The Cult of Modern Liberalism (updated from a column written in March 2004)
Thanks to Ann Coulter's new book (Godless, The Church of Liberalism), a topic I wrote about more than two years ago is getting greater attention these days.
Many Americans, conservatives in particular, have difficulty understanding what motivates a liberal's views. No doubt, volumes could be written on the subject if the complete pathology of liberalism were researched. Here are a few thoughts on the subject.
First, let me be clear about what I mean by the term "liberal." I do not refer to classical liberalism, which in its day represented those who (1) were devoted to the principles of free men, (2) were broad-minded and tolerant of views differing from their own, and (3) were not constrained by a singular devotion to orthodox views. Classical liberals cherished the notion of free and open discussion of ideas so that each party could learn from the other and have their views shaped by exposure to other perspectives. In contrast, modern liberals fear open discussion of ideas, are characterized by their devotion to the principle that government can cure all ills, are intolerant of ideas at odds with modern “liberalthink,” and possess a narrow-minded devotion to modern liberal orthodoxy. Modern "liberals" are "illiberal" in the sense that they are politically intolerant, politically bigoted, and politically narrow-minded.
There are many causes of the shift from classical to modern liberalism. I suggest the the notion that government must be the savior of the poor is at the heart of it. In this sense, the administration of FDR did more to promote the growth of modern liberalism than any other event of the past century (though passage of the 16th amendment certainly ranks a close second).
I do not believe modern liberals are "bad" people. Constitutionally-challenged, and usually seriously misinformed, yes. But despite their intolerant political views, they are often accomplished in non-political pursuits and can be enjoyable company. Artists, teachers, actors, musicians, authors, journalists are among the many professions where modern liberals have achieved great success. Ironically, this may in part explain the paradoxical nature of modern liberals - their intellect and intelligence in non-political pursuits being in stark contrast to their abysmal understanding of politics and political issues. This is not to suggest that modern liberals do not know how to play political games - but that facet is the extent of their political capacity. It may very well be that the modern liberal's absorption in their non-political pursuits gave them little opportunity to be educated in our Constitutional Republican form of government and the rational process that must be at the heart of any successful political debate. Consequently, liberals are at the forefront of those in denial of Constitutional restraint on government and who must resort to intellectually vapid arguments in any political debate. The modern liberal is a devout believer in the orthodox liberal belief that our Constitution is a document designed to be "reinterpreted" by succeeding generations to suit contemporary whims and should not be interpreted in accordance with its original intent. While this may be convenient and appeal to the ignorant, it is far from a sound foundation upon which political views should be constructed.
So, what motivates a modern liberal to be a modern liberal? The answer is partly in their political ignorance - they are simply uneducated in civics and lack any meaningful grasp of how our Constitutional Republic must operate if it is to endure.
It is a fact that if you analyze politics of people who live in zip code areas with the highest per capita income in the nation, you will find that they are overwhelmingly liberal Democrat. This may provide another clue to what motivates modern liberalism. Many people who earn extremely high incomes have either inherited the wealth one or more generations beyond when it was earned, or have earned far beyond their sense of their own intrinsic value. The former often have no appreciation for capitalism and the risk/reward nature of economics, but they have the wealth to condemn the very source of their own wealth. The latter often feel guilty for having so much more than others when they know they really do not deserve it. Consequently, they feel comfortable with a political orthodoxy that condemns "the rich" and trumpets the notion that government should confiscate large sums from "the rich" in order to support "the poor" (after all, they can afford it!).
Another pervasive notion held by modern liberals is that life should somehow be "fair." This absurd notion takes hold of most of us when we're young children. Children see others who have more and, not appreciating how others came to have more, accept the notion that if life were "fair" nobody would have more than any other. This is both a highly materialistic and childish notion. Those who mature with age learn to distinguish between what is fair and what is right. It is right for those who earn more to possess more. It is not fair for those who do not earn more to take from those who do ... and neither is it right. But taking from "the rich" and giving to "the poor" is very much a tenet of the orthodoxy of modern liberalism. In their heart, liberals fancy themselves the modern day Robin Hood.
The more one analyzes the nature of modern liberalism, the more it takes on the appearance of a religious cult. Modern liberals may belong to a religious organization, but their true devotion is to the tenets of modern liberalism.
Modern liberalism sustains itself through dominance of a vast array of media (newspapers, radio, TV, theater, films), dominance of the teaching profession (to propagate the modern liberal orthodoxy), and a disproportionate representation in government. Their dominance in these areas has allowed their flawed orthodoxy to distort the political landscape to the extent that many modern liberals have no realization that their politics is firmly rooted in envy, guilt, and intolerance. At the heart of liberalisms success is a long-standing tradition of narrow-minded focus aided and abetted by the ability to profess as truth and reality whatever they want it to be ... as if the mere act of stating something is sufficient to make it be true! Consequently, modern liberals do not view what they do as being less than charitable with the truth. Ultimately, at the heart of modern liberalism is an astounding ability for self-delusion on a continuing basis.
If you're not a liberal - and chances are, you're not if you've read this far - have you ever tried to discuss or debate a liberal without the process degenerating into the liberal resorting to name-calling, motor-mouthing (filibustering), or their changing the subject at every opportunity instead of intellectually countering every point you make? The reason modern liberals cannot argue their position intellectually is quite simple - their positions are not intellectually sound. Modern liberalism is built on faith in an orthodoxy based on emotional appeals that can be satisfied by simply prescribing more government solutions to every problem known to mankind. This is why liberalism is often referred to as the "feel good" approach - its appeal is strictly emotional.
On the other hand, conservatives are generally well-educated in the foundations of our Constitutional Republic and in the intent and meaning of our Constitution. Unlike modern liberals, conservatives intellectualize their political pursuits - they study, analyze, debate and critically assess each issue in a constitutional context, applying logic and reasoning power to arrive at their conclusions. For this reason, conservatives are rarely successful in their attempts to persuade modern liberals through debate or discussion of political issues. Modern liberals are simply too intolerant of ideas that deviate from the tenets of their political orthodoxy to participate honestly and intelligently in any meaningful discussion with those who hold different views.
In its blind devotion to orthodoxy, its political intolerance, and its political narrow-mindedness, it is clear that modern liberalism is far more akin to a political-religious cult than is it a serious political movement. For this reason, the greatest weakness of the cult of modern liberalism is the intellectual void at its heart. Modern liberalism's inability to withstand persistent and persuasive voices of reason provide the hope that its followers will continue to dwindle to an ever smaller minority until it ceases to function as a political force.
Bob Webster, a descendant of Daniel Webster's father, Revolutionary War patriot Ebenezer Webster, has always had a strong interest in early American history, our Constitution, U.S. politics, and law. Politically he is a constitutional republican with objectivist and libertarian roots. He has faith in the ultimate triumph of truth and reason over deception and emotion. He is a strong believer in our Constitution as written and views the abandonment of constitutional restraint by the regressive Progressive movement as a great danger to our Republic. His favorite novel is Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand and believes it should be required reading for all high school students so they can appreciate the cost of tolerating the growth of unconstitutional crushingly powerful central government. He strongly believes, as our Constitution enshrines, that the interests of the individual should be held superior to the interests of the state.
A lifelong interest in meteorology and climatology spurred his strong interest in science. Bob earned his degree in Mathematics at Virginia Tech, graduating in 1964.