theodore M I R A L D I mpa ... editor, publisher, writer

Sunday, June 28, 2015

‘Peak Leftism’?


It’s the summer of 2015, and the left is on the march. Or perhaps one should say—since the left presumably dislikes the militarist connotations of the term “march”—that the left is swarming. And in its mindless swarming and mob-like frenzy, nearly every hideous aspect of contemporary leftism is on display. 
We see a French Revolution-like tendency to move with the speed of light from a reasonable and perhaps overdue change (taking down the Confederate flag over state buildings) to an all-out determination to expunge from our history any recognition or respect for that which doesn’t fully comport with contemporary progressive sentiment. The left’s point, of course, is not to clarify and sharpen appreciation for our distinctive history; the point is to discredit that history.  
And the point is not to advance arguments and criticize alternative views; it is to deny the legitimacy of opposing arguments and to demonize opponents and purge them from the public square.
We see a pitiful aversion to standing up to barbarism abroad and a desperate willingness to accommodate and appease. This requires an amazing ability to shut one’s eyes to reality, and an extraordinary refusal to make tough decisions and assume real responsibilities. As Harvey Mansfield put it in the 1970s, “From having been the aggressive doctrine of vigorous, spirited men, liberalism has become hardly more than a trembling in the presence of illiberalism. .  .  . Who today is called a liberal for strength and confidence in defense of liberty?” 
We see a wanton willingness on the part of leftist elites to use sophistic arguments to override democratic self-government when the people might not endorse the outcome (say, “marriage equality”) that the left has decided “progress” requires. We see a desperate desire to find a secular substitute for religious belief in the embrace of abstract doctrines (“global warming”) that are appropriately renamed (“climate change”) when the facts complicate matters. And we see a cavalier willingness to impose costs on others less fortunate and less well-protected for the sake of the left’s moral self-regard (by, for example, pledging to end “the era of mass incarceration,” also known as the era of crime reduction).

But as Alexander Hamilton (another recent object of the left’s perpetual discomfort with human achievement) wrote in Federalist 70: “There can be no need .  .  . to multiply arguments or examples on this head.” All the trends and tendencies, the pathologies and perversities that have made the modern left so corrosive of national spirit, so corrupting of self-government, so damaging to Western civilization, are on display front and center in today’s America. As the title of a brilliant article by Kevin D. Williamson in National Review puts it, “We Have Officially Reached Peak Leftism.”
Williamson interprets this moment hopefully, as one of leftist desperation, as a sense on the part of the left that time is running out: “The hysterical shrieking about the fictitious rape epidemic on college campuses, the attempts to fan the unhappy events in Ferguson and Baltimore into a national racial conflagration, the silly and shallow ‘inequality’ talk—these are signs of progressivism in decadence. So is the brouhaha over the Confederate flag.” It’s all, he concludes, “a fraud.” And, Williamson posits, “some scales are starting to fall from some eyes.”
Let’s hope so. The term “Peak Leftism” first came to our notice in an interesting essay several months ago by Robert Tracinski, “Have We Already Reached Peak Leftism?” Tracinski points out just how bad things have gotten in the academy, just how lopsided the left’s dominance is. And he suggests, “There are two ways to look at this trend: as evidence that we are doomed because the left has taken over the key institutions of the culture—or as evidence that the left has reached such a high degree of saturation that they have nowhere to go but down.”
Tracinski argues that we may well have reached peak leftism. He sets forth various factors, most notably a deep tendency for institutions and trends to revert to the mean, that indicate things will get better. But he also acknowledges, “I don’t mean to suggest that a cultural reversion to the mean is inevitable.” 
Of course the very term “peak leftism” makes that point. The term plays off the claim that America, or the world, had reached “peak oil.” But it turns out that “peak oil” wasn’t a peak. Fracking means we’re producing more oil than ever before. So, to pursue the analogy, will the left’s cultural fracking take it to new heights?
The only way to ensure leftism has peaked, and to ensure that it doesn’t drag us further down into the abyss, is to fight it and defeat it. We either overcome peak leftism, or we’re doomed.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous12:10 PM EDT

    I hope it can be overcome this time. They have been preparing for decades, and their plan is coming to fruition. Direct action may be required if freedom of any kind is to be preserved.