Magazine April 5, 2010, Issue

The Descent of Liberalism

(Darren Gygi)
Having repudiated classical liberty, which once counterbalanced their politics of social reform, the Left today confronts the abyss

In his 1950 book The Liberal Imagination, Lionel Trilling said that “in the United States at this time liberalism is not only the dominant but even the sole intellectual tradition.” Liberalism was no less the dominant political tradition; a coherent conservative opposition had yet to emerge. Over the next 60 years, however, the liberal imagination lost its hold on the American mind. In October 2009 Gallup found that just 20 percent of Americans described themselves as liberals; twice as many called themselves conservatives.

What happened? Part of the answer lies in liberalism’s loss of an element that was essential both to

Michael Knox Beran — Mr. Beran is a lawyer and writer. His book WASPs: The Splendors and Miseries of an American Aristocracy is to be published this year.

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Actor Sean Penn says that anyone who calls Hugo Chávez a dictator should go to jail. In Venezuela, Chávez is way ahead of him.

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