Elites Gone Bad
What America needs is a better class of left-winger.
Jun 13, 2011, Vol. 16, No. 37 • By DAVID GELERNTER
America to Europe: Excuse us for saving your life, repeatedly. Can you ever forgive us?
Europe to America: Alas, that kind of sin never can be forgiven.
Can consensual autocracy happen here? Today’s Obamacrats seem to want it and believe in it. But let’s hope it’s a passing fad on the left; in any case, if the public pays attention, it won’t ever happen in America. Obamacrats can push us far towards Eurodementia, but not that far.
We have a much more robust conservative movement than Europe does, thanks (on the intellectual side) to William F. Buckley, Irving Kristol, and Norman Podhoretz and (on the political side) to Barry Goldwater and especially Ronald Reagan. But even had none of these heroes ever lived, Americans would still believe in democracy in a way that only a Judeo-Christian, biblical republic ever can.
Back in the U.S.A., a political culture in which patriotism has been superseded by globalism—love of country replaced by love of nothing (no one even claims to love the “global community”)—is a cauldron for the politics of contempt that has been simmering for years on the left; that boils over in so many presidential statements; that helps explain the “climate of hate” (to coin a phrase) that typifies the modern American left.
Of course Obamacrats see themselves as reasonable, sympathetic, responsible, adult. In their reading, the “climate of hate” is a malady of the right. How often do we fail to know ourselves, fail to recognize our most obvious characteristic—which in the Obamacrats’ case is hatred of the right. That’s how people are.
The Obamacrats’ hatred is too well known to need cataloguing. We know that NPR’s top people see Tea Party supporters as “seriously racist, racist people.” We know the views of such old reliables as former DNC chairman Howard Dean (“I hate the Republicans and everything they stand for”) and Nina Totenberg of NPR (who once said that Jesse Helms “ought to be worried about what’s going on in the Good Lord’s mind, because if there is retributive justice, he’ll get AIDS from a transfusion, or one of his grandchildren will get it”). We know former congressman Alan Grayson’s ideas about his Republican colleagues: “If you get sick in America, the Republican health care plan is this: Die quickly.” We know the disgusting things that have been said about Sarah Palin going back to the first days of her vice presidential candidacy. Most important, we remember the indescribably low and dirty attacks made repeatedly on President Bush and Vice President Cheney.
(Not long ago a thoughtful Obama-crat was attacking Cheney, and I asked him whether Cheney and Obama weren’t, in personal terms, much alike. He thought it over and said yes; they were both highly intelligent, low-key, thoughtful, well-read, unemotional but strongly committed to their own worldviews. Then why did the left find Cheney personally so objectionable? And wasn’t it striking that the right never talks about Obama the way the left did about Cheney? To his credit, he had no answer.)
Obviously America needs a left and a right; any spectrum has two ends, and anyway there will always be people whose political instincts are dominated by outrage and a drive to make civilization better and others whose ideas are dominated by duty and devotion. The two fundamental parties have equal moral standing and equal importance to national life: We need the Prophets and the Psalms. The duty and devotion of conservatives can turn bad and become complacency; nowadays conservatives are not complacent—but they should never become complacent about complacency. The outrage of the left can turn into nihilism, meanness, hatred; and has. We know all about what Obamacrats don’t like. It’s time for them to ask themselves (and then say concretely) what they do like; what they are for; what, if anything, they love.
David Gelernter is a contributing editor to The Weekly Standard. His most recent book is Judaism: A Way of Being (2009).