The Left Wing's Image

I read this editorial:

The more relevant passage (the one that I want to discuss):

It seems to me that the columnist believes the Left is too “smart” for ordinary Americans.

Personally, I don’t agree 100% with his argument, at least not as it relates to the war. Other typically “Left” movements–like environmental protection and anti-globalism (WTO demonstrations, etc.)–seem driven by a relatively homogenous group of people. For lack of a better word, the “Neo-Hippie” is attached to both of these movements. College kids and their radical professors. “Alternative” types who get their vegetables from co-ops and listen to progressive talk radio.

But the anti-war sentiment is being expressed by what seems like a pretty broad spectrum of people. Folks who laughed at the kids in Geneva and Washington are now joining them in protest rallies. Many folks who are far removed from the college classroom and pedantic terms like “disconnect” and “discourse” have no problem saying that this talk of war is a bunch of BS (or at least admitting feelings of unease and discomfort). It’s not unusual to find preachers and ministers expressing anti-war sentiments during church services. When my dear mother explains why she’s against the war, she doesn’t go into an intellectual spiel, full of vague concepts and obscure references. She’s passionate and emotional, her arguments quite practical and easy to grasp. I don’t see a whole bunch of intellectualism in the stance against war (though I’m sure it exists). I see the complete opposite.

I don’t think Americans’ anti-intellectualism has anything to do with their support for war, though it’s much easier on the brain to say “Saddam is an evil man” than to come up with more solid reasons. I think the real reason is much simpler: Americans have a dangerous level of trust in their leaders right now. For some reason, it’s okay to call the mayor of a town a bozo, but it’s a no-no to say the same about our President. The other night I was watching Donohue and caller after caller kept admonishing us anti-war people for “not supporting our President”. As if it’s our duty to agree with him even if we don’t! Because you know if we don’t support our president, the terrorists have won! Basically that’s what one caller said.

You gotta love that Armstrong Williams too, who said we have to have faith that the Adminstration knows what it’s doing. Faith! This was his argument. Oh yes, and Saddam Hussein is an evil, wicked man who gassed his own people. If “ordinary” Americans have the same level of loyalty and trust that Williams has, it’s my feeling that no matter how much the opposition changed it’s image, it would still wouldn’t gain much of a foothold on most Americans’ feelings towards war with Iraq. I say this because I think that if roles were reversed–if we had a heavy Leftie in the White House right now trying to egg us on to war–“ordinary” folks would still be onboard. Who knows? Maybe I would also rationalize the position and defend it against attack.

Do you agree with Taibbi? Do you agree with me? Do you have your own hypothesis for why it seems like the nation is divided the way it is?

The anti war movement in America won’t get anywhere until the folks out there understand the lesson of the anti Vietnam war movement. You have to leave all your other political causes at home, and concentrate on stopping the war.

You have to make sure that Republicans understand that supporting the war is not supporting the president, or the party, it is supporting the war. And you have to make them understand that it is going to cost them Republican votes. The same thing applies to Democrats, of course.

Women’s rights, environmentalism, constitutionality, and a whole lot of other things are important issues, but if you change your subject during the brief time left, the war is going to happen. The dead people will already be dead, and the war will be ended the same way the Vietnam War ended. The US will go home and nothing good will come of it at all. A new bunch of thugs will be allowed to take charge, and we will have killed a lot of people on both sides for no reason whatsoever.

Tell your congresscritter that if the US goes to war, you will campaign against him, no matter what he did or said about the war, because even if he was against it, he was ineffective, and you are going to hold him personally responsible. Tell him this no matter which party he belongs to, or you belong to.

Bush is betting his reelection chances on your stupidity, and jingoism. Tell him now that it’s a bad bet. He is backed into the usual corner, familiar to all schoolyard bullies. There is nothing he can do, except flex, and posture, until either someone throws a punch, or the teacher saves his ass, by telling him recess is over. You the voter are the teacher. If the fight starts, you are responsible.

How will we know we have won this war? What are the conditions of victory? What are the conditions of defeat? Can we ever leave Iraq, after we start? Of course we can, and when we do, we will officially lose the war, just like we did in Vietnam. Oh, yeah, Blair will officially lose, too. But he isn’t going to be in office either.

It has nothing to do with left or right politics. It has to do with understanding what you can do with military power, and what you cannot. We sold the Iraqi people interested in revolution down the river last time. Are you expecting them to be that stupid? They are not going to be on our side, because we are the proven cowards, who will be leaving town next week, because we shot ourselves in the foot. They know it. They already saw us prove it. And the folks who believed us last time are mostly dead.

We will have done nothing to prevent terrorism. We will have made allies of many mutually antagonistic groups who will cooperate against us all the more readily. We will have created a new generation of enemies, and gained no friends. Saudi Arabia will still be the major source of terrorist activity, and money. The people of Iraq will not become our friends, and their Arabian “allies” will run in with “aid” as quickly as possible, in a influence orgy of opportunistic greed. Our Pal, Turkey, will treat the Kurds to another round of expulsions as soon as it is politically feasible, and those poor bastards will get executed in droves again, by the new “Democratic” Iraqi government.

But George will have shown the world his balls. And his ass, too.


There is a sense you get from “lefties” that often goes something like: “well, anyone who is intelligent knows that…” and you can fill in the blank with any left wing political position. Taibbi is on target for a lot of Americans, and this goes to the whole idea floating around now of the left looking for their Rush Limbaugh.

Now, the right wing sure has it’s intellectual snobs (WF Buckley is right up there), but I don’t think the average guy gets much info from those types. Not sure why.

