Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

The Conspiracy IS Unraveling

Two items in the press today are worth noting for their confluence near the heart of the grand strategy of the VRWC: Peter Berkowitz muses in the Wall Street Journal about why the Left doesn’t exhibit much debate about fundamental political ideas any more, while the Right is constantly engaged in internal debate between its various factions. This is not a new theme--Jonah Goldberg has been reflecting on this for some time now--but Peter offers some hypotheses worth considering, namely, that Bush has, quite simply, driven the Left out of its mind. (In passing, I note that while Berkowitz discusses Russell Kirk, F.A.Hayek and Leo Strauss as providing the core teachings for the three mains strains of conservatism, the Wall Street Journal only includes a photo of Hayek with the article. Is this a not-so-subtle sign of where the WSJ editorial page aligns itself??)

Meanwhile, the WaPo’s Richard Cohen calls Bush a "neoliberal," noting that the apparent failure of the Iraq war "will be cited to smother any liberal impulse in American foreign policy" for years to come. Hmmm. Cohen is getting dangerously close to the heart of the matter, which is that Bush is secretly a liberal double-agent, designed to discredit what remains of liberalism by adopting some of its historical themes, while driving liberals out of their minds at the same time. Reagan got liberals to abhor deficit spending, which bequesthed us the relatively sensible economic policy of Clinton. Now Bush is killing Wilson-FDR-JFK liberal internationalism. And liberals don’t see it. Intellectual liberalism is unreflective, and in the post-Bush era political liberalism will likely be incoherent. Time for Cheney’s goons to. . .

Discussions - 16 Comments

I like this argument. Bush is not a failure. He is not responsible for Iraq's turmoil and thousands of new graves for our soldiers. Not one bit.

It is those damn liberals and their failed ideas. Bush spent billions and killed thousands just to prove that point: his ideas would have worked (you know, that modest foreign policy he discussed in his first campaign), but first he had to show what would happen if we followed the left.

If only he had a few more years to do it the right way... maybe a new Patriot Act can get rid of term limits too!

Intellectual liberalism is unreflective, and in the post-Bush era political liberalism will likely be incoherent.

Oh yes. Obviously Bush has nearly single-handedly destroyed the fundamental, liberal principles laid out by American (John Dewey, John Rawles) and international political theorists (Habermas, Derrida, Foucault, Hegel, about a million more lesser knowns). Sure, some conservative principles have been garnered from some of these same theorists, but come on! Let's be serious here for one moment. Liberalism is not "unreflective" and it's extremely coherent. It has changed and evolved over time, but it's still got a real, fundamentally philosophical basis.

P.S. - I'm not sure how you were able to fit Wilson, FDR, and JFK into one definition of "liberal internationalism". They seem to have a lot of different views on foreign policy, and I'm not convinced they'd all like the war in Iraq (and I'm pretty darn positive that if they did, they would like it for EXTREMELY different reasons).

I, personally, cannot wait for Bushie's first "tell all"....but, probably not. He is the only person on the planet that can be said NOT to suffer from BDS, (except his Mom and Dad). Those of you younger than I will probably live to know the actual truth of the events since 9/ll...maybe even with some real truth and facts thrown in. Or, many of you will be on your knees or your heads will be at the top of the heap.

Ahhhh, angry liberals! Their shouting is like a spike in my brain! Oh, the humanity!

But seriously, thank you, 601, for providing another wonderfully coherent argument about how personally evil Bush is and then providing us with an alternate strategy to fighting international terrorist groups. On second thought, ignore the second part.

And Matt, I doubt Mr. Hayward is refering to liberal intellectualism as such, he's more likely refering to the current so-called liberal intellectualism. As the article notes, liberals these days agree on everything, the only questions concern tactics and long term strategy. He says again an again that it is difficult to find a liberal who doesn't want to leave Iraq immediately, implement some form of national health care, increase stim cell research, and protect abortion rights. The right, on the other hand, is beating itself up over the tension between natural rights and the love of individual liberty. Read the article, its pretty good.

And Sue, I agree with you. When a lot of info on the WOT is declassified in 20-50 years, a lot of liberals are going to have to shut up.

Of course, by then we'll be another Worker's Paradise and we'll be so caught up in enjoying our care-free lives that we won't be concerned with silly things like "facts".


I read the article, but I think Berkowitz is picking and choosing his issues. Look at some of the examples you cited. How many conservatives want to leave Iraq immediately or implement national health care? Granted, the conservatives have two parties which have a lot of clout (which the Left does not have . . . the Green Party just doesn't do it like the Libertarian Party does. Heh). But on environmental ethics, partial birth abortion (which, I'd like to remind everyone, is NOT supported by several high-ranking Democrats in Congress), how to fix social security (or fix it at all), the role of the United Nations in the affairs of the United States, and other stuff like that is still debated in liberal circles. And if we move outside those circles and into those of the average guy who usually votes Democrat (who supports his labor union and doesn't want to pay medical bills the rest of his life because he spurred the economy on with his physical labor) . . . I'd love to hear what those guys have to say about gay marriage or affirmative action.

