Thursday, January 15, 2009

Secular Progressivism in Comparative Perspective

Peter Berkowitz offers a useful analysis of secular progressive ideology in his new essay, "The European Left and Ours." It's an important discussion, especially since hardline American leftists routinely offer the European socialist states as models for the progressive revolution they advance in the American state and society:

The election of Barack Obama as president of the United States marks a dramatic victory for the progressive left in America and a resounding repudiation of George W. Bush’s presidency and the Republican-controlled Congress with which he governed for six years. Obama’s election also represents an historic moment for the United States.

Many have been celebrating throughout the nation, and for good reason, because America, by electing a black man to the highest office in the land, has taken another impressive stride to overcome the last, lingering legacies of slavery and Jim Crow. To be sure, it would have been better if more progressives had bothered to notice, let alone take pride in, how far their country had come when George W. Bush — white, southern, and conservative — named in his first term Colin Powell secretary of state and Condoleezza Rice national security advisor, and in his second term elevated Rice to secretary of state. But the stirring fact remains that Obama’s triumph crowns a half century of steady progress in fulfilling the Declaration of Independence’s grand promise of freedom and equality for all, and in realizing the Constitution’s aspiration to build a more perfect union through representative government. At the same time, Obama’s election reaffirms the reality, frequently denied or derided by progressive anti-American sentiment at home and abroad, that the United States is a land of golden opportunity.

But winning elections is one thing. Governing is another. One reason for apprehension about whether Obama and the congressional Democrats are prepared for the enormous power they will exercise is structural ....

The structural temptation for Obama and his party to take their principles to an extreme is especially worrisome given the propensity for extreme positions and principles that the left of late has shown ....

Perhaps encouragements to moderation will come from other quarters. With President Bush’s departure from the White House, Bush hatred, along with its many ugly symptoms, may subside. The constraints of office and the realities brought home by daily intelligence briefings on America’s enemies may effectively counsel caution and sobriety. And the centrist Democratic candidates who decisively contributed to victory in the 2006 congressional elections and who, with election 2008, now represent a conservative bloc within the Democratic Party, may exercise a restraining influence on the Obama administration.

Unfortunately, the likelihood is small that Obama will receive encouragement from the intellectual class to reach out to the elected representatives of the 46 percent of the country who, on November 4, voted for John McCain and Sarah Palin. Dominated by left-of-center partisans, the mainstream media in Election 2008 frequently abandoned its traditional watchdog function, ignoring, deflecting, or suppressing even reasonable criticism of Obama and his running mate, Joe Biden, while pursuing and amplifying even trivial criticisms of McCain and Palin. Meanwhile, colleges and universities, also dominated by left-of-center partisans, remain bastions of intellectual conformism, stigmatizing, where they can’t formally punish, speech and speakers that depart from campus orthodoxy.

The left, though, displays other worrying signs beyond the media’s failure to objectively report the news and our universities’ failure to promote vigorous exploration of all sides of the moral and political challenges the nation confronts. Unfortunately, it is not rare these days for progressives to indulge in a mocking disdain for traditional religious faith and to blithely regard fellow citizens who hold opposing views about abortion, embryonic stem cell research, and same-sex marriage as ignoramuses unfit for civilized discourse. In addition, the left has shown an unwillingness to examine responsibly the tradeoffs between security and liberty the nation has made and will have to continue to make in the struggle against Islamic extremism and mega-terror. It has been all too ready to join forces with the vilifiers of Israel, as demonstrated by its enthusiasm for Stephen Walt’s and John Mearsheimer’s fact-challenged and poorly argued claims, according to which for decades “the Israel Lobby” has dictated American foreign policy in the Middle East while Cold War containment of the Soviet Union and maintenance of the flow of oil from the Persian Gulf, apparently, had little or no impact on America’s conduct in the region. And it is disposed not merely to criticize the U.S. when the country is in the wrong, but to see the country as in the wrong grossly and constantly, and, from Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo Bay abroad to race relations and immigration reform at home, it exhibits a penchant for enthusiastically trumpeting the most sensational accusations against America.
There's more at the link.


