BY STEPHEN M. KRASON, JULY 6, 2017
I’ve argued in previous columns that at bottom the problem of the left is a lack of integrity and that it’s hard to find a prominent leftist who truly exhibits integrity—at least in his assessments of politics and public affairs. I’ve also mentioned the obvious inconsistencies in the positions taken by the left, and the persistent pattern of the left of avoiding debate by simply demonizing its opponents. I’ve also said that the left is primarily responsible for the perhaps unparalleled polarization of current American politics. The reason is its unbending attachment to ideology. What would a fuller picture of the left look like and how is it put on display in current controversies?
First, we see a left that pays scant attention to facts, to the evidence. It now, for example, virtually commends abortion as a positive good—all the while, of course, ignoring the obvious facts about unborn human life and scoffing at the thought that abortion does damage to women. It increasingly supports euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide, dismissing how they undermine human dignity and the obvious “slippery slope” of how they expand even to the unwilling. It reflexively defends every version of government social welfare programs and ignores their clear failures and adverse effects. And, of course, one could go on and on.
The current Democrat-inspired investigation into President Trump and his associates for supposed collusion—or something like that—with the Russian government’s supposed interference in the 2016 presidential election is a breathtaking example of the leftist imperviousness to facts, mixed to be sure with a lot of political opportunism. Even though it has almost consumed official Washington, we’re not sure what actually justifies this investigation. With Watergate, we knew there was a break-in. Here, the “evidence” of anything even having happened seems to be just that the left, including the leftist media, says it did.
It is striking that there seems to be little dissent from within leftist ranks, even within a great political party like the Democrats. Serious consideration and debate about an astoundingly large range of questions—even on entirely contingent matters about, say, how well government is working—seems hardly existent as there has long since been a closing of ranks in the name of ideology. That seems to reflect the fact that the party over forty-five years’ time has allowed itself to simply be consumed by uncompromising leftist interest groups and George Soros-type leftist “fat cats.”
This lack of serious debate within the Democratic Party, of course, has led to its view that debate more broadly within the country over crucial political questions is somehow not needed. The left has the answers, so just follow them. A striking feature of the left is its arrogance, a “we can’t possibly be wrong” attitude. Nowhere was this more blatant than with Hillary Clinton’s claim during the campaign that it was the “deplorables” who were supporting Trump and the Republicans. That seems to have been anyone—particularly those in Middle America—who are not among the enlightened leftist elites and their followers who, in gnostic fashion, know what’s best for everyone.
Should one be surprised at such a sense of arrogance and political infallibility when, at bottom, leftist ideology is rankly secular and relativistic—grounded in the sophistic view that man is that measure of all things, and that “we are all gods”?
Besides ignoring facts that literally scream out at them, the left seems unaware of or views as irrelevant the blatant inconsistencies in its thought and positions. For example, it lashes out at the “hatefulness” of Christianity toward homosexuals for calling their sexual behavior immoral and unnatural—forgetting about Christianity’s saying that it’s the sin we despise while loving the sinner—and its supposed subordination of women, but casts a blind eye to the much more oppressive views about such things of Islam (which, for all practical purposes, has become the secularist left’s favorite religion). Or how about the left’s constant clamoring for equality, when—as I’ve discussed in this column before—everything indicates that for it certain groups are favored and held to different standards than others.
Also about inconsistency, let’s not forget how the left constantly rails against big money and corporate interests—their signature issue for a century—even while such moguls constantly are the life blood of one “progressive” organization after another and reports show Democrats have been outspending Republicans in recent election cycles. Corporate types have also been more than accommodating for such leftist objectives as the promotion of homosexualism. The left will also defend to the hilt such outfits as Planned Parenthood, even though what’s ultimately involved are protecting the profits from their bloody abortion business.
The left’s inconsistency is especially unsettling when it concerns applying the law. Too often for them, constitutional and legal principles seem sacred only when it concerns those it supports. Ask David Daleiden and also the clergy whose sermons the authorities in Houston wanted to censor if they opposed homosexualism. The rule of law be damned if it stands in the way of the triumph of leftist ideology.
As mentioned, instead of debating and engaging their opponents the left demonizes them. The only evil the secularist left seems to recognize is what they accuse their opponents of—which, of course, seldom rises to the level of truly bad action. What are typically involved are policy disagreements and contingent matters—which the left absolutizes. Only one approach—the big government one—is morally acceptable for the left. So, if one opposes those government social welfare programs with all their shortcomings and favors a different approach, you are really against helping—in fact, are outright hurting—the poor. Or, if you think Obamacare should be repealed or even changed you’ll be responsible for killing people. It seems as if evil for the left often consists in little more than disagreeing with its ideological imperatives. Further, far as evil is concerned, the left for a long time has exhibited a very selective and myopic notion of it: it only exists in the social realm and never in the personal realm.
