Right-Wing Sleight of Hand

Written by Andrey Slivka on . Posted in Breaking News, Posts.

Meanwhile, Patrick Buchanan–a
borderline Hitler apologist, etc.–chose as his runningmate a black woman
from Los Angeles named Ezola Foster, a former teacher.

In a more reasonable world
these facts would have some effect on our political discourse, and opinion makers–like
even the most stubborn Ptolemaians confronted by Copernicus–would adjust
their cosmologies accordingly. Seeing Buchanan embrace a black woman, commentators
might allow that the Buchanan movement doesn’t merely express that
rotten impulse that, every good New Yorker is aware, undergirds Middle America.
It might also express the understandable, if crudely expressed, insecurity of
that multiracial–not, evidently, just white–working class, whom liberals
began to ignore a generation ago.

Conversely, watching Gore
fetishize a religioso might prompt observers to allow that the Vice President
isn’t quite the force for progressive virtue that The New York Times,
with increasing desperation, labors to convince us he is. Meditation upon these
facts might help well-heeled liberals–as always, a stumbling block on the
road to a meaningful politics–shed the delusion that the political landscape
can be defined by Democratic virtue on the one hand and Republican evil on the

What’s eternally amazing,
though, is how liberals’ attitudes seem impervious to the energies of the
real world. For those of us who support Ralph Nader, and who distrust Clintonite
“liberals” as much as we do conservatives, this is frustrating. After
eight years of the Clintonites’ presiding over a conservative retrenchment
that no Republican could have gotten away with–complete with eroded civil
liberties, an intensified Drug War, great military violence–it’s still
somehow possible for Gore to maintain his credibility as an alternative to George
W. Bush. He maintains it, unfortunately, to Nader’s occlusion.

Someday a student of ideology
will write a book explaining how the Clintonites managed, in the face of all
reason, to monopolize political virtue, despite the corruption, the violence,
the authoritarianism, the sheer brutal conservatism of their reign. One thing
is for sure, though. The book will in large measure address the self-image of
Clinton’s defining upper-class constituent–that baby boom bourgeois
bohemian whose folkways David Brooks defined in his recent book. For we’ve
entered an era in which something unprecedented has come to pass: the cultural
signifiers that define “leftism”–and evoke the political virtue
that is still associated with the word “leftism”–are identical
to the signifiers that define the upper class. True leftists–that is, those
who would militate against establishments, whatever they may be–are faced
with an Establishment that, craftily, refuses to declare itself as such. This
isn’t a question of co-optation, but rather of the ascension to power of
a certain generation and class so confident of its virtue that anything it
does, whether executing retarded men, bombing foreign civilians, slashing welfare
rolls, cheating in the stock market or committing perjury, is “progressive.”

That’s a devastatingly
effective bit of political prophylaxis–we now labor under the first “anti-Establishment”
president in American history. And it’s why the left, if it wants to be
effective, should stop worrying so much about the Patrick Buchanans of the world
and instead start militating against the so-called “left.”