Wednesday, July 02, 2014


Charles Murray, pretending to be a thoughtful intellectual but getting his principal bullet points from Fox News and talk radio, writes on the Wall Street Journal editorial page that it's high time we started separating the "liberals" from the "progressives":
... A few weeks ago, I was thrown into a situation where I shared drinks and dinner with two men who have held high positions in Democratic administrations. Both men are lifelong liberals. There's nothing "moderate" about their liberalism. But as the pleasant evening wore on (we knew that there was no point in trying to change anyone's opinion on anything), I was struck by how little their politics have to do with other elements of the left.

Their liberalism has nothing in common with the political mind-set that wants right-of-center speakers kept off college campuses, rationalizes the forced resignation of a CEO who opposes gay marriage, or thinks George F. Will should be fired for writing a column disagreeable to that mind-set. It has nothing to do with executive orders unilaterally disregarding large chunks of legislation signed into law or with using the IRS as a political weapon. My companions are on a different political plane from those on the left with that outlook -- the progressive mind-set....
Where to begin? First: Oh, please, not the commencement speeches again, and not George freaking Will. Will is still syndicated to all but one of the papers that ran his column at the beginning of the year; he still has his highly lucrative Washington Post gig; he still has the Fox News job he started last year after a long stint at ABC, and he's still publishing his tiresome books. I think he has many free-speech avenues available to him.

And yes, a few commencement speakers were made unwelcome by left-leaners on campus this year -- but I never detected any outrage from Murray or anyone else on the right when Eric Holder's commencement speech to Oklahoma City police academy graduates was canceled in response to protests.

And Brendan Eich did resign from his Mozilla CEO gig -- but the people who get the vapors about this weren't upset at the Dixie Chicks boycott in the last decade, or the forced resignation of Eason Jordan at CNN, or the destruction of Dan Rather's career. (Regarding the latter, I see that Lara Logan's career is intact.)

And Barack Obama's rate of executive orders is far lower than that of most presidents in the past century. Just sayin'.

But let's step back from the specifics and note what Murray is suggesting here: that decent people can work with "liberals," but "progressives" deserve to be marginalized and shunned:
... liberalism as I want to use the term encompasses a set of views that can be held by people who care as much about America's exceptional heritage as I do. Conservatives' philosophical separation from that kind of liberalism is not much wider than the philosophical separation among the various elements of the right. If people from different political planes on the right can talk to each other, as they do all the time, so should they be able to talk to people on the liberal left, if we start making a distinction between liberalism and progressivism. To make that distinction is not semantic, but a way of realistically segmenting the alterations to the political landscape that the past half-century has brought us.
In other words: Talk to "liberals" because -- unlike "progressives" -- "liberals" don't hate America. Nope, nothing McCarthyite about that denunciation of alleged McCarthyism.


Murray argues that we need a taxonomy of lefties because the differences on the left aren't as well recognized as the ones on the right, which he says are glaringly obvious:
Social conservatives. Libertarians. Country-club conservatives. Tea party conservatives. Everybody in politics knows that those sets of people who usually vote Republican cannot be arrayed in a continuum from moderately conservative to extremely conservative. They are on different political planes. They usually have just enough in common to vote for the same candidate.
Really? Um, I don't see weed-and-deregulation libertarians getting particularly upset at the religious cons' contraceptive wars, or country club conservatives objecting to personhood amendments, or the Jesus crowd getting particularly upset about states ending early voting on "souls to the polls" Sundays. The various factions on the right generally seem quite comfortable with one another. And wake me when alleged isolationists like Rand Paul are leading a genuine anti-war movement, which would be especially welcome now.

Oh sure, the teabaggers and the Chamber of Commerce types are having a donnybrook right now -- but even that seems like a battle over tactics, not the ultimate goal. Both sides favor a reverse Robin Hood economic policy -- they just can't agree on whether it should happen slowly and surreptitiously, with the least disruption to business as usual, or in a short, sharp shock that might rattle the markets a tiny bit.

And please don't talk to me about "reform conservatism." Reform cons aren't actually battling other cons; the discussions are very collegial. That's because conservatism developed a reform wing for the same reason Budweiser and Miller created faux-craft beers -- the new products are intended to expand market share into new demographic categories, not to compete with the traditional swill, which still still has a large core following. Yes, there may be a conservative crack-up someday, but it ain't gonna be led by Ross Douthat.


Bulworth said...

I wonder if Murray thinks the Confederate States of America experiment in slave-based-nation building was a glorious part of American Exceptionalism or not.

Or our invasion of Mexico and land grab from that country. Or our occupation of the Philipines.

Victor said...

Don't you love it when hard-core conservatives, try to explain liberalism and progressivism - and the differences?

It's like asking a vegan to explain the different cuts of steak on a menu, or a Catholic priest, to explain the different positions in the Kama Sutra (I'm holding back on any altar boy jokes, here!)

What Mr. Murray doesn't know about liberalism and progressivism, would fill a library - several of them.

Bulworth said...

Murray just "knows" that Progressives hate Murica.

Bulworth said...

But Murray wants his wingnut buddies to know that "his" "Liberal" friends are really OK because they don't want George Will to be fired.

Carol Ann said...

Murray actually likes liberals who are really liberals in name only. Because, you know, they love America because they aren't really liberals, they are what passes for the "center" in this country. Only the "center" and Republicans love this country.

He is trying to hornswoggle some independents is what it boils down to, and throwing in some hippie bashing with a wink wink nudge nudge

brett said...

"Just saying" is what people say when they've got nothing to back up their hurt feelings. Obama's record on executive orders stands for itself. You are correct to bring it up but tacking on a "just saying" makes if feel less solid.