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Jewish World Review Apr. 6, 1999 /20 Nissan 5759

Paul Greenberg

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The problem with the Left

(JWR) ---- (
THE TROUBLE WITH THE LEFT is that it has fallen out of love with freedom.

The trouble with the left in American politics is that its first, instinctive resort is to power rather than persuasion, to government rather than to liberty.

The trouble with the left is that it has come to believe in privileged classes based on sex, race and class. Wasn't that the problem with the right?

The trouble with the left is that it has confused fairness with political correctness, and dialogue with rigged conversations. See the "national conversation on race.`

The trouble with the left is, like the right, it confuses civility with manners alone, not realizing that civility is the end, not just the means, of civil society.

The trouble with the left is that it can win only by ducking behind the slogans of the right. ("The era of big government is over.'')

The trouble with the left is that it represents a politics that no longer dares say its name: liberal.

The trouble with the left is that, having managed to make "liberal'' a bad word, it is now working on "choice.''

The trouble with the left is that it has come to prefer power and patronage to principle.

The trouble with the left is that it hasn't re-examined its basic premises in decades. Instead, it stays busy trying to market them under more appealing names.

The trouble with the left that it has lost its sense of humor. It confuses sarcasm with wit, and bitterness with a cause. But that's the trouble with the right, too.

The trouble with the left is that it has confused schooling with education, spending with learning and unionism with the teaching profession. What more is there to say of a political philosophy that figures its best bet is to dumb down the next generation?

The trouble with the left is that it has confused civility with the absence of disagreement rather than a way to make it fair, productive and interesting.

The trouble with the left is that it has lost touch with its religious roots and rhetoric, and therefore with the faith that any political creed must depend on in the end. (Recommended reading: Franklin D. Roosevelt's fireside chats, or Martin Luther King's sermons. One is struck by their religious imagery. Indeed, their religious substance.)

The trouble with the left is that it has grown tone-deaf to words and therefore to meaning. If the right misuses words, the left avoids any meaningful ones, substituting euphemism, doublespeak and other non-language. See the history of the term Affirmative Action, and how its meaning went from broadening opportunity to imposing quotas. The right respects words enough to hurl them like pointed objects; the left may only shuffle them about, the way the wind does sand dunes, obliterating meaning.

The trouble with the left is that it is ideologically dead, and so has to substitute reflexes for thought.

The trouble with the left is that it has a surplus of compassion -- often only in the abstract -- and a shortage of common sense.

The trouble with the left is that it is economically illiterate -- and, worse, is tempted to take pride in that handicap.

The trouble with the left is that, now intellectually bankrupt, it has had to substitute moderation and maneuver for a program.

The trouble with the left is that it has run out of ideas and has decided to settle for causes.

The trouble with the left is its addiction to victimization.

The trouble with the left is that it has come to see its basic constituency as the poor, and seems determined to enlarge it.

The trouble with the left is that it hasn't had a new idea since the New Deal and its pale imitations. The Fair Deal and the Great Society were only repeats, and now the left has been reduced to slogans like the New Covenant.

The trouble with the left is that it cannot abide prosperity, even when it can take the credit for some.

The trouble with the left is that it values civility mainly in the right.

The trouble with the left is that it has been so fortunate in its choice of opponents that it is always flustered when it encounters a competent one.

The trouble with the left is that it overestimates its own intelligence, and so invites hubris.

And yet, even though "liberal'' has become a bad word, mainly by the purblind policies liberals have supported, what is American conservatism but a defense of a liberal revolution and a liberal tradition? For without a feudal past -- a monarchy and nobility, an established church -- what else does American conservatism have to conserve?

In American politics, both left and right revere the Constitution and Bill of Rights, however differently they may construe them. Classical liberalism is every American's heritage. What a pity that the greatness of liberalism has been obscured by the liberals.


04/05/99: The problem with the Right
03/30/99: But can he convince himself?
03/26/99: Short bursts
03/24/99: Once more into the quagmire
03/17/99: Big time in Little Rock
03/15/99: Our own Roger Taney
03/09/99: A different ‘Waterfront’
03/05/99: Law and disorder
2/26/99: King Richard's revenge
2/25/99: Open season on the fetus, and a good word for the pagans
2/23/99: It never ends: Here comes the judge
2/19/99: After the storm: Going through the debris
2/17/99: Where's the closure?
2/12/99: Hussein the Hashemite: The wiliest player on the board
2/09/99: The social security game
2/04/99: Our own Inspector Clouseau
2/01/99: Night scene, night thoughts
1/28/99: The decay of the art of lying
1/26/99: Impeachment: Short subjects
1/22/99: Bounce, glitz and tedium: The State of the Disunion
1/20/99: Destructive engagement: How to encourage tyranny
1/18/99: Martin Luther King: The radical as conservative?
1/11/99: Why America is apathetic about Bill's date with destiny
1/06/99:The year of Moronica
1/04/99: Clinton’s janitorial crew of two
12/29/98:The Senate will be on trial, too
12/29/98:A look down the avenue
12/22/98: The surreal impeachment
12/17/98: Another moment of truth approaches
12/15/98: The President's defenders: witnesses for the prosecution
12/10/98:The latest miracle cure: CensurePlus
12/03/98: Sentences at an airport Sentences at an airport
12/03/98: Games lawyers play
12/01/98: Ms. Magoo strikes again, or: Janet Reno and the law
11/26/98: The most American holiday
11/23/98: Same game, another round
11/18/98: Guide to the perplexed
11/09/98: A vote for apathy
11/03/98: Global village goes Clintonesque
11/02/98: Farewell to all that
10/30/98: New budget, same swollen government
10/26/98: Of life on the old plantation -- and death in the Middle East
10/22/98: Starr Wars (CONT'D)
10/19/98:Another retreat: weakness invites aggression
10/16/98: Profile in courage
10/14/98: A new voice out of Arkansas
10/09/98: Gerald Ford, Mr. Fix-It?
10/07/98: Impeachment Journal: Dept. of Doublespeak
10/01/98: The new tradition
9/25/98: Mr. President, PLEASE don't resign
9/23/98: The demolition of meaning
9/18/98: So help us G-d; The nature of the crisis
9/17/98: First impressions: on reading the Starr Report
9/15/98: George Wallace: All the South in one man
9/10/98: Here comes the judge
9/07/98: Toward impeachment
9/03/98: The politics of impeachment
9/01/98: The eagle can still soar
8/28/98: Boris Yeltsin's mind: a riddle pickled in an enigma
8/26/98: Clinton agonistes, or: Twisting in the wind
8/25/98: The rise of the English murder
8/24/98: Confess and attack: Slick comes semi-clean
8/19/98: Little Rock perspectives
8/14/98: Department of deja vu
8/12/98: The French would understand
8/10/98: A fable: The Rat in the Corner
8/07/98: Welcome to the roaring 90s
8/06/98: No surprises dept. -- promotion denied
8/03/98: Quotes of and for the week: take your pick
7/29/98: A subpoena for the president:
so what else is new?
7/27/98: Forget about Bubba, it's time to investigate Reno
7/23/98: Ghosts on the roof, 1998
7/21/98: The new elegance
7/16/98: In defense of manners
7/13/98: Another day, another delay: what's missing from the scandal news
7/9/98:The language-wars continue
7/7/98:The new Detente
7/2/98: Bubba in Beijing: history does occur twice
6/30/98: Hurry back, Mr. President -- to freedom
6/24/98: When Clinton follows Quayle's lead
6/22/98: Independence Day, 2002
6/18/98: Adventures in poli-speke

©1999, Los Angeles Times Syndicate