Sunday, June 10, 2007

The Far Left's Inquisition To Insure Ideological Purity

Its been clear for at least the past year that the boast of the far left cliques - George Soros's, Kos, Michael Moore, etc., - that they "own the Democratic party" is not mere talk. Their initial success was the creation of wildly popular websites, particularly the Daily Kos and Huffington Post. They followed that success with raising money for Howard Dean's presidential run. And then came the purging of Joe Lieberman from the ranks of the Democratic Party. Now, every elected Democrat listens to what the far left has to say, even to the extent that and other major anti-war groups meet with the Congressional Democratic leadership on a daily basis. For a Democrat not to toe the new far left's line is to come under intense pressure and to court electoral defeat in the next primary - including defeat in the Presidential primary.

This far left coup has worked a very distinct change to the terms of debate in modern politics. There is an exceptional article in The New Republic, "The Left's New Machine" by Johnathan Chait in which he thoroughly documents and analyzes this change. As he concludes, the new far left has no concern for intellecutal honesty. They are solely concerned with defeating conservatism and destroying George Bush. For the new far left, the ends justify any means. One aspect of this dispensing with intellectual honesty is that new far left does not belive in free speech and does not accept any principled dissenting voices. So vociferous is their attack on any who do not parrot their meme that Joe Klein, a classical hard left opinion columnist for Time Magazine, has devoted his latest column to complaining about this internecine inquisition:

A strange thing happened to me the day the House of Representatives voted to pass the Iraq-war-funding bill. Congresswoman Jane Harman of California called as the debate was taking place. "Look, I would love to have cast a vote against Bush on this," she told me. "We need a new strategy, and I hope we can force one in September. But I flew into Baghdad [with 150 young soldiers recently]. To vote against this bill was to vote against giving them the equipment... they need. I couldn't do that." I posted what Harman said on Swampland, the political blog at, along with my opinion that Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama had changed their positions and voted against the funding for the worst possible reason: presidential politics.

And then Harman changed her position. After we spoke, she voted against the funding. The next day, I was blasted by a number of left-wing bloggers: Klein screwed up! I had quoted Harman in the past tense—common usage for politicians who know their words will appear after a vote takes place. That was sloppy and... suspicious! Proof that you just can't trust the mainstream media. On Eschaton, a blog that specializes in media bashing, I was given the coveted "Wanker of the Day" award. Eventually, Harman got wind of this and called, unbidden, to apologize for misleading me, saying I had quoted her correctly but she had changed her mind to reflect the sentiments of her constituents. I published her statement and still got hammered by bloggers and Swampland commenters for "stalking" Harman into an apology, for not checking her vote in the Congressional Record, for being a "water boy for the right wing" and many other riffs unfit to print.

This is not the first time this kind of free-range lunacy has been visited upon me. Indeed, it happens, oh, once a week to each of us who post on Swampland (Karen Tumulty, Jay Carney and Ana Marie Cox are the others). A reasonable reader might ask, Why are the left-wing bloggers attacking you? . . .

First, let me say that I really enjoy blogging. It's a brilliant format for keeping readers up to date on the things I care about—and for exchanging information with them. . . . I've found that some great reporting takes place in the blogosphere: Juan Cole's Iraq updates are invaluable, Joshua Micah Marshall's Talking Points Memo did serious muckraking about the U.S. attorneys scandal, and Ezra Klein (no relation) is excellent on health care. I love linking to smart work by others, something you just can't do in a print column.

But the smart stuff is being drowned out by a fierce, bullying, often witless tone of intolerance that has overtaken the left-wing sector of the blogosphere. Anyone who doesn't move in lockstep with the most extreme voices is savaged and ridiculed—especially people like me who often agree with the liberal position but sometimes disagree and are therefore considered traitorously unreliable. Some of this is understandable: the left-liberals in the blogosphere are merely aping the odious, disdainful—and politically successful—tone that right-wing radio talk-show hosts like Rush Limbaugh pioneered. They are also justifiably furious at a Bush White House that has specialized in big lies and smear tactics.

And that is precisely the danger here. Fury begets fury. Poison from the right-wing talk shows seeped into the Republican Party's bloodstream and sent that party off the deep end. Limbaugh's show—where Dick Cheney frequently expatiates—has become the voice of the Republican establishment. The same could happen to the Democrats. The spitballs aimed at me don't matter much. The spitballs aimed at Harman, Clinton and Obama are another story. Despite their votes, each of those politicians believes the war must be funded. (Obama even said so in his statement explaining his vote.) Each knows, as Senator Jim Webb has said repeatedly, that we must be more careful getting out of Iraq than we were getting in. But they allowed themselves to be bullied into a more simplistic, more extreme position. Why? Partly because they fear the power of the bloggers to set the debate and raise money against them. They may be right—in the short (primary election) term; Harman faced a challenge from the left in 2006. In the long term, however, kowtowing to extremists is exactly the opposite of what this country is looking for after the lethal radicalism of the Bush Administration.
Read the entire story here. As you can tell from the above, Joe Klein is himself far left. I note as an aside that his attempt to claim that the new far left is only aping what has gone on with moderates and conservatives is particularly disingenuous. Regardless of what labels and adjectives Mr. Klein may apply to conservatives and libertarians, there is nothing among those groups that even remotely resembles what is going on today with the new far left. Conservatives and libertarians, even those who express stongly held views that Mr. Klein finds distasteful, have never jettisoned anlayisis or intellectual honesty, nor have they conducted an inquisition of the type going on today in the left wing.

That aside, what set's Mr. Kline, a classical liberal, apart from the new far left of Kos,, et al, is that Klein believes in analysis and intellectual honesty - misguided though his inellect may be. And that is what makes him a traitor to the cause of the new far left.

Klein can contiue doing what he does at Time Magazine - at least as long as he can stomach the attacks from the new far left - with little concern for his future. The same is not true of any Democratic office holder. It does not matter whether a Democrat in his campaign for the '06 election promised to support the war effort or to legislate against a precipitous withdrawal. They better now vote against the war effort or they will face implacable opposition from the new far left. That, coupled with the jettisoning of inellectual honesty from the terms of debate, has worked a fundamental change to the paradigm of modern politics for liberals, moderates and conservatives alike.

(H/T Steve Halter)


billm99uk said...

There's always been vicious internecine squabbling in the left, particularly the far left, for years and it's nothing new now. Just look at the history of the British Labour Party - the Trotskyites may theoretically oppose the Conservative party, but, in truth, the people they really loath are the Stalinists and so on. It was all rather effectively sent up in Monty Python's life of Brian where Brian soon becomes involved with "The People's Front of Judea" (NOT the "Judean People's Front", or "The Popular Front of Judea"), a radical terrorist group dedicated to the overthrow of rival terrorist groups and, in their spare time, the Roman Empire:

"Brothers! Brothers! We should be struggling together!"
"We are!"
"We mustn't fight each other! Surely we should be united against the common enemy!"
"The Judean People's Front?!"
"No, no! The Romans!"
"Oh, yeah."

scott said...

That's quite funny, Bill. The left on this side of the pond has never been in quite the position that it is today. As a general historical rule, the political labels shift one space to the right when they get applied on this side of the Atlantic, I think. Although we have had our share of communists, etc., they have never really made it into mainstream politics. Thus, our "left wing" has never experienced anything like the internecine squabbling we are seeing today. But thanks for reminding me about the Life of Brian. Haven't seen it in years and could do with a good laugh. Am going to rent it today.

billm99uk said...

Well, you've got something to look forward to there. Nothing like a bunch of leftists to get a proper intellectual scrap going. Talk about catfights...


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