In the wake of September 11th, it was perhaps inevitable that the slumbering American Left would be roused at least long enough to issue its usual manifesto about how "this is horrible but it never would have happened if we [insert description of some Sacred Cause here]." What surprises me is that once they'd taken a shot at fixing the blame, they didn't go back to sleep.

It's not that the country has lurched rightward, exactly. Instead, it seems to me that the Left has done a really poor job of outreach. And in their current insularity, they can't do anything but a really poor job of outreach; so long as they continue to refuse all feedback that doesn't conform to Revealed Wisdom, there's no way anyone can reach in and give them a clue-by-four to the back of the collective head. And so the doctrines are restated, the mantras are repeated, and the cycle continues. With the Left way out there in, well, left field, it's no wonder the majority of folks are picking up ideas from the rest of the park.

It may be indeed true, as the Naderites insist, that at the highest levels there isn't a dime's worth of difference between the Democrats and the Republicans; it is certainly true that both parties routinely offer meaningless gestures to their respective bases while they squabble over minor bits of legislative language and major issues get shuffled off to Buffalo. What the Left misses here is the possibility that Buffalo may not want them; the assumption that for every conceivable problem there must be an appropriate government solution is roundly rejected by much of the electorate. The idea that our old friends Joe and Susan Sixpack might want to divert some of their FICA taxes into something they'd actually own for themselves, or might want to see their 2.3 children educated by someone outside the public-school establishment, or might want to defend themselves in case their home is invaded by thugs: all these, the American Left simply is unable to accept. And in wrapping themselves so tightly in dogma, they make themselves increasingly irrelevant to the political process.

This is not to say that the same sort of thing doesn't happen on the Right; of course it does, and for pretty much the same reasons. However, at the party level, the GOP, at least to me, seems to be less of a monolith than the Democrats do, and it's not hard to demonstrate, either. Pick the most irritating pol on either side of the aisle. Ted Kennedy sounds like almost any other Democrat; it's hard to find more than a handful of Republicans as toxic as Tom DeLay.

And the current dust-up in Israel, I believe, will contribute substantially to the further marginalization of the Left, certainly in the United States and perhaps in Europe as well. American Leftists, officially devoted as they are to the plight of the homeless, seem utterly baffled that the mighty state of Israel would actually take steps to protect itself from attacks from those poor homeless Palestinians. If you point out that so far no homeless American has lined his tattered old jacket with C4 and blown up a Starbucks, the look you will get is one of utter blankness.

What really twists leftish viscera, though, is the fact that people get killed. A central tenet of the American Left is that death is a Bad Thing and must be warded off at all cost — hence, no smoking in the presence of other vertebrates, mandatory adherence to government-approved food charts, and absolutely no firearms. The fact that implementation of all these things will change the death rate not one whit (100 percent, give or take zero; even Jesus Christ was dead at one point) makes no difference. The Left is required to believe, therefore, that if Israel would just stop all this horrid military business (the Left is distinctly uncomfortable with military anything), there would be peace in the Middle East and everybody would be happy. Israel, which has had to live while surrounded by Arabs for many years, knows better. Then again, they don't fight to preserve a doctrine; they fight to preserve a nation. Surely the intellectuals of the American Left can figure out the difference one of these days.

The Vent

21 April 2002

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 Copyright © 2002 by Charles G. Hill