Friday, August 01, 2003


I didn't come around to my liberal views for the fun of bashing the insufficiently pure of ideology. It wasn't so I could join a club where I liked everybody personally, presuming such a thing exists. But I've occasionally got sidetracked into the pointless entertainment that it provides, because you know, human beings are endlessly perverse.

The Liberal movement, while correctly reviling Joe McCarthy, seems to have internalized him. And I never expected that. But nobody expects the Liberal Inquisition.

'Right. You're in. Listen. The only people we hate more than the Romans are the [***]ing Judean People's Front. ...And the Judean Popular People's Front. ...And the People's Front of Judea.'

'...We're the People's Front of Judea!' - Life of Brian, by Monty Python'
Natashac wrote this in response to the conflicts within the left, especially Democratic partisan's attacks on Lieberman for being insufficiently liberal, Chomsky for being too critical, and Nader for helping Bush get elected. It's not that Natasha necessarily believes that the criticism isn't warranted, and even a cursory look will reveal that it goes both ways (Greens attacks on "Republicrats" are at least as wrongheaded as Democrats' attacks on Greens, and are exacerbating the conflict).

Natasha knows something, however, that myself and others have pointed out time and time again: the unity of the conservative movement is their strength, and the division of liberalism is their weakness. This isn't a new insight; it's exactly the reason why Lenin was able to take control in Russia, and the current conservative movement is nothing if not Leninist in strategy (if not ideology).

This is, of course, one of the major reasons that we get the odd spectacle of conservatives advising Democrats and picking and choosing "acceptable liberals". They know that fomenting division is the way they'll win, and they know the best way to do that is to try to paint one group as acceptable and one group as not. The ideology of the groups barely matters- the point is that both groups will pull apart.

The "embraced" group will believe that it is the only "acceptable, mainstream" group, and will attempt to retain that by attacking the other as unrealistic and unwilling to compromise, egged on by the conservatives saying "you don't want to be part of that, do you?" (The "anti-American" charge is absolutely key to this tactic.) They'll start pulling closer and closer to their "friends" as the division grows wider and wider between them and the other group, and yet they'll remain unsuccessful because they are torn between the concepts and ideology of those they're trying to ingratiate themselves with, and the concepts and ideology that they supposedly believe.

The other "repelled" group, stung by this rejection, overcompensates and starts valuing purity and difference over everything else, and attacks the "accepted" group for being traitors, insufficiently pure and noble, too willing to compromise. Often enough, they'll latch onto forms of ideology and theory that emphasize the need for purity, and usually claim that the only way to succeed is through some sort of "revolution" (whether real, conceptual, or whatnot) that will inevitably come from the public finally realizing that they've been hoodwinked. Of course, they don't, largely because they usually aren't. Mythology aside, the people's revolution never comes. Change, inevitably, must come from both below and above.

Meanwhile, the undivided opposition reaps the benefits of both power and influence, uses the levers of the state to increase these divisions, and laughs all the way to dynastic control of government. This accentuates the differences, as the two groups get desperate, and more and more extreme. The only way out of this is to do exactly what the Republicans (and the Leninists, for that matter, although I'm not exactly fond of them) did to win. Put aside the differences and work in tandem for a single goal: removing the opposition from power. It won't work immediately, it requires patience, and it may require all sorts of odd, oblique moves that don't make sense at first but have a larger strategic goal (such as building all those think tanks).

Still, it's necessary. There will be no revolution, and aping the other guys will never pay off. As long as people keep on thinking they do, they're hopeless.

(By the way, for those who think that this is solely about liberalism, go talk to a Canadian Progressive Conservative about electability, powerful parties, and the problem of people valuing "purity" over winning elections. He'll bend your ear. He has nothing better to do, because the Liberals have all the seats. The ideology is immaterial. The attitudes and tactics are the key.)

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