How to cure liberal hatred and conservative opportunism

Recalling the traumatic depression many Democrats felt after John Kerry’s loss to President Bush in 2004, Russ Smith says that an Obama loss this time, given Democrats’ intense emotional investment in his victory, would have even worse psychological results for Democrats: catastrophic despair, mutual recriminations, and (of course) even more burning rage against America. Smith’s point reinforces one of my arguments for an Obama victory, that it would leach out of the American political system much of the poisonous and irrational animosity that has afflicted the left since the 2000 election—and that also has transformed the Republicans into a mindless phalanx massed against the mad, anti-American left. If McCain is elected, the leftist hatred and craziness will get even worse, along with its conservative counterpart, the intellectually empty “conservatism” that consists in little other than firing easy potshots at insane liberals.

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Jeff S. writes:

Yes, how well I recall a similar argument in support of a David Dinkins victory in the NYC mayoral race.

How’d that work out?

LA replies:

As I remember, Dinkins’s election was pushed more in terms of celebrating the gorgeous mosaic than of removing liberal (and minority) hatred of conservatives (whites).

Also, the Obama camp is not making this argument. I made it.

In any case, Dinkins allowed black extremists free rein (as I predicted before his election), and the situation became much worse.

The post 2000 leftist hatred is primarily a white phenomenon. The worsening of race relations under Dinkins was primarily a black phenomenon.

You could argue that a President Obama will unleash black vengeance. That is a reasonable argument against his election. But that’s not the point I made here, which concerns reducing the crazed mental state of white Democrats.

Jeremy G. writes:

Why should liberal despair be a consideration of ours? I don’t fear their rage or despair, I fear their celebrations!

You say Obama’s victory would “leach out of the American political system much of the poisonous and irrational animosity that has afflicted the left”. There is no basis for this statement. Doesn’t an Obama victory liberate and empower the “poisonous and irrational animosity” of the left? They don’t all of a sudden become wholesome and rational just because they win an election.

LA replies:

I think a great deal of their crazed state of the last eight years is not a standing animosity against America, but rather a pathological condition that they have had specifically about Bush and the Iraq war. Look at it for a moment from their point of view; they give expression to this all the time. They are consumed with hatred of Bush and his camp. They suffer—they personally suffer—from the fact of his being president. When he won reelection in 2004, they were traumatized, profoundly depressed emotionally, and they expressed this freely. I wrote about it at the time.

If the cause of their anguish and despair is removed, they will relax and calm down.

Now, just as with my exchange with Jeff S., what I’ve just said does not cancel out your further argument that other forms of leftist/minority aggression, distinct from Bush Derangement Syndrome, may be liberated by Obama’s election. If someone said that for this reason alone, we must vote for McCain, I would consider that a good argument that cannot be ignored, whether or not it I felt it was the decisive argument persuading me to vote for McCain.

Steve D. writes:

I am surprised that you believe an Obama victory would somehow turn a large mass of psychologically damaged Democrats into responsible Americans again merely by making them feel better.

Liberalism isn’t just a set of ideas—it’s a pathological state of mind, based (as you have pointed out many times) on nihilism. Winning an election isn’t going to cure liberals of nihilism, so it won’t do anything to reduce their sick hatred of white conservatives. If anything, a Democratic victory, rather than resorting in some sort of social rapprochement, will result in an orgy of revenge against the white conservatives who have for so long balked the will of the Anointed Ones.

LA replies:

White liberals having an orgy of revenge against white conservatives? Isn’t that overwrought?

My point is not that it would make them feel better generically, but that it would remove the people whose presence in power makes them despair, and put in power someone they adore, thus pacifying them and putting an end to the particular madness of the Bush years.

I am not advancing this idea as a decisive reason in the election. I consider it purely a secondary factor. But I thought it was worth mentioning, because I do think that Bush Derangement Syndrome is a specific mania that can be ended. I do not agree with you that BDS is simply identical with leftist animosity against America. I think that if their guy were president, they would feel better about America. Of course, the America they would feel better about would be THEIR America, not our America. But the fact of their side being in charge for a while would obviously pacify them—not drive them to an orgy of revenge.

