The truth about liberalism is so terrible that even a traditionalist can fail to see it

On Friday I said that Sen. McCain’s reversal of his ten-month old solemn reversal on immigration, showing the first reversal to be the biggest lie in the history of American presidential politics, would doom his candidacy. What’s wrong with me? Hadn’t I just seen, to my horror, Sen. Obama survive almost unscathed the revelation of his 20 year followership of the vicious anti-white racist and America-hater Jeremiah Wright, which by any rational calculus should have sunk him? Didn’t I finally learn from that stunning event that in liberal society there is no leftist action, belief, or association that will necessarily sink anyone? No, I didn’t learn it. And that’s why I thought that McCain’s abandonment of his “secure the borders first” position, the very position that had enabled him to return from oblivion and win the nomination, would definitively destroy his ability to win the election. I assumed for a moment that we were living in a more or less rational society. I forgot—or hadn’t yet fully realized what it meant—that we’re living in a liberal society.

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A reader writes:

What changed your mind?

LA replies:

You mean, what changed me from thinking McCain’s statement absolutely sank him, to not thinking that?

It was the fact that this development was not being treated as all that different from a hundred other things. It should have been an explosion across the conservative Web. It was not. Yes, there are several threads on it at Free Republic (see this, this, this, and this), but it’s basically repetition of the same things about McCain we’ve heard all along from that quarter: some people will not vote for him no matter what, others will hold their nose and vote for him., Powerline, NRO, they all seemed to be ignoring it this revelation of the biggest lie in the history of presidential politics.

Basically, we’re still living in the America that came into being in the Clinton era, in which politicians can commit any outrage against normal standards, and public opinion will ultimately accept it. That was why, in 2000, the morality issue, along with the National Question, was one of my two main tests for Bush. When the American public said in 1998-99 that Clinton’s behavior didn’t matter (“Everyone does it”), they essentially embraced moral nihilism. Bush as candidate in 2000 needed to take a stand against Clinton’s conduct and the acceptance of it, so that his own election would be seen as a national repudiation of it. When Bush didn’t take such a stand but did just the opposite, that meant that the moral degradation of America resulting from the public’s acceptance of Clinton’s behavior would be permanent. It was Bush’s failure to repudiate Clintonism, combined with his support for the Hispanicization of America, that made it impossible for me to vote for him.

Terry Morris writes:

Well, perhaps what you were relying on more particularly was the belief that conservative American society, whose support McCain will have to have to win the election, was more or less rational; not American society in general, which is, as you say, predominantly liberal, i.e., irrational.

Adela G. writes:

You write: “Hadn’t I just seen, to my horror, Sen. Obama survive almost unscathed the revelation of his 20 year followership of the vicious anti-white racist and America-hater Jeremiah Wright, which by any rational calculus should have sunk him? Didn’t I finally learn from that stunning event that in liberal society there is no leftist action, belief, or association that will necessarily sink anyone?”

You may have thought, as I did, that race played a part in the Wright revelations, that Obama was given a free pass on it because “it’s a black thing.” (It’s true that Obama successfully used that excuse when he claimed, very artfully, that whites were ignorant of black churches.) You may have thought, as I did, that the combination of being black and leftwing was what not only kept Obama’s campaign afloat but actually improved his standing with liberals.

But just as race trumps gender, so ideology trumps race. Ward Connerly, Thomas Sowell and other thoughtful black conservatives are ignored as much as possible by the left and are thoroughly denounced as “racist” (that is, racist against other blacks) when they can’t be ignored. The fact that they’re black doesn’t give them a free pass with the left because they’re also conservative. But the left will overlook someone’s being white, if that person is sufficiently liberal.

Thus, McCain, though an old Republican white guy, can keep his campaign afloat and probably even improve his standing with liberals, by ceasing his patronizing references to building the “g*****d fence” and talking about comprehensive immigration reform again.

