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Thread: Food for thought, as re: Liberalism in America

  1. #1
    j2k4's Avatar en(un)lightened
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    I found this column of Joseph Sobran's an apt summation and critique of the continuing Liberal exemplar-Michael Kinsley is a very highly-regarded strategist/pundit/spokesman for liberal ideas and ideals here in America, but in a piece quoted (and parsed) here by Mr. Sobran, he suffers what must be considered (especially for him) an egregious lapse of logic.

    I do not offer this in order to confront Liberals, but in a sincere (at least, as sincerely as my fellow members perceive me to be, when discussing liberals and their statements ) effort to assay whether I can secure agreement from their quarter about the flaws in Kinsley's statement, at least as far as Mr. Sobran has pointed out?

    I'm interested in what y'all think...



    More Progress, Anyone?


    December 14, 2004

    My favorite liberal writer, Michael Kinsley, has made another of the witty arguments that always make me look forward to his columns. Only this time I don’t think his reasoning leads us where he wants it to. He has unwittingly exposed liberalism’s mortal weakness.

    Kinsley recalls that in 1989, The New Republic, of which he was then editor, ran a cover article titled “The Conservative Case for Gay Marriage,” by Andrew Sullivan. [Andrew Sullivan’s article can be read at www.andrewsullivan.com/homosexuality.php under the title “Here Comes the Groom.” — website ed.] It was intended less as a serious proposal than as a “thought experiment” to provoke reflection. “Gay marriage itself,” says Kinsley, “seemed so far-out and unlikely to happen that whether you were actually for it was beside the point.”

    Since then, however, “gay marriage” has become a serious possibility. “Take a moment to consider how amazing this is,” Kinsley writes. “Just 15 years after that New Republic essay, marriage is the defining goal of the gay rights movement.... Gay marriage is on the verge of joining abortion rights on the very short list of litmus tests that any Democratic candidate for national office must support.” And today, “even the most homophobic religious-right demagogue feels obliged to spout — and may well actually believe — bromides about God’s love of gay people.”

    Furthermore, “Today’s near-universal and minimally respectable attitude — the rock-bottom, nonnegotiable price of admission to polite society and the political debate — is an acceptance of gay people and of open, unapologetic homosexuality as part of American life that would have shocked, if not offended, great liberals of a few decades ago such as Hubert Humphrey....

    “This development is not just amazing, it is inspiring.... It took African American civil rights a century and feminism a half-century to travel the distance gay rights have moved in a decade and a half.”

    Then the kicker: “This is also scary, of course, because there is no reason to think that gay rights are the end of the line. And it’s even scarier because these are all revolutions of perception as well as politics. This means that all of us who consider ourselves good-hearted, well-meaning, empathetic Americans — but don’t claim to be great visionaries — are probably staring right now at an injustice that will soon seem obvious — and we just don’t see it. Somewhere in this country a gay black woman, grateful beneficiary of past and present perceptual transformations, has said something today in all innocence that will strike her just a few years from now as unbelievably callous, cruel, and wrong.”

    Wow! It’s one thing to celebrate the familiar liberal fads of the past and present, which we can evaluate separately on their merits. It’s another thing to prostrate ourselves before the liberal fads of the future, before we even know what they are. Yet this is just what Kinsley is urging on us. He’s not appealing to any stable standard of right and wrong, just to unspecified “revolutions of perception” and “perceptual transformations.”

    And what will these be? That’s anyone’s guess. A less fancy name for them is “political correctness,” the wind whereof bloweth where it listeth, but always in the general direction of more sexual license backed by a more powerful secularist state.

    These “revolutions of perception” will seem a lot less random, mysterious, and unpredictable to Christians than they will to liberals like Kinsley, who assumes they are predestined. They’ll surely include, for example, more tolerance for pedophiles. (Why shouldn’t they enjoy the same rights as the rest of us? Iron logic.) And most of these revelations won’t be legislated; they’ll be brought down from Sinai by the judiciary.