Of course I don’t know this to be true. For all I know, if Obama is elected he will take off his nice mask and become Rev. Wright. I personally don’t think that will happen. But if it does happen, then, as I’ve said before, Bring It On. The choice for conservatives is between horror—and life—under Obama, and death under McCain.

I think we’ve discussed this enough now.

Alan Levine writes:

I thought your and Russ Smith’s argument about liberals becoming less deranged if Obama is elected is, to put it mildly, weak. There are strong arguments for the proposition, “Let Obama beat McCain,” but this is not one of them. I concede that liberals will probably become even more deranged if McCain wins—“the white electorate voted against Obama only because he is black” will be their inevitable war cry, and there may even be worse ones. But I cannot think of any reason to think that liberals in general will start behaving more sensibly. Jeremy G. is entirely convincing on this point. In addition, I would make the points that 1) liberals have become steadily more deranged ever since the late 1950s. 2) their derangement increased particularly during the 1960s when they were in power and much of their program was being realized.

What has changed since then that will cause an Obama victory, or a McCain one, to cure them? Your normal “systemic” pessimism about them would seem to be far more convincing.

I might add that Russ Smith’s views of the last election are not exactly reassuring about his horse sense. I do not recall anybody being surprised that John Kerry was defeated, although I suspect that explaining why he was will provide a difficult problem for future historians.

LA replies:

Since you’ve joined the so-far unanimous view that I am dead wrong on this point, I at least have the pleasure of pointing out to you that many people thought Kerry would win.

Jeff S. writes:

I’ve felt all along that your rationale for desiring an Obama Administration, while (sort of) plausible was much more likely an example of “too clever by half” thinking. If there were any analogies from previous events you could offer, I’m sure you would have done so. How has this worked out in Africa? I realize there we’re talking about significant differences, but still… Any signs of venom dissipation from the newly empowered? In fact, where leftists are concerned, handing them the reins of power seems more often the launching pad for paroxysms of violence. Please, give me a hopeful analogous situation. You know “such and such happened here, and in the middle and long terms it worked out reasonably well”. I just can’t think of any. Jeff Siegel

LA replies:

I can’t think of any historical analogies. Probably there aren’t any, because there’s never been a situation remotely like this.

My strongest reason for preferring the election of Obama is not the perhaps too-clever-by-half arguments I’ve offered from time to time, but something primary: McCain is terrible, McCain will rape, murder, chop into pieces, tie up in a garbage bag, and drop into the ocean what’s left of conservatism. Obama will not destroy conservatism but very likely energize it.

I don’t think that’s an overly clever or complicated idea. It’s basic to what I see happening.

Of course it could be overpowered by other arguments, i.e., that even if my argument is true and McCain is as bad as I say he is, Obama will be significantly more destructive of America. Maybe I’m blind to what others are seeing.

September 17

Jeff S. writes:

While I, too, consider McCain “terrible,” it’s still a loong, long ways down the road to the McCain will rape, pillage, strangle, eviscerate, defenestrate etc., what’s left of conservatism. I think you place WAY too much faith in your ability to forecast the future. I sense a certain lack of humility here. Even today, with your equating Palin with Spiro Agnew and saying that when Agnew is your only comparable, “that’s not good.” You’re right, it’s not good. It’s also not bad. It’s not anything. One “data point” doesn’t qualify as a “data point,” it’s an anecdote. For analytical purposes, it’s useless. Plus, Spiro was a good vice president, if you can see your way past the “he’s a crook” thing. Using the Spiro Agnew vice presidency as a predictor for what a Sarah Palin vice presidency might be like? I can’t even begin to go there. There’s no connection. John McCain driving the final, fatal spike through the heart of conservatism? If he’s capable of doing that, then there wasn’t much left of conservatism to begin with. I’m not saying you’re necessarily wrong about how bad a McCain administration might be. I’m not under any (or many) illusions about that. But it’s not at all clear to me that you’ve given enough thought about the overall consequences of an Obama presidency. Every time I turn to that end of the equation, from every aspect of governance that matters to me, it’s too awful to contemplate. I can’t … I can’t deal with it. I just can’t.