Gayle said...

Berkowitz has it right, Donald, and this is all the result of having a liberal Media and liberal teachers in charge of our public schools and colleges. If we don't turn that around it's only going to get worse.

Obama's victory at winning the Presidential Election should show America and the rest of the world that America is no longer a racist country at least. But will it? Will Black leaders quit playing the race card? I don't think so. Even with a Black man holding the most important position in the world I think that many will still play the race card because there's something that some people love about playing the victim.

What will Obama do? As Berkowitz says, just because he won the election doesn't means he can govern. These are certainly scary times, aren't they?

Anonymous said...

Donald: You could have written this, only the language is tempered, and there are fewer 50-cent words bandied about.

The evil liberal bias rears its ugly head once more! Just like it did in the run up to the war in Iraq.

Is there no other news today?

Righty64 said...

What struck me is where Mr. Berkowitz writes about the left not having to reach out to the 46% that did not vote for President-elect Obama and or the Democrats. Yet, all we ever read and or watch is that REPUBLICANS always have to reach out to Democrats and bring them along. Yet, when there is a "bipartisan" effort it is usually a Republican essentially agreeing with the Democrat and carrying water for them. And, this is why we miss the leadership of Ronald Reagan. HE led the debate. HE brought Democrats along to HIS way of thinking. Does anyone remember that the "hated" former Sen. Phil Gramm was a DEMOCRAT? It will be a long two, yes two, years. 2010 will be a good year for the GOP. If they are willing to lead.

JBW said...

So let me get this straight: Obama hasn't even been sworn in as president yet his election means we've eradicated racism in America? And apparently racism wasn't the ugliness of prejudice and discrimination myself and everyone else thought it was but rather just a bunch of black leaders playing the race card. So what you're saying Gayle, is that as soon as black people quit bitching about racism in America it will go away. Brilliant.

But my favorite part of your comment was the lament that black people will still claim victim-hood and complain about racism right after you whine about the persecution you and society endure under the heel of the dreaded liberal media and the brain-washing liberal teachers. Victims, indeed.

Oh, and good luck in 2010; you always have that to look forward to. I'm very curious to see how that works out for you.

Joe "Truth 101" Kelly said...

Reagan reached out because it was necessary. WE had a wise and strong House Speaker in Tip ONeal.

But as usual, The Professor and his right wing cronies blame stuff on bogeymen that live only in their imaginations. The "liberal media" and "secular progressives."

The Vegas Art Guy said...

Truth that is very funny. Maybe you should go read "The Reagan Diaries" you might find it educational.

JBW, since in 40 years we went from assassinating Dr. King to electing Obama, white racism against blacks should no longer be a major issue. The sad truth is though that the race card will still get played even though the 'man' is black.

Nobody is saying that bigotry is gone, but it's fair to say that the Jim Crow era is over and has been over for quite some time.

Tom the Redhunter said...

JBW wrote (in his usual foul style) "So what you're saying Gayle, is that as soon as black people quit bitching about racism in America it will go away."

er, no. Yes there is still racism in this country, much or most of it coming from the black side, nowadays. See the Reverends Wright and Sharpton.

Gayle is right; black leaders cry racism because it's their hold on power. And too many blacks seen power in victimhood themselves. It's also a nice way to get federal funding, not to mention sympathy from guilt-ridden whites like you.

Van Zan said...


You say "black leaders cry racism because it's their hold on power"

Really? Very interesting sentence.

So why do you believe that? Surely... they gain advancement by merit, hard work and dedication, like other public figures. Yes? And they are afforded the same opportunity as everyone else and therefore have no need to "cry racism". Yes?

Or... are you saying they don't do and have these things, and therefore cry racism?