We see the extent to which leftists’ ill will has gone with the insensitive comments by some of them after the shooting of Congressman Steve Scalise, the assistant House Republican leader, by a left-leaning gunman in Alexandria, Virginia. One Democratic party official in Nebraska suggested that Scalise deserved it (to its credit, the party removed him from his post). Others claimed that, somehow, the Republicans were responsible for what had happened. The left, by the way, has gone out of its way to dismiss the possibility that its rhetoric could have anything to do with such incidents, even while it turns its back on civil discourse on an ever-increasing number of issues, has refused to condemn the deepening intolerance—sometimes spilling out into violence—on the university campuses, and won’t even consider that the violent racial incidents of recent years could possibly have been the result of the actions of the supposed victims. While drawing a cause-and-effect relationship in a particular incident like the Alexandria shooting is always difficult, perhaps it’s time for the left to do some soul-searching. How can it claim, on one hand, that something like bullying in schools should be stopped at all costs because it hurts young people and on the other act as if ugly political rhetoric—which often descends to personal attacks—is no big deal? This reminds one of the foolish claims of liberals defending the Supreme Court’s libertarian freedom of speech decisions of the 1960s that expression, even if provocative or pornographic, has no effect on action.
This is to say nothing about the outrageous, reprehensible shenanigans and comments of the Kathy Griffins, Johnny Depps, and the New York Central Park “Julius Caesar” performers concerning assassinating President Trump. How much lower can the left sink?
It is striking how the left so readily accuses those on the conservative side—who, by the way, are in no sense the ideological monolith that liberalism has become—of somehow being responsible for the turmoil actually spawned by leftist thinking. So when homosexuals suffer physically and mentally from the sexual behavior that the left has “liberated” them to indulge in, it’s a result of “homophobia” spawned by the right. The assortment of pathologies characterizing minority communities, including family breakdown and juvenile crime, has nothing to do with things like the secularism and the Sexual Revolution long pushed by the left, but instead results from “racism” encouraged by the right. Again, we see the arrogance and gnosticism of a left unwilling to consider that its views might possibly be wrong.
In speaking about monoliths, the left goes about painting the whole conservative side of the spectrum as if it reflects the “alt-right,” which it defines loosely and whose numbers and influence are in fact much in doubt. The reality, as mentioned, is that the extreme has subsumed the mainstream on the liberal side and not the conservative. It is also curious that the long-time tendency of the left to excoriate their opponents as “fascists” really seems to apply mostly to its side of the spectrum. Suppression of non-leftist views on campus, street clashes and disruptions at public forums by activist leftist groups, use of the law for political purposes, and its general statist philosophy are all things that defined the European fascists of the past.
Most disturbing for the future of American political life is the increasing intolerance, repressiveness, and even totalitarian bent of the left. It’s vividly, again, seen on the campuses, and as with the 1960s the conditions of the university are a harbinger of the future of American life in general as the next generation takes the helm of leadership. Actually, what has already been said about the attempt of the left to demonize and suppress opposing views indicates that the danger is already with us.
I don’t want to suggest that the hands of the political right are clean when it comes to abusive behavior in the current public arena, but any serious consideration of the state of American politics shows that the big culprit is the left. As I’ve written extensively about, liberalism was decisively transformed in the 1960s and 1970s and keeps moving in an ever more extreme direction with increasingly serious implications for American politics, culture, and the constitutional order.
Stephen M. Krason’s “Neither Left nor Right, but Catholic” column appears monthly (sometimes bi-monthly) in Crisis Magazine. He is Professor of Political Science and Legal Studies and associate director of the Veritas Center for Ethics in Public Life at Franciscan University of Steubenville. He is also co-founder and president of the Society of Catholic Social Scientists. He is the author, most recently, of The Transformation of the American Democratic Republic (Transaction Publishers, 2012), and editor of three volumes: Child Abuse, Family Rights, and the Child Protective System (Scarecrow Press, 2013) and The Crisis of Religious Liberty (Rowman and Littlefield, 2014); and most recently, Challenging the Secular Culture: A Call to Christians (Franciscan University Press). His next book is Catholicism and American Political Ideologies (forthcoming this fall from Hamilton Books). He is also the author of a new novel, American Cincinnatus.