LA replies:

You’re over-picking things I say to pieces, and it gets tiresome and wears me down. Obviously the line about Agnew was a throwaway line. Do you really think I was arguing, “Because Agnew was bad/a crook, therefore Palin will be bad/a crook”?

Further, since I’ve stated my personal preference so many times that McCain will lose, and have said so many times that I don’t think an Obama victory will be the end of the world, and since my view is so different from yours, why can’t you just let that be, and say that “Auster has this view that I don’t agree with”?

Further, do you realize that all our speculations about what kind of president McCain or Obama will be will become moot the moment one of them is elected? Then it won’t be a matter of my guesses about what McCain will do and how his presidency will affect conservatism, it will be the reality.

LA continues:

You write:

But it’s not at all clear to me that you’ve given enough thought about the overall consequences of an Obama presidency. Every time I turn to that end of the equation, from every aspect of governance that matters to me, it’s too awful to contemplate. I can’t … I can’t deal with it. I just can’t.

You may well be right. But I’m not there. For whatever reason,—stupidity, not looking into it, being too fixated on McCain, having a Pollyannish view of Obama as not malign enough to do really bad things, whatever—I don’t see what you see. I’ve never said that people with your view are wrong. I have stated my strong view that McCain will destroy conservatism. It comes down to how much weight we place on different factors. You place more weight on the badness of O. I place more weight on the badness of M. Further debate on the point is not helpful. It’s better just to say, “Here is the LA view, here is the Jeff S. view,” and let it go at that.

Jeremy G. writes:

Here is my take on the hoped for revitalization of conservatives. Obama is a smooth talker. He is a polite and decent person. He reminds me of Nelson Mandela of South Africa. Out of 30 some-odd million black Americans, how many of them have these qualities? He serves to soften us up as we transition to a more typical Third World leader. If a McCain victory inflames liberals and blacks, this is good! Maybe their next presidential candidate will be a more obvious white-hater.

LA replies:

This is an interesting way of looking at it. But it leads me to the conclusion that we are not going to be able resolve this issue. If you and I, starting from pretty much the same concerns, arrive at opposite conclusions about whether Obama will be better or worse than McCain, then it becomes clear this is all intuition and guesswork on all our parts. It will not be possible to arrive at any consensus among traditionalists about how to vote. It comes down to personal preferences and hunches.

And by the way, as best I remember, I’ve always stated my idea about not voting for McCain as a personal preference, as I recognized that the determination is too subjective to say, “This is true, this is what we all must do.”

Jeremy replies:

I largely agree. We don’t have a candidate so we are left with strategizing. We do know that McCain and Obama will both push for amnesty. An important difference is that the election of McCain will put patriots in a better position to mount effective resistance to amnesty, because McCain will bring with him an improved Republican performance in the House and Senate elections. Remember that the major force standing against the Bush/McCain/Kennedy amnesty bill was a Republican Congress, although some Democrats crossed over to help. Therefore the conservative base has demonstrated an ability to oppose a liberal Republican president on amnesty, whereas the liberal base will go right along with amnesty from a Democratic president. With Obama in power, where does effective resistance come from? Even if all the Republicans in the House and Senate opposed him, would even a single Democrat cross lines against Obama? On the other hand, think of the furious outrage McCain would stir up if he pushed for amnesty. It would strengthen our movement, just as NumbersUSA grew by hundreds of thousands when Bush pushed for amnesty.

