Tuesday, August 08, 2006

I usually steer clear of writing on purely domestic politics because the issues are always more complex in reality than committed partisans are willing to admit and because the difficulty of having having an intelligent dialogue about hot-button issues. Granted, it is the hyperpolitical blogs that have the big audiences but if I wanted to preach to the choir, I'd get myself a church.

Nevertheless, in the last few days a couple of figures with impeccable credentials as men of the Left awoke to the realization that the broad American Left tolerates and includes people with a very dangerous mindset. Not that this is a revelation to those of us on the Right or the Middle ( or who have been following the history of the past century) but it is a fact about which many liberals, some of whom are intelligent people for whom I have much respect, are in deep denial. To admit that their side openly welcomes -and regularly defends- the sort of unsavory hater or dedicated authoritarian that they regularly condemn on the Religious Right is viewed as an unacceptable concession to conservatives -instead of being a simple concession to the reality of human nature. I guess nobody reads Eric Hoffer these days.

Here are the pieces in question:

"Liberal McCarthyism Bigotry and hate aren't just for right-wingers anymore." by Lanny Davis in the Wall Street Journal.

"Has the Left Gone Mad?" by Dr. Mark A. LeVine at HNN.

Lanny Davis is a well known public figure, attorney, Democratic activist and former official in the Clinton administration who was, for a time, the chief attack dog against the " Vast Right-wing conspiracy". Dr. LeVine is less well-known, being a MENA scholar of the kind of far Left, anti-Israeli, academic politics that, say, David Horowitz, loves to attack. These are not moderate Democrats or centrists, Davis and LeVine are both anti-war progressives.

Yet they have, for various reasons, decided to break the unspoken rule against calling attention to the existence of the Marxoid hardliners, the wingnuts and the radical haters who pollute the otherwise liberal and democratic politics of their Party. Here are snippets of what they had to say:

First, Lanny Davis:

"I came to believe that we liberals couldn't possibly be so intolerant and hateful, because our ideology was famous for ACLU-type commitments to free speech, dissent and, especially, tolerance for those who differed with us. And in recent years--with the deadly combination of sanctimony and vitriol displayed by the likes of Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter and Michael Savage--I held on to the view that the left was inherently more tolerant and less hateful than the right.

Now, in the closing days of the Lieberman primary campaign, I have reluctantly concluded that I was wrong. The far right does not have a monopoly on bigotry and hatred and sanctimony. Here are just a few examples (there are many, many more anyone with a search engine can find) of the type of thing the liberal blog sites have been posting about Joe Lieberman:

• "Ned Lamont and his supporters need to [g]et real busy. Ned needs to beat Lieberman to a pulp in the debate and define what it means to be an AMerican who is NOT beholden to the Israeli Lobby" (by "rim," posted on Huffington Post, July 6, 2006).

• "Joe's on the Senate floor now and he's growing a beard. He has about a weeks growth on his face. . . . I hope he dyes his beard Blood red. It would be so appropriate" (by "ctkeith," posted on Daily Kos, July 11 and 12, 2005).

• On "Lieberman vs. Murtha": "as everybody knows, jews ONLY care about the welfare of other jews; thanks ever so much for reminding everyone of this most salient fact, so that we might better ignore all that jewish propaganda [by Lieberman] about participating in the civil rights movement of the 60s and so on" (by "tomjones," posted on Daily Kos, Dec. 7, 2005)."

Unsurprisingly, DailyKos was at hand to provide examples of rancid anti-semitism for the Davis op-ed.

Now for Mark LeVine:

"Of course, I am fairly certain that this isn't the kind of support that was intended. And like myself, most progressives I know have been using “all the means at our disposal” (as the letter signers pledge to do) to help spread the word about this utterly disastrous, and yes, criminal, war. But the ill-chosen (one can hope) words by my illustrious colleagues reflects a very disturbing trend within the Left that has emerged the last few years, and which has come to a head with the latest war: Many leaders of the movement are moving away from the commitment to non-violence that defined the struggle against the Vietnam War and the vast majority of protests against corporate globalization and the invasion of Iraq, and towards embracing violent resistance (think the Red Brigade, Bader Meinhof Gang or the Weather Underground) as a viable, and even the best way to check the capitalist war machine.

