There’s a great scene in Monty Python’s Life of Brian…in the colleaseum where Brian meets the insurgency group “the People’s Front of Judea”, members chide rival insurgency groups. The leader, played by John Cleese, even takes offense at being confused with “Judea’s People Front”. Nevermind that they all share the common goal of liberation from Roman rule.
I’m reminded of this scene when I read the book The Red Flag by David Priestland, which recalls the history of communist revolutions. Many of these revolutions could have succeeded easily had the various factions not got caught up in infighting; much of it generated from differences over pedantic and benign interpretations of ideology. What we got as a result was completely different than what was intended. The French Revolution could be considered a communist-like revolution with its proletariat uprising. What was supposed to be a manifestation of Enlightenment ideals instead became a bloodbath. Rather than a utopia, these regimes ushered in an era of violent and totalitarian leaderships that would scar the memory of their countries.
The United States, if memory serves me right, has never really had an “ideological” revolution. I suppose that we could consider the REVOLUTIONARY WAR as being influenced by European Enlightenment ideals, and the Civil War as a challenge to certain American practices like slavery. Now we might’ve come close a few times, but as a whole Americans aren’t too ideologically motivated.
IDEALISTIC, yes. But not ideological. Are we due? I dunno, kinda doubting it. But we do HATE each other.
I first took interest in politics while attending private school during the George W. Bush era. Understandably, my views were much different then…this was a Bible thumping Baptist school. This was also the era when neoconservativism dominated Republican politics. It was post 9/11, nearly everyone was onboard with it. President Bush infamously told the world “you’re either with us or against us” and all of congress cheered. Of course, this era was short lived. The war in Iraq was exposed for the fraud that it was and the American public quickly soured on George W. Bush and the neoconservatives . When I began to attend college in the late aughts, what drove me away from conservative politics was this “with us or against us” attitude. It was too narrow. The world wasn’t as black and white this “America and the rest of the world” view that many Republicans held. Times change of course. I once thought that such limited perspectives were under the purview of conservatives only.
“Compromise” is perhaps the most hated word in the English language. No one wants to be accused of it and out of fear, ideologues do everything they can to avoid it. FYI, I don’t condone relinquishing convictions in favor of minor gains…but the failure of popular politics is that it doesn’t understand the limits of truth. As I said earlier, it’s not black and white. Multiple truths can exist at once…and political success lies in convincing the populace that certain truths are more important than others….or that they don’t exist at all. Even asking questions that challenge ideological orthodoxy are discouraged.
One of the biggest mistakes (there were many) that neoconservativism and post-Reagan Republicans committed was the failure to criticize one another. I believe that a Reagan principle was “thou shall not talk ill of another Republican”…dubbed the “eleventh commandment”. This unfortunately carried down to the Bush administration, and by 2008 the Conservative Movement became nothing but insulated, self-congratulatory ideology that failed to keep up with the Internet age. Voters flocked to Barack Obama and his popularity caused the Right to look in the mirror and reevaluate itself (which resulted in the alt-right).
Obama caused a Reagan-like revolution himself, causing a similar insular activity on the Left. Not that it was caused directly by him, mind you. But the movement he inspired and hid behind his immense popularity created a beast similar to that of the old Conservative Movement. They may not share similar views, but the post-Obama Left walks with the same hubris that the Right held directly after Ronald Reagan….an attitude that directly contributed to my later disinterest.
And let me tell you, the Left doesn’t wear it well.
Ideological purity just isn’t cool. Reagan’s “eleventh commandment” is just bad policy, and while the Left might say that it isn’t practiced…scores of terrible articles written after Clinton’s failed campaign that blamed the electorate rather than calling out her awful organizational skills say otherwise. While I believe that opinion to be changing somewhat, it’s still embarrassing that it took nearly a year for the Democratic hardliners to admit that even though privately they would have had to of known. While we can make a sharp distinction between the Democratic Party and various factions within Leftism, Twitter outrage provides horrible “optics” for those liberals that wish to avoid this criticism. While those on the Left are willing to criticize each other, any expressed deviation against liberal outrage is only met with *GASP* more outrage! Go ask Mayim Bialik. You might’ve disagreed with her opinion, but accusing her of being the very thing that she hates is just going to far…that’s the kind of attitude that causes “enlightened” movements to turn bloody.
Ideological purity is not only undesirable, it’s also unrealistic. People just aren’t like that. And Left-leaning movements, by their nature, should strive to promote INCLUSION of opinion and not strict conformity.
As a side note, David French of the National Review today echoed this opinion in his article about Megyn Kelly (which you can read here. Just don’t read the comments). Yes, French and the National Review are conservative and I’m a socialist-leaning liberal. But you know what? I’m going to follow my own advice and mention differing opinions. Plus, French seemingly ripped a line from ME in this article by saying “neither side has a monopoly on virtue”….which sounds oddly similar to my quote “neither side has a monopoly on truth”. But whatever, I’ll let you have that one David. But to quote from the article:
Is it any wonder that so many Americans have developed what David Brooks has rightly labeled a “siege mentality”? If there’s an inch of daylight between you and your ideological friends, you may soon find yourself homeless – despised by those who value loyalty in the face of implacable foes and distrusted by enemies who also require absolute allegiance. Public figures are reduced to “one of us” or “one of them,” and honest brokers are ever-harder to find.
This is in reference to Kelly being hated by everyone, largely due to her time on Fox News. Even though she took on Trump last year for his sexist behavior, many on the Left are all too willing to dismiss her simply because they don’t like her former employer. This is something that I’ve noticed and have found odd.
Am I missing something? Did she burn down an orphanage? Sure she’s said some weird things in the past, but why all the hate?