The Tyranny Blog

Oh Those Bold Liberals

I loved this paragraph from Jeff Shesol’s review of Eric Alterman’s book (on the opposing page from Klein’s review):

The net effect is that of a Pointillist painting, though when you step back from the canvas and squint a little, the dots fail to cohere into a discernible image. As “The Cause” smash-cuts from Henry Wallace to Richard Hofstadter and from Gloria Steinem to Gary Hart, Alterman pauses all too infrequently to reflect on the “cause” — or causes, or ideals — that connects them. This, to be fair, is a challenge, one compounded by liberal schisms and by the nebulousness of much liberal thought; Trilling, as Alterman notes, described liberalism as “a large tendency rather than a concise body of doctrine.” Liberals, quite unlike leftist radicals or conservative ideologues, tend to reject dogma and theory in favor of “bold, persistent experimentation,” as Roosevelt called it, or, put another way, pragmatism grounded in enduring, yet evolving, values. It is hard to dissect a gestalt.

First, if you’ve read either of my books, or about 6 trillion Corner posts of mine, you’d know that this half of my point about liberalism. Liberals aren’t oriented toward their own intellectual history the way conservatives are. This has the result of making them more, not less, dogmatic. Indeed, they are so dogmatic, they can’t see it. They think they’re ideology free.  This is the lie liberals tell themselves and then everyone else: “We’re not ideological, we’re pragmatists!”

Klein and countless other liberals don’t think it’s a lie precisely because they are so dogmatic about their ideological commitments.

But, really, how can it be anything other than an illusion? Where, exactly is the spirit of bold, persistent experimentation in the Democratic Party today? Is it evident when it comes to Medicare or Medicaid or Social Security? How about the role of public sector unions, liberal educational pedagogy or racial preferences. Obama hid behind his deficit reduction commission and then rejected its recommendations. He is an adamant defender of the status quo, as are Nancy Pelosi and her whole crowd.

Some might cite ObamaCare as some grand experiment. That’s plausible, from a certain perspective. But, then again, liberalism “experimentalism” is always bold when it comes to rationales for expanding government.  And if every “experiment” involves expanding government, it’s not really experimentalism, now is it? It’s more like an ideological commitment to keep trying new ways to grow government. On this front, liberals are persistent, at least.

Most Popular

Film & TV

Trolling America in HBO’s Euphoria

Of HBO’s new series Euphoria, its creator and writer Sam Levinson says, “There are going to be parents who are going to be totally f***ing freaked out.” There is no “but” coming. The freak-out is the point, at least if the premiere episode is to be believed. HBO needs a zeitgeist-capturing successor to ... Read More
Law & the Courts

Kamala Harris’s Dreadful DA Record

In 2005, the sharp-elbowed, ambitious district attorney of San Francisco had the opportunity to correct an all-too-common prosecutorial violation of duty that the leading expert on prosecutorial misconduct found “accounts for more miscarriages of justice than any other type of malpractice.” Rather than seize ... Read More
Politics & Policy

The Case against Reparations

Editor’s Note: This piece was originally published on May 24, 2014. Ta-Nehisi Coates has done a public service with his essay “The Case for Reparations,” and the service he has done is to show that there is not much of a case for reparations. Mr. Coates’s beautifully written monograph is intelligent ... Read More
Film & TV

In Toy Story 4, the Franchise Shows Its Age

For a film franchise, 24 years is middle-aged, bordering on elderly. Nearly a quarter-century after the first Toy Story, the fourth installment, which hits theaters later this week, feels a bit tired. If earlier films in the franchise were about loss and abandonment and saying goodbye to childhood, this one is ... Read More
World

The China-Iran-Border Matrix

President Trump and Secretary Pompeo have worked the U.S. into an advantageous position with a consistent policy toward bad actors. We are now at a point that even left and right agree that China’s rogue trajectory had to be altered. And while progressive critics of Beijing now are coming out of the woodwork ... Read More