Benign vs. Malignant. A new day in Liberal politics.
Wednesday, August 26, 2009 at 4:05 pm — admin
Ah, the summer is kind; we have another great guest post today!
It's time to put the patient on the table. There is a cancer today in liberal politics, metastasizing from Justice Sotomayor’s now infamous word-too-far -- "better."
Make no mistake here: this New York liberal is still dancing in the streets to celebrate Judge Sotomayor’s confirmation. Sometimes even white girls can salsa. Nonetheless, I fear the politically self-defeating and democracy-challenged illnesses spreading among us, illustrated nowhere so clearly as in the illiberal, liberal’s reactions to the town hall protests.
From PBS’ Bill Moyers to many of my most beloved friends, I hear: “I am okay with protest, however . . .” And, there in the sudden onset of a qualifier, my fellow liberals discover their capacity for tut-tut sanctimony: setting the terms and conditions for freedom of expression that we would never allow anyone to set for ourselves.
This is not a liberalism that I recognize, except in its political ineptitude.
A plain sense reading of Judge Sotomayor's "better" statement: She gave preference to certain experiences as more likely to deliver wisdom. And I thought: “you betcha!”
This is the inheritance of a twenty-year long intellectual project on the left in academia. To counter a "dominant white male culture," we asserted not just the special character, but the superiority of our own gender- or ethnicity-linked points of view. It was a useful exercise to elevate the validity and value of experiences otherwise invisible to the mainstream. But what works in academia is lethal in politics.
Twenty years ago, my placard-carrying self marched outside the office of then New York Senator, Alphonse D'Amato, to protest the treatment of Anita Hill., a witness against Supreme Court nominee, Clarence Thomas. She had accused the Judge of sexual harassment.
The otherwise merry Republican Senator, Alan Simpson, hit a career low when he suggested there were unpleasant secrets about Ms. Hill that he could not reveal. I hit the pavement, “loud and shrill” —“Brooks Brothers” outfit notwithstanding. I joined People for the American Way, one among a number of liberal interest groups protesting her treatment.
When Frank Ricci, the firefighter, was called to tell his story to the Judiciary Committee with regard to the adverse job discrimination ruling that he received from the judicial panel that included Sonia Sotomayor, People for the American Way tried to orchestrate a personal attack against him, suggesting there were discrediting secrets in his past. What happened? Why was Frank less deserving than Anita?
Now, my fellow liberals are convinced there are "secrets" to tell about those town hall protestors. If the protestors claim they are Democrats, we shout "body snatchers." If they complain "the President took more time to pick out a dog" than give thought to health care reform, well, we suspected it all along – they’ve been “organized” by the dark side.
It doesn’t occur to us that in this tenuous economic environment, a trio of thousand-page, admittedly unread bills may threaten more upheaval, more unexpected consequences, than the body politic can bear right now? The vast middle of America doesn’t see the protestors by our negative lights; they see themselves: alarmed again by government overreach; distrustful again of another hard sell; dismissed and scoffed at by their “betters.”
During the long exile of liberalism from politics and its simultaneous entrenchment in academia, it has become brittle and doctrinaire, undiscerning of its excesses and contradictions. Twenty years ago, perhaps only a woman could recognize the travesty of what happened to Anita Hill. Today, I would hope that we all might acknowledge something went awry when the only recourse for those firefighters were five conservative judges on the Supreme Court.
If we are not also on the side of those fire fighters and the mostly elderly men and women at these town halls, I am not sure that I know any more how liberals are better. It looks to me as though our long training in the culture of opposition may guarantee that we return to the place where we feel the most vindicated: shouting from the sidelines, albeit in the dulcet tones and Shakespearean cadences for which we are so well known.