Once liberalism and progressivism give way to Jacobinism — and they often do, as we have seen in revolutionary France, China, and Russia — no leftist is safe from the downward spiral to ideological cannibalism. Yesterday’s true believer is today’s counterrevolutionary and tomorrow’s enemy of the people.
We saw something like that during both the Trump impeachment frenzy and the current trajectory of the Democratic debates and looming primaries.
The fury over Trump’s election led to a graduated and escalating series of efforts to remove him by suing three states for supposedly fraudulent voting machines. Then articles of impeachment were introduced. Suits followed citing the Constitution’s emoluments clause. The Logan Act was raised, as was the 25th Amendment. At each juncture, the zeal to remove the president accelerated in direct proportion to the failure of the previous effort. A lack of success was always explained as a result of insufficient revolutionary zeal, not an absence of evidence.
The escalation culminated in the appointment of Robert Mueller and his “dream team” of partisan anti-Trump attorneys. After their failure to find actionable obstruction and any evidence of collusion, Mueller confirmed in congressional testimony that he was largely a tired administrative-state figurehead, a shill for the anti-Trump zealotry of progressive prosecutor Andrew Weissmann.
After the collapse of each of these agendas, all that was left was impeachment itself. The criminal was still Trump; but what was needed was a new and better “crime” — and far more passion and hate. And both were found with Ukraine, as first defined as quid pro quo, later replaced by “bribery,” and finally recalibrated as “abuse of power.”
The weekly Jacobin rhetoric made the prior progressive talk seem counterrevolutionary — until we finally reached the crux of the matter with admissions by various Democrats such as Representatives Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez, Al Green, and Nancy Pelosi that impeachment was likely the only means to stop Trump in 2020.
The Democrats in their impeachment frenzy have now established that a president can be impeached for thinking about withholding foreign aid to a country that he suspects is mired in corruption, including foreign malfeasance that might have affected him personally in the past and may in the future.
But criminalization of such a hypothetical quid pro quo has all but condemned both Barack Obama and Joe Biden in the court of public opinion. By that logic the Republican House should have impeached Obama in 2012 right before his reelection bid, for dismantling missile-defense plans in Europe in exchange for Putin’s putting off his annexations of Crimea and eastern Ukraine until after Obama’s reelection — in effect bestowing upon candidate Obama a private quid pro quo benefit of assuring voters that Obama’s “Russian reset” was sound foreign policy.
Candidate Biden stands accused of no thought crime, but of actually leveraging foreign aid to force the firing of a Ukrainian prosecutor who, by his own admission, later claimed he was looking into Biden’s mysterious activities with regard to the board of a corrupt Ukrainian energy company.
Obama had refused to provide needed lethal aid to Ukraine. He sent Biden to Ukraine, who used the stick of threatening to cancel all nonlethal aid in return for the carrot of not embarrassing Biden, Obama, and the Democratic party with a messy investigation of Burisma — and by extension Biden’s son — with obvious importance to the 2016 campaign cycle.
If Trump can be impeached for delaying lethal aid to Ukraine for a few weeks, then surely Obama and Biden should have been impeached for doing something worse. In other words, once presidential prerogatives are criminalized and impeachment is used for short-term political gain, then the revolutionary process takes on a life of its own and will eventually devour its own creators. In such a downward spiral, impeachment has become no big deal, but a simple way of discrediting a president the opposition hates.
From now on, the party that holds the House majority will cite the present impeachment inquiry as good precedent for seeking the impeachment of any first-time president whose agendas they abhor and who they fear will be reelected. We are in revolutionary times, and those who redefined impeachment as a crude political effort will one day discover that they are being guillotined by the very instrument of retribution they erected.
Meanwhile, for most of 2019, no Democratic presidential candidate has allowed any other to appear to his or her left. They’ve gone so far leftward that they’ve begun devouring one another. Hyper-liberal Joe Biden eagerly renounced his prior centrist positions but was nonetheless tagged as a veritable racist by Kamala Harris, herself eager to disown her entire prior career as a California state attorney. Beto O’Rourke tried to trump his rivals by promising to confiscate guns — as if merely banning their sales was right-wing.
Soon frenzied candidates were trying to outbid one another by making calls to pack the Supreme Court and abolish the Electoral College — the latter a constitutional provision revered by leftists from 2008 to 2013, given that it seemed to assure a permanently unassailable blue wall. All rushed to be purist supporters of the unhinged Green New Deal, the abolishment of ICE, slavery reparations, Medicare for All, a wealth tax, and free medical care for illegal aliens — until there was nothing left but a socialist Democratic party without a single issue that could win majority public support. Within weeks they were falling over the cliff, with no ground beneath.
