The Corner

Politics & Policy

Re: On Charlottesville, Trump, and Anti-Americanism

In response to Lions

Andy McCarthy has a great piece today where he fleshes out how hardcore, violent, leftist radicals are still admired, romanticized and lionized among mainstream American liberals.  While, mainstream conservatives are expected – rightly – to denounce the alt-right, the Klan, neo-Nazis, et al., liberals take deep offense at the notion that they have any problem whatsoever to their radical left. And, Andy writes, if you “dare notice the radical Left, you are not an observer of objective fact, you are a neo-Nazi sympathizer. If you dare notice that many of the ‘peaceful protesters’ were swinging batons and spraying chemicals, you need a re-education course in ‘unconscious racism.’”

This raises a point I briefly made in my column yesterday. The alt-right does mainstream conservatism a favor by making it clear they do not want to be part of our movement, they want to be an alternative to it. “We don’t have a starting point with William F. Buckley, we don’t have the same starting point as Richard Lowry and Jonah Goldberg and National Review,” Spencer told Buzzfeed. The alt right is “radically different from George W. Bush, the conservative movement, etc. It really was a notion of an alternative.”

This is very helpful for me as a conservative because it underscores the thing I want underscored the most: I have nothing to do with these bigoted tribalists. It’s one of the only things we can agree on.

The funny thing is that if you actually read or listen to antifa, or virtually any of the radical groups today or in the past – ANSWER, Black Lives Matter, the Weathermen, the Black Panthers et al. – they make it quite clear that they want to be an alternative to mainstream or “corporate” liberalism. Even peaceful radicals of the Bernie Sanders stripe make that clear. They really are an “alt left” in a meaningful sense because to one extent or another they hate the market system, revile free speech and find common cause with anti-American forces here and abroad.

The problem is liberals don’t want to acknowledge it. They love the popular front logic. They celebrate the passion and will of everyone from Occupy Wall Street types to Antifa. Remember how hard it was for mainstream liberals to say anything bad about Bill Ayers?

Why is that? I can think of lots of partial explanations, but one in particular comes to mind. Envy. I know a great many sensible liberals. I’m always struck by how some of them are a little ashamed of their conservative sides. They think it’s selling-out or some other kind of corruption. They celebrate people who stay committed to their youthful radicalism as if the inability to grow up is admirable.

I’m reminded of this passage from Alan Bloom’s The Closing of the American Mind: “I have seen young people, and older people too, who are good democratic liberals, lovers of peace and gentleness, struck dumb with admiration for individuals threatening or using the most terrible violence for the slightest and tawdriest of reasons.” He continued: “They have a sneaking suspicion that they are face to face with men of real commitment, which they themselves lack. And commitment, not truth, is believed to be what counts.”

I am delighted to say that the alt-right doesn’t speak for me. I wish more liberals were as eager to say the same about the mask-wearing, violent, unpatriotic, anti-American radicals they are foolishly celebrating. Liberalism and America would be better off if liberals called these goons the “alt-left.”

Jonah Goldberg — Jonah Goldberg holds the Asness Chair in Applied Liberty at the American Enterprise Institute and is a senior editor of National Review. His new book, The Suicide of The West, is on sale now.

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