Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Hard Left??

Another edition of what hilzoy said . . .

Hilzoy: Who Is This "Hard Left" Of Whom You Speak?

As Steve noted earlier, Andy McCarthy has gone off his meds again:

"The fact is that, as a man of the hard Left, Obama is more comfortable with a totalitarian Islamic regime than he would be with a free Iranian society. In this he is no different from his allies like the Congressional Black Caucus and Bill Ayers, who have shown themselves perfectly comfortable with Castro and Chà vez. Indeed, he is the product of a hard-Left tradition that apologized for Stalin and was more comfortable with the Soviets than the anti-Communists (and that, in Soros parlance, saw George Bush as a bigger terrorist than bin Laden).

Because of obvious divergences (inequality for women and non-Muslims, hatred of homosexuals) radical Islam and radical Leftism are commonly mistaken to be incompatible. In fact, they have much more in common than not, especially when it comes to suppression of freedom, intrusiveness in all aspects of life, notions of "social justice," and their economic programs. (...) The divergences between radical Islam and radical Leftism are much overrated -- "equal rights" and "social justice" are always more rally-cry propaganda than real goals for totalitarians, and hatred of certain groups is always a feature of their societies."

When Rich Lowry politely demurs, McCarthy doubles down:

"As between freedom and dictatorship, in principle Obama is fine with dictatorship -- we are seeing less and less freedom in our own country, and I believe Obama (who is dirigiste by nature) values stability over the rambunctiousness of a free society. He has certain values, and while he'd be delighted to have a free society arrive at them, he'd rather see them imposed if the alternative was a free society likely to shun them."

Leave aside the fact that this is completely insane. And leave aside as well the fact that this was written by Andy "detaining US citizens without charges is fine" "waterboarding someone once or twice is not torture" McCarthy. What puzzles me is this: I have spent a lot of time in places where one might suppose the Hard Left might be found. I mean, I grew up in the Kremlin on the Charles, for heaven's sake. Moreover, I know some people who are fairly far to the left. And yet I'm not sure I've ever met anyone in this country who even remotely resembles McCarthy's "Hard Left".

My guitar teacher might have -- he didn't talk politics enough for me to be sure -- but that was in the early '70s. I might have found one had I ever ventured into Revolution Books in Harvard Square, but I can't recall that I did. There's one other person I knew back in the mid '80s who might have fit the bill, though I'm not sure how much of what makes me think this wasn't just general obnoxiousness, rather than a substantive political view.

But with these possible exceptions, none of the people I have known in this country, in a long life of knowing leftists, has been "fine with dictatorship". None of them has the slightest interest in the "suppression of freedom", or "intrusiveness in all aspects of life". Like most people, they would prefer that the policies they think are best get adopted, but none of them would want to impose those policies by force if they lost the political argument.

So here's my question: have I just been hanging out in the wrong places? Are there, in fact, any substantial numbers of "Hard Leftists", as Andy McCarthy uses that term -- not just the handful of surviving Stalinists that I'm sure exist somewhere in the US, but an appreciable number of people who are "fine with dictatorship"? And if so, how did I miss them?

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