I saw the first glimmers of the change right after the US invasion, when senior members of the biggest anti-war coalition in the US told me that “it's all America now” and that the movement had to shift from anti-war to anti-imperialism as its focus. It's hard to endorse violence when you're anti-war, but if you're anti-imperialist there's a long history of violent struggles to “inspire” you (although supporters of this path seem to forget the most successful anti-imperialist struggles, such as Gandhi's in India and Mandela's in South Africa, were almost entirely non-violent, while others, like Algeria or Vietnam, produced corrupt and violent regimes in their wakes).

The American Left has, since the 1920's contained its share of Stalinists, Trotskyites, Anarchists and various other totalitarian loons inclined to worship violent revolution abroad and despise American liberties at home. For a time, these fellow-travellers had access to the highest reaches of the Democratic Party but after the embarrassment of the exposure of Alger Hiss as a Communist spy, the Democratic Party did a thorough housecleaning. I'm not talking about Joe McCarthy's ranting idiocy but of Arthur Schlessinger's ADA combatting anti-democratic ideologues and the AFL-CIO leadership battling to remove CPUSA networks from key union locals. The revolutionaries were shown the door in the forties and fifties.

The emergence of the New Left in the 1960's relegitimized wingnut partcipation in the Democratic Party and its associated groups. Most former Vietnam era activists have mellowed. A few have not and the internet has allowed them to recruit and energize like-minded followers. They are a nasty bunch with an anti-American ideology and they are determined to play a pivotal role in the future of the Democratic Party. It took some bravery on the part of Davis and LeVine to criticize these people - fanatics brook no disagreement and will view the criticism they levelled as "treason" to " the movement". These articles will raise hackles in a way a piece from a conservative or Republican figure would not.

Davis and LeVine are the canaries in the mineshaft, but I'm not sure if anyone is listening.


On a directly related line of thought ( "Great minds...") , my friend Bruce Kesler contemplates "The Not-Great Divide" at Democracy Project


Marc at American Future links and expands on the post with " Hezbollah's fellow Travellers".

Must be Day of the Blogfriend ! LOL !
Thanks for this excellent post, Mark. This is all-but-ignored (until now)subject is one that us "centrist" bloggers should follow closely.
hahaha shulman as one who visits your blog frequently I do NOT htink you can fairly be called a centrist. I mean, come on man
I find it frightening how quickly the Lieberman-Lamont posts on big left-wing sites bring out causal anti-semitism. I'm not sure, however, that this is a "housecleaning" issue. These people are still in a minority when it comes to the various forms of vitriol thrown at Liberman, and there's no evidence they have any influence on the Democratic party.
Sorry, should have been casual.
"Nevertheless, in the last few days a couple of figures with impeccable credentials as men of the Left awoke to the realization that the broad American Left tolerates and includes people with a very dangerous mindset."

I'm sorry, this is different than the men of the Right how? Ann "kill a liberal today" Coulter and Michelle "lock up an Arab" Malkin? At least the Left hardwingers don't get a national stage, as the Right fanatics do... Come on, reality check, STAT.
Hi everyone,

Marc - thank you for the link !


I think Marc was using "centrist" as tongue in cheek.

Dr. Dan & J.

"and there's no evidence they have any influence on the Democratic party."

Neither did the Religious Right in 1976.

"Right how? Ann "kill a liberal today" Coulter and Michelle "lock up an Arab" Malkin?"

Credible commentary pays a lot less these days than being a demagogic fool.

Aside from this not being the age of Walter Lippmann, it also helps to be a reasonably good looking chick. Rush had a face made for radio - if he started today nobody would ever have heard of him.

Don't worry, the wingnut Left will find a counterpart to Ann & Michelle all too soon.
I'll second J.'s comment. You had to do some real looking, Mark, to find these posts.

I'll repeat my challenge from our discussion of a few weeks ago back at WhirledView: Show me that these posts have the audience of Michelle Malkin et al. And you have some way to go to unearth the sheer number of hate posts that, say, Little Green Footballs provides each and every day.

