

Victor Davis Hanson, writing in National Review, posts a lyrical description of the Trump constituency in the attempt to explain why so many of us have been baffled:

"[Trump] is a postmodern creation, for whom traditional and time-tested rules do not apply. He is neither brilliant nor unhinged, neither ecumenical nor just a polarizer, not a wrecker and not a savior of the Republican party, but something else altogether. He does not defy conventional wisdom. There simply is no convention and no wisdom applicable to Donald J. Trump. For years postmodernists have lectured us that there is no truth, no absolutes, no timeless protocols worthy of reverence; Trump is their Nemesis, who reifies their theories that truth is simply a narrative whose veracity is established by the degree of power and persuasion behind it.

His supporters want a reckoning with a system that has not so much failed as infuriated them. What drives their loyalty to Trump -- if not the person, at least the idea of Trump -- is a sort of nihilism. As a close friend put it to me this week, “I don’t care whether Trump wins or not, I just want him to f*** things up as long as he can.”

This rage has been a long time building.

It first began to manifest with the rise of the Tea Party movement in the wake of the underhanded process used to pass Obamacare before Scott Brown, explicitly elected in Massachusetts to frustrate its passage, could take his Senate seat. Obamacare’s passage fueled the massive Republican legislative landslide of 2010, when the party regained control of the House of Representatives.

The frustration of Romney’s failure in 2012 added to it, fueling a second landslide of 2014 that strengthened the Republican hold on the House and gave them control of the Senate.

That campaign was characterized by a tremendous amount of over-promising by the candidates regarding what could happen once the Senate was taken back. This created expectations which anyone who had ever taken a high school civics course and paid attention could have known were unrealistic. Obama was still in the White House, and the GOP lacked a veto-proof majority in either chamber.

Those frustrated expectations poured gasoline on the rage already existing. National talk radio and prominent writers castigated the slightest disagreements over political tactics, calling the dissenters “RINOs” and “sell-outs,” casting them into the darkness.

Trump supporters looked for someone who would express their rage and frustration, which generated attitudes Hanson described as follows:

On race, Trump supporters are tired of hearing that black lives matter, while no one mentions that all lives matter. They are sick of seeing protestors wave the flag of the country they do not wish illegal aliens to be sent back to and trash the country they under no circumstances want them to leave. They don’t like getting a letter from an IRS that employs Lois Lerner -- a letter that would be ignored with impunity by those who are here illegally or who run the Clinton Foundation.

They are tired of wealthy minorities claiming they are perpetual victims of ill-treatment at the hands of people who are less well off than they. They don’t like hearing from elites that huge trade deficits have little to do with loss of jobs or that cheating by our trade partners is just a passing glitch in free trade. They cannot stand lectures from those who make more money in an hour than they do in a year about their own bad habits or slothfulness.

They don’t know what the on-screen savants mean by a leg-tingle or a perfectly pressed pant leg or a first-class temperament or a president as god -- and they don’t care to find out. They do not hate political correctness so much as one-sided political correctness, which gives a pass to some to say things that would get others fired or ruined. They don’t want to be lectured that their own plight is part of a larger, healthy creative destruction or a leaner, meaner competitiveness or an overdue restructuring -- by those who are never destroyed, rendered noncompetitive, or restructured.

And they don’t like to be talked down to by the experts who ran up $10 trillion in debt, ruined the health-care system, dismantled the military, and screwed up the Secret Service, the IRS, NASA, and the VA.

Trump is their megaphone, not their solution. The Trump supporters have seen plenty of politicians with important agendas, but few with the zeal to push them through; at this late date, they would apparently prefer zeal without agendas to agendas without zeal.

Hanson is correct in his analysis, but there is something missing, because the very same frustrations mentioned above are also shared by Rubio or Cruz supporters, who together represent at least as large a percentage of the Republican electorate this year as the Trump voters do. What, then, is the difference between Trump’s 40% and the “anyone but Trump” 40%?

The answer lies in two places.

The cumulative train wreck of eight years of Obama has left Republican voters in general in what may be called a “---structive” mood, but prefixes are decisive: While the typical supporter of the more qualified candidates were in a constructive mood -- seeking to build momentum and the legislative muscle to change things for the better (as had happened in Wisconsin following the “red tide” of 2010) -- the typical Trump supporter has a nihilistically destructive attitude, what Hanson’s friend described as the desire “to f**k things up as long as he can.” Tear everything down; burn, baby, burn.

The second attitude is something that most of the pundits have yet to come to terms with. Contrary to the views of Eric Cantor, we didn’t underestimate Trump. We overestimated many of our fellow voters, who never attended that civics class (or failed to pay attention), who don’t understand how the system works, and who increasingly inhabit a world of 30-second soundbites (at most) and 140-character Twitter slogans. Who can rattle off statistics for their sports teams, but can’t be bothered to know who represents them in Congress, let alone their state legislature or any of their voting records or positions.

We have as many “low information voters,” as Limbaugh famously calls them, as the Democrats do, and they have voted: To hell with the Constitution! Tear the whole thing down! Burn, baby, burn!



Will Reagan's Top Advisor Push Trump Over the Top?

As Trump celebrated his win in Tuesday's Indiana primary, campaign manager Corey Lewandowski said their team is putting together a fundraising plan for a general election campaign against probable Democrat nominee Hillary Clinton, as well as downballot races for Congress. "Donald Trump is going to raise money for the Republican National Committee," Lewandowski said.

His allies also are gearing up to raise unlimited sums on his behalf.

For instance, Ed Rollins, a veteran Republican operative who oversaw Ronald Reagan’s 1984 reelection campaign, recently signed on as lead strategist for Great America PAC, a pro-Trump super PAC. Eric Beach, the super PAC’s co-chairman and a veteran of Rudy Giuliani and Newt Gingrich’s presidential campaigns, said the committee plans “to be the weapon of choice for the nominee in the general election” and soon will announce a “finance advisory team that will be second to none.”

Trump, who disavowed super PACs during the primary, appears to be softening his stance. “I know that people maybe like me and they form a super PAC, but I have nothing to do with it,” Trump said Wednesday night on NBC Nightly News. “As you know, I'm not allowed to have anything to do with it. So we'll see what happens.”



For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH,  POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated),  a Coral reef compendium and an IQ compendium. (Both updated as news items come in).  GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten. I also put up occasional updates on my Personal blog and each day I gather together my most substantial current writings on A WESTERN HEART.

List of backup or "mirror" sites here or  here -- for when blogspot is "down" or failing to  update.  Email me  here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or  here (Pictorial) or  here  (Personal)


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