The People’s Front of
In Monty Python’s Life of Brian (a left-wing Jesus), bitterly feuding splinter groups — the People’s Front of Judea, the Judean People’s Front, the Judean Popular People’s Front, and on and on — all hate each other more than they hate the Romans. The Self-Defeating Left (SDL) is nothing new and is so widely recognized it needs no introduction.
The SDL has plagued every Democratic president starting with Roosevelt — yes, even FDR. It gave us Bush & Cheney (remember Ralph Nader’s 2% share of the Florida votein 2000?), and it is about to usher in Romney and a T-Party Congress. The road to hell is paved with good intentions and in-fighting.
There are two types in the SDL:
- SDL extremists (like fireDogLake[F[For example see FireDogLake, where blogger Attaturk leads the attack on Obama’s Sept. 8, 2011 “Pass this jobs bill” speech. His rant about how many people Obama has killed is accompanied by a poster suggesting mass-murderer Charles Manson would make a better president. The 48 following comments generally agree with him, and none disagree.]F]) despise or even hate the most effective progressives.
- SDL regulars who are disappointed because of unrealistic views of the past and of present obstacles.
The self-defeating extremists view it as their job to demoralize progressives and, if possible, convert them to bitterness.
What You Can Do
First, don’t listen to the extremists. They are not progressives.[F[Spouting ultra-left slogans, like Stalin or Jim Jones, does not make you left. The test is, are you actually being effective at making the world a little better.]F] Second, if you are an SDL regular or know one, take heart. Many things that seem discouraging are actually signs of smarter thinking than we’ve had in the past. The first step is to see the past clearly — it was far less rosey than extremists claim, and by comparison Obama is actually doing better against heavier odds. For example, LBJ, that master of Congress, alienated his base so badly that he could not even run again (and his 500,000 troop escalation of the Vietnam war deserved that reaction).
Here are three important illusions to dispell:
- Past Democratic Presidents are seen through rose-colored glasses.
- Political rhetoric is taken at face value.
- The power of the dark side is vastly underrated.
How Flawed Thinking Causes Self Defeat
A fundamental logica fallacy causes all the trouble. The “logic” goes like this:
- It would be good to have X (for example an end to war).
- Obama should just (1) say “I’m for X,” or (2) do X immediately.
- Obama is not doing (1) or (2), and he knows he should.
- Obama must be a Republican.
So what’s wrong with that? Usually #2 is wrong. Here’s why:
- Saying “I’m for X,” may have no effect. And doing X may be impossible.
- Either may cause a very harmful backlash.
The world contains many powerful and mean-spirited forces. Some are obvious, but many are stealthy. Although the left claims to know this, in practice they forget and assume that Obama could easily overcome all such forces if only he would speak out. This is the illusion at the heart of the flawed thinking. Evil is powerful, we need much more power before we can overcome it.
Facing Reality Will Make You Happier
Strange as it may seem, admitting the power of the dark side, should make you happier.
If we face up to how tough the struggle for a better world actually is, and shed our illusions about the rosy past, we will be rewarded by the discovery that many are on our side who we thought had betrayed us. This is worth the candle. If you have the courage, click the three links above.
How the “far left” helps the right:
“Hillary was away or inattentive, and he used Monica in the White House… Hillary has a lot to answer for, because she took an antagonistic and demeaning position toward her husband’s accusers [Monica Lewinsky, etc.]” —Camille Paglia, July 2015. (And she tells us Bill Clinton is as bad as Bill Cosby, and so apparently a rapist.)
The Unreliable Left: Michael Moore, Naomi Klein, Amy Goodman, Bill McKibben, Camille Paglia, Truthdig,
The left gets extreme in several different ways, but because it does not have backing from corporations and billionaires, it is far less dangerous. As discussed under Extreme Enviro, a leading climate-change journalist has claimed the ocean is rising a foot a year, when it’s actually rising about 1/8 of an inch per year. That’s extreme.[F[Climate Change Is Not a Hoax: The best science is telling us there’s a huge risk from what we’re doing. Since we can begin to address this risk very cheaply, it is completely irresponsible not to. Also, I am not saying that environmental exaggerations are nearly as bad as those paid for by Exxon and the Koch brothers, but this is no excuse. And the enviro extremism only serves to discredit environmentalists.]F] And, Al Gore has published a picture suggesting the same error, and I’ve never found a single environmentalist correcting this. And then there are the 9/11 truthers. But let’s start with Jim Jones.
Let’s start with a clear example. I have a friend who spent years thinking Jim Jones, the mass murderer of 908 progressives, was nearly Jesus Christ. He almost got himself killed. But, even before Obama’s election he hated Obama with a passion, and loved Ralph Nader. That’s extreme.
He’s a very nice, calm, intelligent guy. How could he make a such mistake? And how could he learn so little from it?
I believe, he has a simplistic view of change — Change happens if we see the light and do what’s right. So he will only trust a leader who reflects that simple vision, but not one who thinks change is an incremental process that requires compromise and dialog along the way.
He’s also missing an understanding of the power of the constraints that keep status quo in place. He would read this and think I was arguing for the status quo. I’m not. I’m arguing that the system that protects it is powerful. To change it for the better requires hard work, and even then, positive changes come gradually.
Even more difficult for extremists to understand, is the need for strategy. Not only is positive change slow, but it must often be indirect. If people are sick of confrontational politics, and the opposition demands X which cuts entirely in the wrong direction, it may be best to offer to compromise on X/2, knowing they will reject it, look unreasonable, and fail to gain their demand.
But the extremist will see the offer of X/2 and a sellout and morally reprehensible. Of course politics is far more complex, and the strategies needed to accomplish anything are also far more complex then X/2. All of this escapes the extremist, and that is why the left splinters and turns on itself. For a brilliant 80-year look at this phenomenon, read Jonathan Chait, or watch Monte Python’s The Life of Brian.