"I'll second J.'s comment. You had to do some real looking, Mark, to find these posts"

The Wall Street Journal is an obscure publication ?

Actually, the reason I did this post is that I hadn't been looking at all -I simply saw them within a short space of time.

And I'll repeat my response to your challenge Cheryl, in digested form - comparative advantage makes this a discussion of apples and oranges but it doesn't alter the trendlines.

Great post. I try not to get too much into domestic politics, but it I alwas try to keep an eye on what's going on.

At the danger of intellectually bringing down the conversation by a couple notches, I must say Michelle Malkin is in fact HOT. I don't care too much for Coulter (views- and looks-wise).

You already know what happened to Senator Lieberman in the primary.
" I must say Michelle Malkin is in fact HOT. I don't care too much for Coulter"

Then she's a hot goof. ;o)

Looks are relative. They prosper in their arena in part because the professional politicos, journalists and wonk types are seldom visually confused with Hollywood actors.

That and saying outrageous things.
the more republicans whine about the lamont victory, the more of a victory it is for the democrats.
Apropos some of the comments here, I do think we need to resist the "oh yeah, look at the far right" impulse. This stuff, no matter what percentage of the Democratic left, doesn't deserve toleration. And I believe we on the left have an obligation to stand up to this sort of thing in our own house rather than excuse it because, well, we don't have very powerful figures insisting that 9/11 is god's punishment for homosexuality.... Partisanship is not an excuse for the tolerance of hate.

Indeed looks are relative. To me, she looks attractive. Like you said, some of it might be attributed to how she looks compared to the other talking heads. I've only seen Malkin on Fox News and even though their "fair and balanced" claim is suspect, they are not suffering in the good-looking female department. For better or worse TV is an audiovisual medium. I am far from a media expert, but it seems like if you have intelligent moderate views, you might not get invited to Hannity and Colmes and some of the other "conversation" shows. If your views are on the extremists and outrageous side and you have a book with a catchy title then you have a better chance of appearing on those forums than if your views are moderate and you don't scream at people when you talk. Infotainment puts serious demands on intelligent political discourse.
another way of saying this might be that there is no american left anymore... it has been coopted by the arab left, the european left, the persian left, the japanese left, the korean left, the russian and chinese lefts, and even the indian left.

i mean that. the outward signs and appearences always mask the true motion underneath.

so, i could say the same about the right, just make it locally factious instead of globally so. but you get the picture.

the notion of "america" has been absent domestic politics for some time. hence the almost mandatory displays of patriotic over-compensation ever since the 80s in federal political circles.

add me to the list of liberal bloggers frightened by latent anti-hebrew rants in quarters too close.

one quibble though mark. these rants and dangerous thoughts from "left" wingers aren't so much "anti-semitic" as they are anti-hebrew. i've found most of these quacks perfectly at ease with arabs, ethiopians, and a host of other semites. their intolerance is reserved for hebrews alone.
I invoke Kevin's Law!

"If you're forced to rely on random blog commenters to make a point about the prevalence of some form or another of disagreeable behavior, you've pretty much made exactly the opposite point."

Yeah, I've noticed that about Fox. Beautiful faces are a marketing strategy.

"Infotainment" has been a corrosive cultural phenomenon. Granted, this is more of a return to what prevailed prior to the era of radio & TV when public oratory and political debate was community entertainment -not least due to the ever-present chance for brawling or mob action. But overall, not a great effect on public discourse.


I agree there has been a highly disturbing "transnationalization" or " de-nationalization" of the American elite in the last few decades. The far Left may be undergoing the same process to an even greater degree due to common opposition to globalization/market economics & U.S. preemininence.


When most of your commenters are trolls, it ain't random.

Now, I like Kevin Drum. We've exchanged a few emails. He's a nice, reasonable, guy. when he was back in his Calpundit days I could have said the same for most of his commenters as well. Despite political differences you could have a really insightful political discussion in his comment section. Yes, there were a few fools back then but not too many.

Today ? Not impossible but not very likely either. A trend I don't attribute to Kevin but to the size of his traffic and the nasty turn the blogosphere has taken in terms of partisanship.
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