December 2, 2004

How to Save Liberalism and America

Peter Beinart’s latest article in The New Republic has already made the rounds in the blogosphere. I probably don’t need to link to it. I’m going to anyway, though, because there is one point he makes, his very first point, that isn’t getting enough attention.

First, however, a letter to Andrew Sullivan:
Beinart is almost completely right, and I do think part of the problem this election year was John Kerry personally, which is another way of saying that as de facto leader of the Democratic Party he was unwilling to use the words “Iraq” and “democracy” or “Arab” and “democracy” in the same sentence, and tell the peacenik wing of the party to sit down and shut up. But I'm just plain sick and tired of trying to convince other liberals that America is now engaged in a multi-decade struggle against Islamo-fascism, and that this struggle will be the central organizing principle in American politics for years to come. Sadly, the central post-election narrative that “values” rather national security cost Democrats this election, combined with ridiculous and childish allegations of massive voter fraud in Ohio, has allowed Democrats the luxury of avoiding and denying what ails them.

But whatever.

If liberals are determined to play the role of Taft Republicans during the 1930s and 1940s, denying the threat posed by European fascism and Japanese nationalism, obsessing about freedoms lost at home during wartime, and as such remaining in the political wilderness for most of the next three decades, who am I to stop them? In fact as far as I can tell Democrats would rather watch the New Deal and Great Society pissed down the drain, and a hard right Supreme Court roll back the 1960s, than stepping up to the plate and committing themselves to the realization of liberty and democracy in the Muslim world. The peaceniks were allowed to destroy the party once before in the late 60s and early 70s. Will they be allowed to do it again? So far it looks like the answer is yes.” [Emphasis added by me.]
Now let’s take a look at the Beinart column. Here’s his first paragraph:
On January 4, 1947, 130 men and women met at Washington's Willard Hotel to save American liberalism. A few months earlier, in articles in The New Republic and elsewhere, the columnists Joseph and Stewart Alsop had warned that “the liberal movement is now engaged in sowing the seeds of its own destruction.” Liberals, they argued, “consistently avoided the great political reality of the present: the Soviet challenge to the West.” Unless that changed, “In the spasm of terror which will seize this country … it is the right—the very extreme right—which is most likely to gain victory.”
Exactly. The liberals pulled it together in 1947 and faced down Communism. If they had not McCarthyism would surely have ruled over the nation much more ferociously than it did. (Communists would have been dealt with harshly in any case.)

So here’s my advice to American liberals: If you want to win elections against the Republicans, strike the Islamists. Kill two birds with one proverbial stone. What could be easier? The Islamists are your real enemy anyway. They are far and away the most illiberal people on Earth.

But as long as the Terror War rages, if you keep lashing out at Republicans they will continue to beat you. In a time of war, your enemy is not the larger half of your country.

Do you want a liberal hawk in the White House? Or a conservative hawk? Decide.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at December 2, 2004 10:59 PM
Winner, The 2007 Weblog Awards, Best Middle East or Africa Blog

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Essays

Terror and Liberalism
Paul Berman, The American Prospect

The Men Who Would Be Orwell
Ron Rosenbaum, The New York Observer

Looking the World in the Eye
Robert D. Kaplan, The Atlantic Monthly

In the Eigth Circle of Thieves
E.L. Doctorow, The Nation

Against Rationalization
Christopher Hitchens, The Nation

The Wall
Yossi Klein Halevi, The New Republic

Jihad Versus McWorld
Benjamin Barber, The Atlantic Monthly

The Sunshine Warrior
Bill Keller, The New York Times Magazine

Power and Weakness
Robert Kagan, Policy Review

The Coming Anarchy
Robert D. Kaplan, The Atlantic Monthly

England Your England
George Orwell, The Lion and the Unicorn