Indeed, I would argue that pandering to the border security crowd for a few months with his references to securing the border first, and then cynically reversing himself to talk about comprehensive immigration control again, will help him more with liberals than if he had never mentioned border security at all. He can now be seen as having said to conservatives what he needed to say to get them to shut up, so he and other liberals can return to the real business of compassionately reforming our immigration policy. Far from being a faux pas, his recent (and to conservatives, stunning) reversal on the issue of immigration was a brilliant gesture of outreach to liberals, particularly Hispanics, who have overall rejected Obama in favor of Clinton. Now, once Obama is nominated, McCain can look to them for their support.

I can write about this but some part of my mind still rejects accepting it as the reality I know it to be. I never thought I’d live to see a man continue to run for president of the United States, after videotape of his pastor damning our country was made public. I never thought I’d live to see a U.S. senator show such contempt for the will of the people that, six years after our nation was attacked by foreign terrorists, he’d sneer at securing our national border as “building the g*****d fence” and then reverse his policy of appeasement without so much as an explanation.

James Wilson writes:

“What’s wrong with me?” you ask rhetorically. I knew what that would be about, as you had initially showed generosity to Obama, and recently you even defended McCain when you felt his position was misrepresented. Considering the alternatives, hope is a risk that must be run. But it’s been run, and now we go to plan B.

I just smiled as you gave credit not earned to these skunks, because I had already been disabused of such inclinations generally by a certain tough guy at View From The Right. But we continually re-learn even our basic lessons, even as a virtuoso still practices scales. That doesn’t make us foolish.

Fisher Ames, the Federalist congressman and political writer in the early 19th century, wrote:

The agents that move politics, are the popular passions, and those are ever, from the very nature of things, under the command of the disturbers of society…. Few can reason, all can feel, and such an argument is gained, as soon as it is proposed.

Gerald M. writes:

I have a different take on why McCain’s reversal on illegal immigration (or rather, his return to his original pro-amnesty positiion) probably won’t doom his candidacy. First, polls show that, for a very large majority of conservatives, national security (i.e., defending America against terrorism) is their most important issue. McCain has enormous—undeserved, but enormous—credibility on this issue, mainly because he says he does and the media takes him at his word. The polls also show that, for most conservatives, illegal immigration is important, but less important than national security and the economy. That illegal immigration threatens both national security and our economy are facts largely suppressed or distorted (with the exception of Lou Dobbs) by the media, which results in the public, even most conservatives, being ignorant of just how threatening illegal immigration is or believing, in the case of the economy, that illegal immigration is actually helpful.

Second, the one elected official who did hold McCain’s feet to the fire on immigration, Tom Tancredo, has almost disappeared from public view after withdrawing from the presidential race and announcing his retirement from Congress. I think it was Tancredo’s vocally anti-McCain presence at the debates in 2007 and early 2008, at least as much as the collapse of his candidacy after the defeat of the McCain-Kennedy “Kill America” amnesty bill, which forced McCain to promise to secure the border (however ambiguous the wording of that promise may be, as Adela G. has noted). As Tancredo has receded from view, so has the illegal immigration issue, and with it any pressure on McCain to maintain his pledge to secure the border.

Third, the role of talk radio should not be ignored. Just as talk radio hosts raised a storm of public protest against McCain-Kennedy last year, their silence on McCain’s reversal is deafening. Why are they so quiet? Basically because they have drunk the neocon Kool-Aid which tells them that the “Islamo-fascist threat” trumps everything else; that McCain is the only candidate who “can keep us safe”; and that therefore we must support him in this “national security election.” Even Limbaugh, who criticizes McCain all the time, has (true to form) avoided saying anything about his latest turnabout on immigration, an issue Rush is notoriously reluctant to address.

However, despite having said all this, and believing his immigration reversal by itself does not doom his candidacy, I believe McCain will be defeated in November. The public disgust with Republican government and mainstream conservatism is deep, wide, and only faintly perceived in the polls. It is this revulsion that will lead to a Democratic / Obama tide which will make 1932 look like a bump in the road.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at May 24, 2008 02:15 AM | Send

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