Saturday, July 19, 2008

Robotic liberalism

The results will not be perfect, but I fervently hope that Barack Obama and the Democratic congressional candidates are successful in November. Of course, there will be monumental struggles with lobbyists and the bureaucracy.

Worse will be the problem of liberal complacency. To his credit, Obama has sought to confront some of this robotic thinking. Naturally, he gets no credit from the knee-jerks, who accuse him of abandoning his (scil. their) principles.

The liberal true believers still think that it is 1960. John Kennedy is in office (preparing to end the Vietnam War, NOT) and the world is their oyster.

With ostrich-like consistency these liberal types refuse to even glance at the mass of new thinking stemming from conservative and libertarian sources in the last half century. That is why their triumph in 2008, if it comes, will be short lived. Such an upshot is not what is to be wished, at least not necessarily, but that is what seems to be in the offing.

Let me give two examples of this robotic liberalism.

The other day, waiting in an interminable line for theater tickets in Central Park, I started talking to a charming woman about my age (73). She was articulate, intelligent and Jewish, and therefore very much at risk for colonization by the syndrome I am addressing here. We got on very well, as I am a retired college professor, and she assumed (not incorrectly) that my views were similar to hers.

Then she got on to a new book, fairly new at least, which relentlessly portrays George W. Bush and his family as utterly and irredeemably stupid. My mind flashed back to a short-live series that began on the Comedy Central channel (cable) shortly after GWB assumed the presidency. Entitled "That's My Bush," it presented an image of a loopy bungler, with a mental age of about 11, totally under the control of Karl Rove and Dick Cheney. Well now Rove is out and Cheney is in a witness-protection program. And guess what? George Bush is clearly calling the shots now. He is making every Democrat in Congress his bitch, and they are loving it. Stupid, alas, he is not.

This kind of Bush hatred is a perfect example of how liberals substitute stereotypes for independent thinking. They believe that if they just repeat their mantras often enough, and keep congratulating each other on their superior understanding that their views will become reality. It doesn't work that way.

Another example of sloppy liberal thinking comes from a letter in today's NY Times Book Review. Commenting on a new book on the history of the US conservative movement, the writer correctly points out that the movement had significant anti-Catholic, racist, and anti-Semitic roots. A few sentences later he cites an example: Father Charles Coughlin. Wasn't Coughlin, er, well, a Roman Catholic priest?

These people seem to believe that thinking and logic are luxuries they don't need. They simply know that they are right, and that's enough. Well, we shall soon see that it isn't.

As an afterthought, it has occurred to me that possibly the title "robotic liberalism" is redundant. Isn't it, pretty much, all robotic? The conventional term is "knee-jerk." For too long, incessant speaking in an echo chamber witg others with similar views has deadened the possibility of independent thought. Witness the rapturous reception accorded the meretricious and lying films of the egregious Michael Moore.

Some will say that I am falling for the demonization of liberalism offered up by the vociferous right. I don't think so. In fact, though, one needs to ask why this demonization is possible. The answer lies in the 180-degree turnabout of liberalism in the longer perspective of its history. In mid-19th century England liberalism meant in essence laissez-faire, getting government restrictions out of the way so that the energies of the people could be liberated. In the early 20th century Britain's Labour Party fell for certain vulgar Marxist ideas, and began to insist on increasing government intervention. Eventually, this new concept came to be enshrined in the US in the form of Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal.

In consequence of this mutation, we now have two phenomena: Liberalism One and Liberalism Two. Those who advocate this political view (scil. these views) are typically unaware of when they shift from the one position to the other. For example, most who now term themselves liberals support free speech and careful adherence to the First Amendment of the US Constitution--Liberalism One. I applaud them in this. Yet by the same token they are, very often, in favor of speech codes, a direct contradiction of the previous view--Liberalism Two.

My friend at Gay Species,com still supports the liberal label. Rational people may differ, of course. Others, though, who recognize that the liberal brand is played out, style themselves Progressives. They are at least consistent (I think) in their advocacy of Liberalism Two--under its new name.

Happy Days may be here again in November. But deeper problems subsist.



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