If I had five minutes alone with GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney, I’d remind him of one thing.
They hate your f*cking guts, Mitt. The left. Deeply, passionately and with extreme prejudice. They wouldn’t be upset if you got hit by a truck.
They despise you.
I would be that blunt, because I don’t think Romney appreciates just how soul-deep liberalism’s hatred for conservatives is. Romney recently expressed “disappointment” that Obama and his orcs have accused him of being a felon. Mitt has now promised to “take the gloves” off and vet the president the way Obama wasn’t four years ago.
This is all fine, but it’s dispiriting that Governor Romney needed to be reminded of the unthinking rage and reservoir of resentment that fuels modern liberalism. To anyone who has witnessed the left over the last 30 or 40 years, or who has friends or family who are liberals, the story is as familiar as it is disturbing. While liberalism has never fully shed its utopian dreams of a world without morality, organized religion or class, in the last 40 years it has added to that a layer of dictatorial narcissism: society had better damn well validate me and who I am, they say, or it will be shamed and hectored until it does.
This combination of utopianism and a desire for self-validation is new to liberalism. Until the 1960s, the non-communist left was a political and cultural force. It worked for very concrete and righteous goals: the end of Jim Crow, decent wages, the avoidance of unwise wars. This left had a limiting principle: FDR and JFK liberals like my father knew that it was not possible to achieve heaven on earth. They had fought wars and were familiar with death. Many — again, like my dad — were pro-life and anti-pornography. They wanted union workers to earn decent wages, though they were wary of unions abusing their powers. They looked at Republicans as rich guys who were kind of out of it, but not evil. They would have been the first to call Bill Maher a punk and a coward for his remarks about Sarah Palin. They were mostly virtuous men.
In the 1960s and 1970s, this changed. The New Left took over the Democratic Party, introducing elements of self-righteousness, Freudian rage and New Age utopianism. They brought the hate. Anyone alive during that time can remember how it became cool to hate Richard Nixon; indeed, expressing hatred of Nixon was often a kind of unthinking gesture one used to gain acceptance. It’s important to note that we are not talking about nihilism here, although a few nihilists were in the mix. After the cultural revolution of the ’60s and ’70s, it became a sign of virtue, not nihilism, to oppose war, question the traditional family and always assume bad faith on the part of the United States.
In other words, liberals created a brave new world of what I call “partial virtues.”
Decades before the 1960s, the genius G.K. Chesterton described this new world and its new interpretation of virtue. In his masterpiece “Orthodoxy,” Chesterton explains what happens when a culture experiences a spiritual revolution:
The modern world is not evil; in some ways the modern world is far too good. It is full of wild and wasted virtues. When a religious scheme is shattered (as Christianity was shattered at the Reformation), it is not merely the vices that are let loose. The vices are, indeed, let loose, and they wander and do damage. But the virtues are let loose also; and the virtues wander more wildly, and the virtues do more terrible damage. The modern world is full of the old Christian virtues gone mad. The virtues have gone mad because they have been isolated from each other and are wandering alone. Thus some scientists care for truth; and their truth is pitiless. Thus some humanitarians only care for pity; and their pity (I am sorry to say) is often untruthful.
This is what happened after the cultural revolution of the 1960s, and it is a cause of most of our problems today. Americans have allowed the left to gain much more control of the government and the media than any sane people should have, and it is not the anti-communist left of decades past. As a result we are left dealing with their world of lost and wandering virtues. They repealed welfare reform in the name of pity, but it is a pity that knows nothing of the truth of the dignity of work and the human person. It is a virtue to tell the truth about a politician like Sarah Palin who has sometimes displayed an uncertain grasp of the facts, but that fact is pursued without the virtue of restraint or temperance. Liberals like to tell themselves that they are great believers in justice, but their justice does not require courage, which would make them question the goodness of things like welfare and abortion.