Shortly after voting for Richard Nixon in 1960, I was won over to the political left by a combination of John F. Kennedy, a Tulane University economics professor who was a German Social Democrat, and an 85-year-old New Orleans attorney, who was a socialist and looked like Colonel Sanders. In 1964 I was elected President of the John F. Kennedy Young Democratic Club of Durham, NC, and a year later Treasurer of the State Young Democratic Club.
In 1969 I co-founded the Lucius Quintus Cincinnatus Lamar Society, an organization of progressive young Southerners committed to the premise that it was high time the South got off the race kick, came back into the Union, and began solving its own problems. Members included all of the new breed of progressive Southern governors, Jimmy Carter, Reubin Askew, Dale Bumpers, John West, Linwood Holton, Terry Sanford, and Winthrop Rockefeller, as well as prominent black politicians Julian Bond, Maynard Jackson, John Lewis, and Andrew Young.
As a direct result of the Soviets having illegally translated one of my books on computer based planning models into Russian in 1975, I had a steady stream of Soviet and Eastern European visitors to my office at Duke University over the next fifteen years. In the 80s I became a sort of self-appointed, nonpaid cheerleader for Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev resulting in frequent visits to the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. Needless to say, I got a lot of attention from the CIA and the FBI during this period. All of this provided me with the opportunity to observe the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe and the implosion of the USSR at very close range. It was breathtaking. The implications for the American Left were profound.
I remained a left-wing liberal until the 1990s, when Slick Willie Clinton, a conservative Republican disguised as a liberal Democrat, pushed me over the brink. Clinton, a pathological liar, gave the Republicans their every wish in terms of deregulation and globalization. Every time he needed a blip in the polls, Clinton bombed some country—Iraq (many times), Pakistan (He was aiming at Afghanistan, but missed.), Sudan, and Serbia. It was Clinton who invented Osama bin Laden to deflect public opinion away from his affair with Monica Lewinsky. I found Clinton’s relationship to Russia and its lamebrained leader Boris Yeltsin to be utterly disgusting. And the American Left sat silently on the sidelines.
By the time I published Downsizing the USA in 1997, I had completely disengaged from the Left, but I had not moved to the Right. I viewed liberal Democrats and conservative Republicans with equal contempt.
When I became a card-carrying liberal in 1962, those on the Left presented themselves as (1) guardians of the working class, (2) purveyors of peace, (3) custodians of human rights, and (4) defenders of big government. Ten years later they added protection of the environment to their portfolio.
I believe there is substantial evidence to suggest that the American Left has lost its moral authority and that it is clueless as to how to go about regaining it.
First, consider the case of the working class. Although there are millions of poor people in America, for all practical purposes, the so-called working class does not exist anymore. It has been co-opted by the middle class which in turn has been co-opted by the wealthy class. They are all the same, even though some make a lot more money than others.
A half century ago there was a sense of solidarity among working class people. They belonged to labor unions, were active in the Democratic Party, and shared a feeling that “we’re all in this together.” But not anymore. Labor unions are completely impotent, and solidarity has been replaced by an attitude of, “I’ve got mine, Jack.” Today it’s all about “me,” not “us.”
Whether one is rich or poor, we all suffer from affluenza—the obsessive compulsive consumption of more and more stuff. The more we have, the more we want. Enough never seems to be quite enough. We are all into having—owning, possessing, and controlling money, power, people, and things.
Second, just as the working class has faded from the national radar screen, so too has the peace movement. By lowering the pro-war rhetoric and re-assigning tens of thousands of American troops located in Iraq to Afghanistan, President Barack Obama has very effectively deflated the sails of the American peace movement. Because of the absence of a military draft, opposition to the war in Iraq has never been as intense as opposition to the Vietnam war.
But there is a much more fundamental problem. The vast majority of American leftists are not pacifists. They neither reject violence nor war. Most subscribe to the so-called “just war” theory and believe that World War II was a just war. If one believes World War II was a just war, it’s pretty easy to convince oneself that any war is just. For example, liberals uttered hardly a whimper in 1999, when Bill Clinton bypassed the U.S. Constitution, the United Nations, and international law and led a 78-day NATO attack on Yugoslavia.
Where have all the peaceniks gone? To Obamaland.
Third, there was a time when the term “human rights” meant serious business. Concern over civil rights resulted in the passage of the Civil Rights Acts of 1964 and 1965—landmark events in America’s political history. Not so, anymore. Today, the concern for human rights is used much more insidiously. The government cleverly uses alleged human rights abuses to justify a foreign policy based on military doctrines such as full spectrum dominance, nuclear primacy, and the right of pre-emptive strike. And no one on the Left seems to care.
Human rights also provide the rationale underlying what is deemed to be “politically correct” by the Left. To be considered politically correct a person must be pro-abortion, pro-gay-lesbian, pro-affirmative action, pro-Israel, pro-gun control, anti-clerical, pro-big government, and pro-American Empire. Anyone in the public limelight who does not conform to this litany or who associates with those who do not, is at risk of being attacked by a left wing truth squad such as the Southern Poverty Law Center and accused of the likes of homophobia, racism, anti-semitism, religious fundamentalism, or even hate crimes. Secession is considered to be one of the least politically correct forms of human behavior. Anyone crazy enough to advocate secession from the Union must by definition be a redneck racist.
Fourth, with the meltdown of the U.S. economy, environmental concerns such as air and water quality, global warming, and peak oil have been trumped politically by Wall Street bailouts, economic stimulus packages, and multi-trillion dollar budget deficits in addition to the battle over health care reform. Environmental issues are currently barely on the radar screen.
Fifth, with the collapse of the Soviet Union and the bankruptcy of dozens of American megacompanies in recent years, serious doubt has been cast on the validity of the aphorism “bigger makes better.” Yet liberals persist in the belief that it’s possible to design and implement a national health care system for 325 million people. Such a belief is based on pure fantasy. They still don’t get it.
In summary, all of the major issues of the Left’s political portfolio are under a cloud of doubt—the working class, the peace movement, human rights, environmental concerns, and the justification for big government. I can think of no better metaphor for portraying the Left than “Little Bo-peep, has lost her sheep, and doesn’t know where to find them.”
The brain dead Left has not had an original idea since the 1960s. It is morally corrupt, intellectually bankrupt, and politically moribund.
When conservative talk show hosts Bill O’Reilly, Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, and Sean Hannity accuse Barack Obama of being a socialist, they flatter him. He doesn’t even know what socialism is. Obama and his friends on the Left are all technofascists committed to affluenza, technomania, e-mania, megalomania, robotism, globalization, and above all, American imperialism.
The only thing worse than the political Left in America is the political Right. But that is a story for another day.
Thomas H. Naylor
September 7, 2009