Some weeks ago, Andrew Sullivan published a lengthy collection of his blog posts dating back to the September 11 terrorist attacks. He sought to show the chain of reasoning that led him to support the Iraq War, a position that he later regretted. When the Twin Towers fell, I was living abroad in Seville, Spain. Every so often, I craved a connection to home and the events transpiring here. The early blogosphere met that need. Every few days, I’d go to an Internet cafe and spend a couple hours catching up on America via The Daily Dish and Instapundit, along with the many other bloggers linked and excerpted on those sites. It’s only in re-reading posts from those years that I fully see what’s implicit in them.
Right-leaning bloggers of the era held certain prior assumptions about the American left and its willingness to use force.
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Things are not going well for Democrats. Riding high just weeks ago after Republicans shut down the government, the party now finds itself in a swoon: President Obama’s ratings have hit an all-time low. The implementation of healthcare reform remains a mess. Vulnerable Democrats are scrambling to distance themselves from the White House, and the party is on track to lose seats in the House and Senate next year.
Parties in distress tend to fall to bickering, and today’s Democrats are no exception. On one side, liberals calling for a muscular agenda of government expansion and progressive taxation; on the other, centrists who believe restraint is necessary in both policy and politics. Progressives have been emboldened by liberal victories like that of the new mayor of New York, Bill de Blasio. Centrists fear that liberals will drive the party out of the American mainstream with their talk of income redistribution and political correctness.
In the post-Obama era and without an incumbent on the ticket, “Where does the party go?” Jon Cowan, president of the centrist think tank Third Way, asked me. “I think that is going to be an incredibly heated debate.”
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Cory Booker is not yet a senator, but many on the left have already made up their minds that the onetime Democratic wunderkind is a sellout.
The 44-year-old two-term mayor of Newark won the New Jersey Democratic primary by 39 points last week, all but guaranteeing he will take his place in Washington in a couple of months. (One recent poll had him up 16 points on his little-known Republican opponent.) Yet Booker’s triumph was greeted not by cheers but by scathing takedowns in two prominent liberal publications. Salon called him “an avatar of the wealthy elite, a camera hog, and a political cipher”; The New Republic declared Booker only interested in “agitating for the cause of himself” and doing the bidding of “the moneyed classes.” Booker has faced a steady drumbeat of criticism from sites like Daily Kos, which asserted last year that he “would actually be much more at home in the Republican Party.” Booker’s team has grown all too familiar with the rap that he is “some sort of Manchurian candidate for the right,” as his campaign spokesman, Kevin Griffis, put it to me with a sigh.
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Conservation isn’t the first word that comes to most people’s minds when they think of conservative values. That’s a shame.
President Reagan explained why in 1984. “We want to protect and conserve the land on which we live — our countryside, our rivers and mountains, our plains and meadows and forests,” he said. “This is our patrimony. This is what we leave to our children. And our great moral responsibility is to leave it to them either as we found it or better than we found it.”
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Are “family values” a taboo topic for the left? For one thing, there may be a language problem. “Family values terminology is so closely connected to the 1980s and Jerry Falwell-esque way of framing it — it’s an immediate turn-off,” said Brad Wilcox, the Director of the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia. “You should be talking about a ‘family-friendly agenda.’”
True, for those who lean to the left, the phrase “family values” tends to bring back uncomfortable memories of the Reagan era and the “Moral Majority.” But there’s a deeper issue: An important and damaging intellectual collapse in the way the public talks about politically charged topics.
When it comes to issues like gay marriage, welfare, and abortion, liberal politicians and intellectuals are vocal and often indignant. But they’re quieter about the ways that traditional “family values” are guiding their own choices. The irony is that college-educated, wealthier Americans who identify with the left are overwhelmingly raising their kids in two-parent households. This is no coincidence: Research indicates that family stability (i.e., couples who wait to have kids until they’re married and then stay married) makes a difference in income equality and social mobility.
This public/private divide raises a problem: It’s like stable marriage and community are the secret sauce of economic well-being that nobody on the left wants to admit to using. As Kay Hymowitz, a researcher at the Manhattan Institute who studies the relationship between family issues and economics, put it, “They are choosing that route in part because they know on some deep level that it is the way their children will be able to remain in the middle class.”
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From landmark victories for marijuana and same-sex marriage to picking up seats in the Senate, the left gained much more than the presidency Tuesday.
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The fact is that racism and race-baiting are depressingly common in American life, and while I’ll eagerly join in condemning folks on the left when they’re guilty of either, it’s getting downright absurd to see so many conservatives behave as if the left is where all racial problems in politics originate. Says Foster, “I do believe that there is a coalition on the Left whose material interest is in the forestalling of a ‘post-racial America,’ not its arrival.” Okay. And how about Newt Gingrich. Is his “material interest” in bringing about or forestalling a post-racial America? How about Lou Dobbs? Glenn Beck? Breitbart.com? Roger Ailes? Where do their “material interests” line up? Is it really so difficult to see how that standard cuts in both directions?
In America, as in other countries, race and power are related to one another in all sorts of complicated ways. Power corrupts, and it is exploited by partisans of the right and the left, probably not in precisely equal measure, though determining which side behaves worse is beside the point. A lot of conservatives want to use the existence of abuses on the left to justify all manner of nonsense.
The map above charts the ideological divide across America’s states. There are four states where conservatives make up more than half the population: Mississippi, Utah, Wyoming, and Alabama. Conservatives make up more than 40 percent in 20 more states. Liberals now outnumber conservatives in just one state, Massachusetts, and the District of Columbia.
The ongoing economic crisis appears to have deepened that conservative drift, which is most pronounced in its least well off, least educated, most blue collar, most economically hard-hit states. Read more.