Chris Matthews makes a very good living accusing other white people of being racist. It’s a strange occupation, but as much as it pains me to admit, Chris Matthews is neither crazy nor stupid. He is wrong a lot. He is cloying and irritating. He is certainly tedious. But he is not crazy or stupid, so he cannot be entirely dismissed.
Matthews suffers from an idealized version of history in which rebellious liberals spoke truth to power and ended the Vietnam War. These same heroic souls marched with Martin Luther King. They locked arms and stared down billy clubs and riot police across the South in non-violent unity until their example taught the nation how to love. Matthews’ liberals risked their lives to close the book on segregation. They set American women free from the patriarchal shackles of the homestead. They organized against greedy corporations until they paid union workers a living wage. With open hearts and generous spirits, Matthews’ liberals have been righting wrongs for 50 years, and, by God, they’re not done yet.
To be clear, I’m not setting up a straw man. Matthews and his boomer ilk believe these things in their heart of hearts. They must. How else could they screechingly accuse the rest of us of racism, greed and selfishness with such conviction? To be an American liberal today, one begins by patting himself on the back for all of the good thoughts he has for mankind. It doesn’t matter that Joe Biden and Barack Obama give nothing to charity (or that Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan give a great deal). Joe and Barack care more.
Mythology is central and precious to the progressive left. Liberals have to believe that they are generous and high-minded and thoroughly good for two simple reasons. First, because socialism has a long and uninterrupted history of failure. From the birth of Marx to Hitler’s Germany to Stalin’s Russia, all the way to today’s rioting Greeks and the soon-to-be crumbling socialized democracies of Western Europe, the masterminds of big central government always seem to manage their countries into bloody ruins.
The second reason liberals need to believe they are better than the rest of us is to justify their seizures. Chris Matthews isn’t passing a hat around to raise money for welfare moms. He wants the government to seize the necessary funds. Liberals aren’t asking. They want to take. To justify the taking, they need to believe that they’re very good, that their cause is virtuous, and that anyone who doesn’t agree is, by definition, evil.
Liberal boomers like Chris Matthews are an odd bunch. They were kids during the sixties and most were spectators to the civil rights movement. Few were called to serve their country in Vietnam. Even fewer answered the call. Still, they like to dress themselves in the scars of wounds suffered by others. They have a reflexive need to apologize for America. Some insist that they’re patriotic, but they’re always against our wars, our foreign policy. They ridicule our Founding Fathers. They’re embarrassed of our history and culture.
In his seminal masterpiece “Orthodoxy,” G.K. Chesterton wrote that “Tradition is the democracy of the dead.” So how do the American dead vote? Our foremost tradition is independence. Faith and charity are close runners-up. Throughout our history, Americans have taken care of themselves and their neighbors, while placing their faith in God. In short, America is the least hospitable environment imaginable for modern liberals like Chris Matthews, who want the government to take care of everything and everyone.
I’ve always been mystified by liberals who harp on racism and choose to see oppression everywhere. But maybe it isn’t such a mystery. In order to achieve their political ends, liberals need to demonize their opponents and denigrate our traditions. That’s an unpleasant way to live. No wonder Chris Matthews is so cranky.
Yates Walker is a conservative activist and writer. Before becoming involved in politics, he served honorably as a paratrooper and a medic in the U.S. Army’s 82nd Airborne Division. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.