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Liberalism’s Auto-Da-Fe

Ed Schultz, the (white) host of MSNBC’s Ed Show, believes that Republican presidential contender Herman Cain is pandering to “white Republicans out there who don’t like black folks.” Professor Cornell West said that Mr. Cain needs to get off his “symbolic crack pipe” because Cain doesn’t believe racism is a major factor in keeping blacks behind these days. And Harry Belafonte says that Cain is a “bad apple in the black community.”

These statements should be considered along with the ones insisting that Republicans refuse to “put country ahead of party” (Barack Obama), that Republicans “don’t love this country” (Representative Linda Sanchez) and that Republicans who vote in favor of a bill that would prohibit federal funds from being used to pay for any part of a health plan that covers abortion will “be voting to say that women can die on the floor” (Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi).

These recent remarks give you a sense of the lovely, uplifting, and edifying spirit of modern liberalism – which is, we’re told by liberals, the ideology of compassion.

Sure it is.

What we’re seeing from many liberal quarters these days is, to quote the words of Lionel Trilling, “irritable mental gestures which seek to resemble ideas” (Trilling’s words, said in 1950, were part of a sweeping condemnation of conservatism). But this may give liberals a bit too much credit. Many liberals–not all, but certainly enough–hardly seem able, and certainly don’t seem eager, to put up an argument on behalf of anything resembling an idea.

They cannot defend the record of their president. And so they have decided to give in to their worst impulses.

I imagine that napalming one’s political opponents may be, in certain respects, therapeutic. It undoubtedly makes liberals feel morally superior to conservatives. But it won’t win over any converts– and it will probably alienate precisely those voters (independents and moderates) they need. No matter. They are engaged in a rhetorical auto-da-fe, and nothing, certainly not good manners, basic civility, or a sense of respect for those with whom they disagree with, will rein them in.

It’s all very ugly, very discouraging, and very counterproductive. I should add that it would be helpful if the man who based his campaign on unifying Red and Blue America–who promised to listen to us, “especially when we disagree”–would try to calm passions instead of stoke the embers of anger. But Barack Obama has chosen a different, lower road on the path to re-election.

I doubt it will work. And no matter what happens, there is dishonor in his ways.



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