I’m not sure what to say about your second issue other than the pro-war people who support Bush and chastise those who don’t are focussing, I think, exclusively on the war. That is, it’s OK to criticise the pres on most things, but when the country is at war, we need to come together on that. I’m not saying I agree with that, but I think that’s where people like the Donohue caller are coming from.

Our esteemed reviewer says: “You can talk all you want about suffering Iraqi children and the long-term consequences of using depleted-uranium ammunition, but you’re not going to convince some frustrated cubicle slave in Lawrence, KS, with a fat wife and forty grand in credit card debt and a spare tire that makes him sick with self-loathing every time he sees the cover of Men’s Health, that he doesn’t want to bomb the shit out of somebody, anybody, at the earliest conceivable opportunity, for the first reason you make available to him.”

And then he says: “Even its (the left’s) writing, and particularly its political writing, is joyless and condescending.”

Taibbi, good buddy, you are in no position to lecture anyone about being condescending.

And this: “Its (the left’s) vision of the future is one in which all vices except pedantry are strictly regulated–no sex, no rap music, no snowmobiles, no snorting smack with models in fur bikinis…” Funny, I thought that was the right wing’s vision of the future.

Fact is, we have a long “tradition” in the U.S. of going along with Democratic and Republican presidents who are intent on involving us with undeclared wars. Clinton did it, and Bush is about to do the same (with substantially higher stakes). It isn’t just a left-right thing.

Taibbi is too absorbed in his own purported cleverness to have much to say as a book reviewer.

I have to think that it’s in the interests of those opposed to politics typically regarded as “left-wing” to continue to promote the stereotype of the intellectually elitist, effete academic that holds “real, ordinary Americans” in contempt. Obviously you don’t want the American voting public to identify too closely with these radical types, so you paint them with the broadest, pinkest brush imaginable. I’d take issue with the columnist’s assertion that “the Left,” whatever the hell that is, envisions a future without sex, rap music, heroin or bikini-clad models. At least I haven’t been given any such marching orders from the Comintern. There is a five-year plan to phase out snowmobiles, though.

So if the Left has an image problem, I’d say that it’s a problem of self-image. The answer is not to be less intellectual or thoughtful, but more assertive regarding matters of principle. Part of the problem is that liberal politicians tend to worry too much about just this sort of issue, about being viewed unfavorably by “ordinary Americans.” Meanwhile, the conservatives gleefully continue to draw the “liberal=profanity” comparison. Now, liberals can deal with this in one of two ways; by repackaging themselves in the same manner as the right-wing think tanks have been grooming their candidates, to speak in code in order to achieve their political goals…or they can stand up and declare boldly that liberals are the real Americans, the only ones truly concerned about the ideals of free expression and secular democracy that this country was founded on. Or, failing that, they could organize an interdisciplinary committee to research the effective use of dick jokes in the political discourse.

I shall try to separate this debate from the question of whether the anti-war position is proper or not. I agree with you monstro that anti-war sentiment is being being expressed by a broad spectrum of people. Friends and relatives of mine who are normally not too political have become strongly anti-war.

I agree. Both sides have their intellectuals as well as their down-to-earth leaders. Solomon’s intellectual arrogance might not appeal to the masses, but Ted Kennedy and others do an excellent job of speaking to the ordinary person.

I don’t want to make this partisan, but in my experience it’s the pro-war people who want to analyze things more deeply and the anti-war people who are more apt to look for simplicity. E.g., there was a thread here some time ago demanding that the war be justified in a single sentence.

I agree that we do have a high level of trust. We are busy with our own lives. We console ourselves that the leaders have more knowledge than we do and more expertise. However, note that there are plenty of political leaders who disagree with Bush. Not to mention other opinion leaders in Hollywood and elsewhere.

I don’t agree. It’s one thing for pro-war people to claim that anti-war sentiment is a no-no; it’s something else for it to actually be a taboo. Pardon me for using race as an example. Someone in the public eye can lose his job for making a racist remark. Nobody has lost their job from expressing an anti-war position. In fact, I’d say the anti-war, anti-Bush position is pretty mainstream. Just listen to Presidential candidate Howard Dean and other leading Democrats.

I appreciate the honesty of this statement. It’s demonstrably true. In 1998, Clinton’s comments about Iraq were similar to Bush’s today. Clinton made war in the former Yugoslavia without even attepting to get UN authorization. Very few Americans opposed these actions.

One thing that keeps gettings crammed down our throats is the thousands of Iraqi children dying daily or weekly because of sanctions led by the US, yet Sadaam has built since 1991, what was it, 30 or 40, elaborate, ornate palaces for himself and his family at a cost of a few billion! He cares nothing about his people, only about how he can use them to further his cause and his glory.
These demonstrations that are being led by Babs and George Clooney and Rosie Perez, are pathetic attempts by liberal democrats to discredit George Bush and the Republican party. GWB’s approval ratings scare the heck out of the dems, and if we have a quick, successful war to topple Sadaam, it will only help to assure the republicans victory in 2004.

One image problem I see with the left is California. Democrats have a solid block of Christian, hardworking, normal people in the southeast and midsouth, but they’re starting to alienate this group by aligning so much with California - like appointing Nancy Pelosi…they should have gone with Harold Ford Jr. from Memphis, but some people say that Democrats love minorities, they just don’t want them in power.

The left’s image is hurting their most solid voting blocks. I don’t think that someone from San Francisco represents many in the South (and in fact repulses us), which could come back to bite the Democrats.