When Liberalism Fails
When reality stops cooperating with the Left, someone must get the blame.

He knows he's right.


Jonah Goldberg

But that’s fine. In fact, one of my favorite features of our Constitution is that it encourages factions to think about what would happen if opposing factions got into power. If more liberals had that thought in mind, the Wilson, Roosevelt, and Johnson administrations wouldn’t have been nearly so bad.

I’m reminded of Alan Cranston’s comment during the Watergate hearings. “Those who tried to warn us back at the beginning of the New Deal of the dangers of one-man rule that lay ahead on the path we were taking toward strong, centralized government may not have been so wrong.” Well, like the surgeon who arrives as they’re zipping up the body bag says “Better late than never!”

Goldberg says these sorts of moments on the left tend to come

when liberalism seems to have failed but the right is not yet in charge. At such times, old-fashioned liberal values like free speech and robust, open debate seem like tainted adjuncts of an oppressive system, and it’s still possible for radicals to believe that the ideas suppressed as hateful won’t be their own.

For the record, I reject the insinuation that liberals (i.e. progressives) have a special ownership of the principles of free speech and open debate. For instance, if you look at how the Left took over academia in one university after another, they took advantage of the values of open inquiry and debate just long enough to get in the door and take power. Once they were in charge, they pulled up the gangplank behind them for anyone who disagreed. Still, kudos to her for at least acknowledging that liberalism seems to have failed, and the riot of intolerance on the left is driven by the bowel-stewing panic that sense of failure is fostering.

Noah & The Second Deli

I still haven’t seen Noah, and so I waited to say anything about it. But the controversy is going down the memory hole and I’d like to make a point I don’t think anyone has made.

I really liked Sonny Bunch’s piece about the negative reaction the movie has gotten. His main gripe is with critics who wanted a more traditional version of the Noah story and instead got an artistic interpretation. He writes:

And herein lies the unbridgeable divide. If you’re unwilling to accept that some things from the biblical account will have to be altered — if you can’t handle the introduction of conflict, if your suspension of disbelief allows you to handle the concept of an ark big enough to hold two of every animal but causes you to reject fallen angels encased in rock — then you’re probably not going to enjoy this film. Much like the comic book fan who gets annoyed at the portrayal of the Dark Phoenix in X-Men: The Last Stand or the idea that Peter Parker doesn’t build his webshooters in Spider-Man, the literalists are going to have a tough time with a Noah skilled in hand-to-hand combat and a world in which “rock monsters” aid in building a fantastical boat.

Naturally, this reminded me of the fairly new Jewish “deli” in DuPont Circle in Washington DC called DGS.

For those of you who don’t know, DC doesn’t have any really good Jewish delis. There are a couple of  goodish ones in the outer suburbs, but a great pastrami sandwich with real (i.e. increasingly rare) Jewish rye has long eluded the city proper. So when DGS opened up just a few blocks from my AEI office, you’d think I’d be ecstatic. Not really. Don’t get me wrong, the food is great. But it’s clever. It’s fancy. It has Israeli and Canadian elements that make it different than the comfort food of my youth. It’s a “fresh take” on the Jewish deli. What annoys me about DGS is that it would make a fantastic deli in a city that had plenty of traditional delis it was trying to set itself apart from. In New York City, a deli that billed itself as “not your father’s kind of deli” makes a lot of sense. In DC, where my father’s kind of deli doesn’t exist, I resent having the only deli be the clever deli.

I agree entirely with what Sonny has to say about the nature of art, but it seems to me that one of the frustrations a lot of people have about Noah is that Hollywood won’t make religious movies of the “your father’s deli” variety. In other words, biblical movies are few and far between; this was the one bite from the apple and it, allegedly, strayed pretty far from the, you know, Bible. In a world where traditional biblical movies churn out as frequently as superhero movies, my hunch is people would have fewer problems with Noah.


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