Berkowitz wants to pretend there's no discussion on the Left because it makes us look like stupid, "rank and file" voters, or party-members. It's just not that black and white. We just don't have the outspoken third-party the Right does and we all rally against Bush in the same way the Right (both Libertarians and Republicans) still rally against Clinton - because it's easier than fighting. Heh. Congress doesn't have intellectuals anyway. If it did, and they fought about the foundations of their beliefs, nothing would ever get done (and they'd never get re-elected). But phrases like this:

Rare is the political scientist, to say nothing of other faculty, who can sketch the argument, or articulate the point of view, of such influential works as Russell Kirk's "The Conservative Mind" (1953), F. A. Hayek's "The Road to Serfdom" (1944) or Leo Strauss's "Natural Right and History" (1953). Yet these works, and the schools they helped launch, are essential to understanding not only where we come from but where we should head.

makes me think Berkowitz is either purposefully ignoring the history of liberal thought, or just ignorant of how grounded liberal thought really is intellectually (as if we haven't had books just as deep and just as divisive). See my above comment. He paints his whole article in ridiculously broad-strokes.

Didn't James Ceaser have a paper a while back that made arguments similar to Berkowitz's? Does anyone recall that? I thought I read about it here.

Thanks very much Kate. This is a thought provoking article.

I always said I wanted to be on your debate team.

Kate and David, thank you for bringing it up and linking to it. I refered to that article in the post Peter L. made on the article we're discussing here but couldn't remember the author.

Matt, I still don't think there's as much diversity as you're attempting to show. Fighting over partial birth abortion (fighting?) is not the same as not supporting abortion rights. Who among the Democrats wants to privatize SS? That would be suicide. Again, it's a matter of disagreement over the particulars, not the fundamentals. A better article to read on conservative intellectualism is the one Kate linked to.

Finally, I do not think Berkowitz is ignoring liberal intellectualism, he's pointing out that the Left ignore the Right. "Yet these works, and the schools they helped launch, are essential to understanding not only where we come from but where we should head" - and without going back through the article to find another quote, he also points out that liberals are just not reading these guys. It sounded like his thesis was in the last paragraph or so when he said something to the effect that if the Left read these guys they might see that the Right wants to protect individual liberty as much as they claim to.

From very personal experience with a multitude of Lefties, I can say that they seldom really think for themselves. It's very much like a club: All decent, civic-minded people believe this, and anyone who doesn't is a selfish, knuckle-dragging jerk. End of story. Honestly, they are among the most Puritanically-intolerant people one is likely to encounter...and I fear for our country if they ever again dominate the polity.

Mind you, I say this without "out-grouping" left-liberals. I think of them as people, of course, and the "disease" they suffer from is all too human. Nonetheless, they are a danger to us and themselves...their zeal will be our undoing.

Geez, Dain. For a second there I thought you were talking about Christianity.

Amendment: Evangelical, Protestant Christianity. I can't say anything of the Catholic church. I don't know enough about it.

Well, Matt, in a very real sense modern liberalism functions like a religion (and, I actually agree with you...real Puritans weren't great to live with either). Indeed, I suspect this is why they are so obsessed with politics (e.g., every time they lose an election, it's "someone done cheated us!"). Their "god" is political salvation...a totalitarian view that society can be "transformed" by the proper administration of political force. Liberals are quite aggressive people...just look at all the odd "exclusions" from their new "hate law" legislation.

Hello, Charlie. It's nice to see you here.

Anyone who "thinks" with their feelings is going to have a hard time with clarity, whether their religion is a social ideal of mankind or Christianity, or Islam, At least Christians have the excuse of a call to faith to explain their subjectivity. Those who claim objectivity and deny their natural human responses to politics do themselves and everyone a disservice. Of course, what is obvious to me is not obvious to you, which is why we converse.

Political correctness is a logical substitute for manners and civility, but I can't like it. That doesn't really matter, because Andrew is quite right, the Left ignores the Right.

Regarding Berkowitz: I'm a little confused by the whole premise. First of all, you may have noticed the left is debating internally plenty nowadays. But if you don't consider that then the premise is, we're not debating lately, therefore Bush had driven us insane? For most of the previous 10 years, the right was famous for its "moral clarity" and how they were so well organized and agreed on everything. So if you're fighting among yourselves now, welcome back to sanity!

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