    Kinsley is offering a sort of mystical liberalism that he thinks transcends politics, when it actually depends on the kind of arbitrary power the courts have been allowed to exercise for nearly three generations. There are signs that this is finally changing, and that liberals won’t be able to enjoy that kind and degree of rule by judicial fiat much longer.

    Liberalism’s fatal flaw, as Kinsley’s argument shows, is that it has no permanent norms, only a succession of enthusiasms espoused by minor prophets. Each of these seems like a hot new idea to liberals, but soon goes to irksome and destructive extremes.

    Liberalism has no vision of a final, settled social order; it’s always waiting for the next “revolution of perception” to overturn everything. What’s “progressive” today may be embarrassingly “reactionary” tomorrow. Kinsley may find this kaleidoscopic idea of endless and indefinable progress inspiring; the rest of us may find it merely exhausting.

    Joseph Sobran
    “Think about how stupid the average person is, and then realize that half of 'em are stupider than that.” -George Carlin

  2. The Drawing Room   -   #2
    Biggles's Avatar Looking for loopholes
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    Was not something similar espoused by Mr Rumsfeld?

    "We know somethings we know we don't know but there are other things that we don't know we don't know" etc., etc., (in best Yule Bryner fashion).

    I too find overly enthusiastic poltical correctness tiresome and humourless. Nevertheless, societal norms do change and where once one would have barely turned a hair to, for example, a word like nigger, if used now it creates one of those "hear a pin drop" moments that lets the speaker know he/she has just committed a major faux pax.

    There is a sensation that this continual change is like a fairground ride we would like to get off. Although change is constantly pushed as a workplace norm, healthy and all that, I recently discussed the matter with an extremely earnest and eager type (military of course ) and pointed out that change by definition implies variability - our change is invariably bad. I am, however, neatly pigeon-holed as cranky so we all rub along ok.

    However, Romans wrote complaining about the very selfsame thing. There has never been a time when things stood still. That, I believe if you will, is the inherent weakness of conservatism - it has never really existed. It is, rather, merely an imaginery brake to try and slow the other stuff down and retain some sort of order - especially for those with a vested interest in the status quo. However, it is remarkable how those vested interests jump ship when the time is right and re-invent themselves in whatever the new is.
    Cogito cogito ergo cogito sum


  3. The Drawing Room   -   #3
    j2k4's Avatar en(un)lightened
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    Ooooooooh.

    That last paragraph is especially provocative (wasn't it? ), but nevermind that, for now.

    How do you feel about the judicial activism, Big Les?

    Do you believe we should always (and blindly) defer to "experts" and "elites", or should the common man have his plebiscite, as was originally intended (indeed, guaranteed) in our Constitution?
    “Think about how stupid the average person is, and then realize that half of 'em are stupider than that.” -George Carlin

  4. The Drawing Room   -   #4
    Rat Faced's Avatar Broken
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    The thing about the constitution is that it is ammended as and when Washington wish it to be. Unless your willing to get rid of all the ammendments, then you dont have anything that was "as intended to be"...

    An It Harm None, Do What You Will

  5. The Drawing Room   -   #5
    Arm's Avatar Poster
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    Wow, such deep, dense writing Joseph Sobran. The words of a true pseudo-intellectual. Heavy use of big words and dense writing that makes no sense. Nice. Though I have heard/read worse.
    Last edited by Arm; 12-30-2004 at 11:14 AM.

  6. The Drawing Room   -   #6
    clocker's Avatar Shovel Ready
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    Liberalism’s fatal flaw, as Kinsley’s argument shows, is that it has no permanent norms, only a succession of enthusiasms espoused by minor prophets. Each of these seems like a hot new idea to liberals, but soon goes to irksome and destructive extremes.
    And why could this statement not apply equally as well to the current crop of "conservative" Republicans?
    I'm sure that Bush's approach to the budget and finance would mystify many of his (presumed) ideological predecessors.
    "I am the one who knocks."- Heisenberg

  7. The Drawing Room   -   #7
    Biggles's Avatar Looking for loopholes
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    Quote Originally Posted by j2k4
    Ooooooooh.

