The Left’s Lesson In “Civility”
The Left’s ham-fisted attempt to blame the Right for the Tucson shootings is backfiring. Americans are not buying it.
* In a Rasmussen survey, 58 percent of adult Americans say the shooting was not “the result of political anger in the country.”
*In a CBS News poll, 57 percent of respondents say a “harsh political tone” had nothing to do with the shootings.
* In a Washington Post/ABC News poll, 54 percent of Americans say that negative political discourse “did not contribute to the Arizona shootings.”
* In a survey by Vision Critical & Angus Read, 51 percent say the tragedy was not “the result of the current negative tone of politics in America.”
* In a USA Today/Gallup poll, 53 percent say that commentators who blame “conservative rhetoric” are just using the tragedy “to make conservatives look bad.”
Score a big point for American common sense. It seems that We the People are savvy enough to recognize that liberals’ hand-wringing over “incivility” has nothing to do with violent metaphors, and everything to do with exploiting a tragedy for ideological gain.
Surprisingly, some liberals are coming clean and admitting that their real concern is ideology.
Jacob Weisberg in Slate says “the far right’s culpability” is not the use of violent rhetoric. Instead conservatives’ “dangerous idea” is that the federal government lacks jurisdiction in areas like “health care reform.”
That is, the real issue is disagreement with ObamaCare: “It is this, rather than violent rhetoric per se, that is the most dangerous aspect of right-wing extremism.”
Similarly, Joanna Weiss at the Boston Globe says all “this pacifist talk” is “completely meaningless. . . . The real problem with today’s political discourse is not the language of violence but language of insurrection.”
Insurrection? Disagreement with Obama’s policies equals treason? For Weiss, the supreme example of “insurrection” is, once again, opposition to ObamaCare.
For liberals, the true villains are those who disagree with Obama’s socialized medicine. The goal is not the cultivation of good manners but submission to the liberal agenda.
In The Captive Mind, the Polish poet Czeslaw Milosz exposes the invasive nature of ideology. In earlier times, he notes, most ideas took the form of tacit, taken-for-granted assumptions filtering down organically in the customs and traditions of family, church, ethnic group, and way of life. Most people paid little attention to formal political philosophy.
It was only in the middle of the twentieth century that Westerners discovered “that their fate could be influenced directly by intricate and abstruse books of philosophy.” For the first time, “their bread, their work, their private lives” began to be controlled by political ideology.
Milosz is describing the impact of Marxism in Eastern Europe, but his insight applies just as well to the Marxist knock-offs popular on the American Left today. Liberal ideology calls for a steady expansion of government power until inevitably our bread, our work, and our private lives will be controlled by an alien statist ideology.
This explains why liberals are determined not to “waste” a crisis, in Rahm Emanuel’s infamous phrase. They rush to turn every crisis into an opportunity to advance their political ideology—even a tragedy that leaves people dead or maimed, and families grieving.
That is true incivility.
Americans have grown impatient with the relentless politicizing of every area of life. Even New York Times columnist Charles Blow recently scolded his fellow liberals for launching a “witch hunt” against conservatives without any evidence linking the shootings to the tea parties, Sarah Palin, or talk shows.
The conservative vision of limited government, embodied in the Constitution and Bill of Rights, calls for protecting a sphere that is free from statist intervention. For when non-state social structures—family, church, business, voluntary associations—are robust and independent, they provide a balance of power to the state’s overweening ambitions.
The genius of the American Founders was to create an intricate system of balanced powers both within the state and between state and society—a system that has fostered unprecedented political, social, and intellectual freedom.
When Americans disagree with policies that threaten that unique system, they are not “dangerous” figures fomenting “insurrection.” Character attacks on groups are often a prelude to outlawing and suppressing their ideas.
The Left’s lessons in civility should be understood as ideological warfare by other means.
According to the polls, most Americans do understand that. And that is good news in the ongoing defense of freedom.