The result was that the candidates served themselves up on their own menus. Elizabeth Warren trashed charter schools, championed noncharter, unionized public education, railed at elitism — and, after customarily lying, ultimately confessed that she had sent her own child to one of the most prestigious, elitist, and costly prep schools in the nation. Thus she de facto negated all of her revolutionary rhetoric, or rather was convicted as a counterrevolutionary by her own admission that she sought an elite refuge for her own.
A doctrine of radical feminism is that sexual harassment includes boorish behavior with women in public — no exceptions allowed for loose, overly familiar talk, paternal condescension, and unwanted physical contact of any sort. That more or less sums up the public career of Joe Biden, whose continued uninvited hugging, squeezing, and blowing into the hair of teenage girls seems almost pathological.
The same zero-tolerance standards exist for racist talk. There can be no slips of the tongue, no clumsy expression. When Joe Biden said of Barack Obama, “I mean, you got the first mainstream African American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy,” when Joe Biden talked of the ubiquity of Indian Americans (“You cannot go to a 7-11 or a Dunkin’ Donuts unless you have a slight Indian accent — I’m not joking”) when Joe Biden boasted of his youthful work at a swimming pool with inner-city kids and claimed he learned there about “roaches” and showed them “his blond leg hairs,” then in progressive logic he opened up windows into a racist mind.
A chief tenet of left-wing identity politics is “disproportionate impact.” The idea mandates that racism does not have to be proved to exist. If a particular professional, field, organization, or company is not as racially diverse, on a proportional basis, as the general population, then it is implicitly racist and must take the necessary reparatory measures.
Of course, “disproportionate” is a relative term and does not necessarily apply to an organization such as the U.S. Postal Service, the NFL, or NBA, in which African Americans are vastly “overrepresented” compared with their percentage of the population.
An empiricist would say that Kamala Harris dropped out because she was a lousy candidate: She had little political experience and a thin grasp of issues, lacked deeply held views, and proved to be a poor campaigner and an ineffective campaign administrator.
Nor is Cory Booker a viable candidate: He is subject to bouts of hyperbole bordering on incoherence; his herky-jerky style is off-putting. He too has no consistent views, veering from near centrism to hard progressivism as the situation calls for. Both self-identified as young charismatic African-American identity-politics candidates. Neither possessed Obama’s political savvy or rhetorical skills, which had demolished white elite Hillary Clinton in the primaries and won him greater white support in 2008, in his defeat of old white male John McCain, than John Kerry had earned in 2004,
But under progressive disproportionate-impact theory, the Democrat field and indeed Democrat voters, at least as evidenced by their preferences in the polls and campaign donations, are all guilty of racism. You see, they somehow have prevented both Harris and Booker (still in the race) from being present on the next presidential debate stage. Note that no one rued the implosion of hapless white male Beto O’Rourke, a charlatan of privilege without any record of achievement other than reinventing himself as a “white Hispanic.”
Without Booker, Julián Castro, and Andrew Yang present, the finalists are lily-white, and thus the entire process is deemed racist not by its methodology but by its disproportionate result. Note also that a slew of dull, uncharismatic white male candidates has fared as poorly as Booker, Castro, Harris, Deval Patrick, and Yang: de Blasio, Bennet, Bullock, Delaney, O’Rourke, Sestak, and others. Indeed, there are far more boring and unimpressive white male candidates than there are candidates of color.
Again, no matter. According to Jacobin logic, there must be nonwhite faces on the debate stage, or the entire party stands guilty of what it regularly accuses others of. The party that insists we are categorized by our superficial appearance has more or less destroyed the candidacies of three black candidates, a Latino candidate, and the sole Asian candidate, not because empirically these were poorer candidates, but, accordingly to their own logic, because Democratic grandees and their constituents were racists!
There are a few Democrats who see the lines lengthening at the guillotine and wish to duck out. Joe Biden is now once more recalibrating, but this time back to good ol’ Joe from Scranton. Pete Buttigieg is suddenly, at least this week, a pragmatic mayor first and an ideologue second. Michael Bloomberg wants to enter the debates and stand on one side of the stage facing all the other candidates to the left. A few newly elected Democratic House members understand that the star-chamber impeachment inquiries rub their own constituents the wrong way, and they are desperate to glue back on their 2018 veneers as sober pragmatists at odds with the hard-left wing of their party.
Unfortunately, the voices of the sane and the moderate are usually crushed in revolutionary cycles where extremism operates on its own logic and trajectory — until chaos and cannibalism finally lead even to the extremists’ own suicide.