Friday, July 08, 2005

Love the Liberalism, Hate the Lib

(Cross-posted to The Party Line)

It’s a common theme in the liberal blogs that nowadays it isn’t enough that conservatives and liberals disagree on how to interpret facts; they disagree on the facts themselves. We’re all familiar with how listeners of Al Franken and Bill O’Reilly might come to inhabit startlingly factual universes (one more or less factual, the other where Ward Churchill is important) but more subtly, with “Shape of the Earth, views differ” journalism, liberals and conservatives can confirm diametrically opposed, ideological sanitized, understandings of the facts on the ground even if they read the same newspaper.

There’s a lot to say about this but I want to talk about one part of this set-up that’s been bugging me like nobody’s business: The way certain “contrarian” thinkers are in fact, not contrarian at all. Christopher Hitchens and Andrew Sullivan come to mind. Here we have two people who pull the simple trick of amalgamating philosophies from one camp with the factual landscape of the other. It certainly looks like original though, but the great part is it doesn’t require any original thinking.

Hitchens is an old lefty, but yeah, it makes total sense to invade Iraq before finding and punishing Bin Laden. Why? Well, because the neo-conservative “reverse domino-theory” plan to remake Iraq was sound. Those conservatives: always coming up with the plans that work. Why can’t liberals do that?

Let’s take a look at his endorsement of Bush from, yes, this last election:

"Anybody But Bush"--and this from those who decry simple-mindedness--is now the only glue binding the radical left to the Democratic Party right. The amazing thing is the literalness with which the mantra is chanted. Anybody? Including Muqtada al-Sadr? The chilling answer is, quite often, yes. This is nihilism. Actually, it's nihilism at best. If it isn't treason to the country--let us by all means not go there--it is certainly treason to the principles of the left.

I have no idea which left Hitchens is referring to. I live in Berkeley and work in San Fransisco and have yet to meet someone who would vote for a terrorist* over Bush (even online!) Hell, I’ve even been student democrat functions. No. These “facts” are the kind you’d find in an unpublished Ann Coulter polemic and in that form they’d be laughed off the stage as they should. Pair up these “facts” with a guy who still claims to believe in progressive taxation and they make for a kind of buddy-cop movie of political opinion** that contrasts with the rest of the thinkers out there. It’s different, I suppose, but it’s the intellectual equivalent of switching the couch with the bed: In the end, you still have a room full of Ikea furniture.

Well, now I’ve gone and written too much. I want to talk about Andrew Sullivan next but that’ll have to wait. Here’s a brain-teaser for you: How is McCain’s “anti-abortion except for rape and incest” more conservative than Sullivans total anti-abortion stance? It’s easy if you know why.

*Especially one who does not reflect America’s pro-choice views.

**This metephor doesn't actually mean anything.


I don't know that Hitchens would exactly call that factual, it's more appropriately labelled his formed opinion. But I think he's right in the sense that more radical elements (such as Communists) would be united with the Democratic Party entirely on the belief that "anyone would be better than Bush." That said, I don't think the same applies for the more radical elements on the Right; if they supported Bush, in my opinion, they more likely did so for non-Kerry reasons. Though this is an unfair comparison since Kerry was not the incumbent. The same might apply when Clinton was in the White House.
I agree that incubency has a lot to do with this.

There seems to be this fixation on the fringe left with Hitchens and Sullivan that's really unnerving. Do the number of card carrying communists in the United States outnumber Klan members? Or the white citizen's council? Quite simply, no. It's unhealthy to fixate on this stuff and pretend that the fringe has any effect on the democratic party. Again, I went to Berkeley and met exactly one socialist (and I lived int he Co-ops for 4 years).
Snehal Shingavi? Actually Klan members don't tend to vote Republican, especially in the 2004 election. Many often vote Democrat or don't vote.

Simialrly, I've met liberal extremists who voted for Bush to "further the revolution".
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