    That last paragraph is especially provocative (wasn't it? ), but nevermind that, for now.

    How do you feel about the judicial activism, Big Les?

    Do you believe we should always (and blindly) defer to "experts" and "elites", or should the common man have his plebiscite, as was originally intended (indeed, guaranteed) in our Constitution?


    I thought I would throw a stone at the hive to see what was buzzing.

    I am not entirely sure I fully understand the role of the US judiciary. It appears, on face value at least, to be more politicised than the European model. However, it would be fair to say that some of our judges are so detached from politics, current affairs, or even reality, as to be virtually alien. (In some cases this may be an advantage though )

    J'Pol seems to have better grip on the legal side of things and no doubt he may mention in passing if I am wrong but I don't think our judiciary participate in the same kind of activism as described in the piece. I am undecided whether this is good or bad - although on the whole I think it is probably good.
    Cogito cogito ergo cogito sum


  8. The Drawing Room   -   #8
    j2k4's Avatar en(un)lightened
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    A government then, '...of the Courts, by the Courts, and for the Courts...'?




    Arm-have you anything to contribute?

    OMFG-who am I kidding?

    Can't believe I actually asked that question....hmmmm-the EDIT function seems to be on the fritz.....oh, well.
    “Think about how stupid the average person is, and then realize that half of 'em are stupider than that.” -George Carlin

  9. The Drawing Room   -   #9
    j2k4's Avatar en(un)lightened
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    Quote Originally Posted by clocker
    And why could this statement not apply equally as well to the current crop of "conservative" Republicans?
    I'm sure that Bush's approach to the budget and finance would mystify many of his (presumed) ideological predecessors.
    I don't think the supposition was meant to apply to any economic aspect, but you could ask Mr. Sobran himself, as his website is awfully accomodating that way.
    “Think about how stupid the average person is, and then realize that half of 'em are stupider than that.” -George Carlin

  10. The Drawing Room   -   #10
    vidcc's Avatar there is no god
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    finally got a chance to read this.


    Oh hum


    He has unwittingly exposed liberalism’s mortal weakness.
    yawn

    Liberalism’s fatal flaw, as Kinsley’s argument shows, is that it has no permanent norms, only a succession of enthusiasms espoused by minor prophets. Each of these seems like a hot new idea to liberals, but soon goes to irksome and destructive extremes.
    take out the example clocker used so as to not give you a specific and it is true that this could just as well fit any conservative mindset

    Liberalism has no vision of a final, settled social order; it’s always waiting for the next “revolution of perception” to overturn everything. What’s “progressive” today may be embarrassingly “reactionary” tomorrow. Kinsley may find this kaleidoscopic idea of endless and indefinable progress inspiring; the rest of us may find it merely exhausting.
    i don't want a "final settled social order"....surely that would mean the end of progress....or is that just what conservatives want?





    These “revolutions of perception” will seem a lot less random, mysterious, and unpredictable to Christians than they will to liberals like Kinsley, who assumes they are predestined. They’ll surely include, for example, more tolerance for pedophiles. (Why shouldn’t they enjoy the same rights as the rest of us? Iron logic.) And most of these revelations won’t be legislated; they’ll be brought down from Sinai by the judiciary.
    just this part where the usual tactic (yawn) of lumping homosexuals with pedophiles as a demonising scare tactic makes me wonder if mr sobran is worthy of any consideration as a rational thinker.
    Liberals are not after equal rights for pedophiles, no matter how hard it has been suggested they will be.

    To the general subject of the article...homosexual equal rights will happen....just as freedom from slavery and womens rights happened. this will not go away. Justice may be slow coming but no amount of conservative prejudice can prevent it.

    it’s an election with no Democrats, in one of the whitest states in the union, where rich candidates pay $35 for your votes. Or, as Republicans call it, their vision for the future.

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