Adam C. writes:

I agree with your position that an Obama victory may galvanize conservative resistance to liberalism in a way that a McCain victory wouldn’t. But ten years ago I also would have thought that event such as 9/11, the London tube bombings, and the Madrid bombings (and a host of lesser and/or botched terrorist attempts) would have woken people up and changed the course Western society is on—but it hasn’t. Further, I think that having an anti-American radical, the son of an American-hating third world bigamist communist, as chief POTUS might besmirsh the dignity of the office in a way such that it might never recover. So, in the end, I think that it’s hard to tell what effect any particular event will have on subsequent events …

LA replies:

Very well put. And I have to admit that it’s funny that I, who have so often warned people against the fallacy of thinking that this leftist outrage will finally wake people up, myself keep finding leftist outrages that are so much more outrageous than previous leftist outrages that I think that this one will finally wake people up.

September 18

James N. writes:

Just wanted to put my two cents in. You’re right, an extended discussion won’t be productive.

I’m voting for McCain and Mrs. Palin. I think Obama would be catastrophic. Your view that McCain’s election, per se, will destroy something tangible (“conservatism”) is, in my opinion, overdrawn. Conservatism has both intangible and tangible aspects. The intangible part cannot be destroyed. If by the tangible part, you mean a movement with the potential to elect Tancredo, or Duncan Hunter—I see no such entity in existence. Perhaps it has already been destroyed. Perhaps it never existed. If it exists at all, it has such a tenuous character that its destruction will be at hand regardless of which of these two is president. A process which could put a Tancredo in the White House would have to have an extrapolitical character. These discussions (the McCain-Obama ones) are about politics, not revolution.

The choice between McCain and Obama is at hand. One of them will be president in 125 days, more or less. Perhaps you perceive McCain as a betrayer, rather than an outside enemy like Obama. Many people experience betrayal as worse than enmity.

For me, McCain won’t be worse than Obama, and the downside to Obama (which may not be realized) is enormous. I knew many people like his friends Ayers, Dohrn, and Klonsky in the late 1960s. Perhaps you did, too. It chills me to the bone that they are still active, still working, and have found in Obama something worthy of their effort. McCain has suffered stripes for the faith (the Americanist faith), and I think HIS downside is not as deep as Obama’s.

In any event, reasonable people may differ about this. I just wanted to jump in before it ended.

And, by the way, a state governor who ropes in some potentially straying constituencies is classical VP material. The office, famously “not worth a pitcher of warm spit,” has been occupied by nonentities significantly more “non” than Sarah Palin. She does symbolize certain trends or aspects of the electorate, or the political process, which you despise. But all those trends and aspects will be showing up to vote on November 4, which is why she is where she is. If you think Obama losing is as important as I do, you could live with it.

LA replies:

Well put. See also the last paragraph of my article this morning, where I in effect yield to the McCain supporting VFR readers, while calling them on their position that McCain is the lesser of two evils. If you think he’s an evil, then, after electing him, you need to oppose him.

Tim W. writes:

I know I’m late in responding to this, and that you’ve ended this debate. But one reason why leftist rage won’t be cooled by an Obama victory is that the smears against Palin will be seen as one of the reasons for a Democrat win. I’m not talking about legitimate criticism of her lack of experience, but the over-the-top hysteria and non-stop assault we’ve seen on her from the usual suspects. The lesson learned will be that the way to deal with conservatives is to demonize them to the point that they can never be rehabilitated. [LA replies: That’s new point.]

Having said that, I agree with you that McCain’s election would harm conservatism more than Obama’s.

On another subject, the reason conservatives are using the unseemly “sexism” charge against Palin’s critics so irresponsibly is that they get some guilty pleasure out of it. After years of being called sexist for any disagreement, however mild, with the feminist agenda, many conservatives get a kick out of turning the tables on the left. Many of us have had to sit through diversity training, or work in an environment where liberal colleagues are constantly on the prowl for so-called sexism (not to mention racism, homophobia, and every other PC allegation). Oppose Nancy Pelosi? You’re a sexist. Support Larry Summers? You’re a sexist.

Well, after taking all that abuse for so long, a lot of people enjoy retaliating. It’s unprincipled, and I’m not justifying it or agreeing with it, just explaining it.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at September 16, 2008 02:21 PM | Send

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