Saturday, July 29, 2006

# Posted 11:45 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

ANOTHER EXCUSE FOR THE DEMOCRATIC LEFT TO HATE PETER BEINART: Yesterday, I gave Nancy Pelosi two cheers for taking the side of Israel. Yet as one of the comments on my post noted, Peter Beinart won't even give her one:
In those rare cases when George W. Bush shows genuine sensitivity to America's allies and propounds a broader, more enlightened view of the national interest, Democrats will make him pay. It's jingoism with a liberal face.

The latest example came this week when Democratic senators and House members demanded that Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki either retract his criticisms of Israel or forfeit his chance to address Congress...

Privately, some Democrats, while admitting that they haven't exactly been taking the high road, say they have no choice, that in a competition with Karl Rove, nice guys finish last. But even politically, that's probably wrong. The Democratic Party's single biggest foreign policy liability is not that Americans think Democrats are soft. It is that Americans think Democrats stand for nothing, that they have no principles beyond political expedience. And given the party's behavior over the past several months, it is not hard to understand why
It won't surprise you to know that I think Beinart has hit the nail on the head. Yet I suspect the liberal blogosphere won't be nearly as kind.
(8) opinions -- Add your opinion

I think you have to make a distinction here between the 'liberal' and the 'progressive' blogospheres.

To my mind, liberals are people of the left with a concrete agenda, one that is based on first principles and proceeds from there to make policy and analysis popints.

The progressives seem to be purely oppositional - their only principle is that some people they don't like (bourgie middle class white folks) are always wrong, and anything that makes them happy is bad. Their politics is a morality play, and their highest goal is vexation.

Pelosi, as a pure progresive, can do whatever she wants to - as long as she says bad things about the right people, what she says or why doesn't matter. Morality plays demand satisfactory endings and juicy bad guys, not logic or consistancy.

There's a lot of overlap between the groups - thus many liberals like Beinart believe in the progressive stance that American power can only be justified when it's approved of (and limited by) others.

But there will be times when a more purely liberal side of Beinart will show through, as mentioned in this post. He'll catch flak from the progresso-sphere, while the libro-sphere (such as is left of it) will be silent.

The problem, as I see it, is that the libreals have run out of wind - with the (purely conceptual) decline of big government, they have nothing to advocate for except greyish Euro-style statism, so they are listless, waiting for an exciting new set of first principlas to get excitied about.

The progressives are all heat and fury, but have nothing to offer except enmity and anger. So they get all the attention, and cow the liberals into silence.

How can you tell a liberal from a progressive? If you disagree with a liberal they will try to educate you to their way of thinking. If you disagree with a progressive they'll tell you what a bad person you are, and how you don't really deserve to hold an opinion in the first place.
Anonymous' account of the difference between liberals and progressives is right on the mark.

Among publications The Nation is the flagship progressive publication, while The New Republic is home base for the liberals.

During the Cold War liberals were anti-Communist, while progressives tended to be anti-anti-Communist.

Liberals generally support Israel, while progressives are big fans of the Palestinian "resistance".

Is the Howard Dean-Hillary Clinton battle for control of the Democratic Party a struggle between the two camps?
I don't believe there is a simple, straightforward way to define or use the terms "liberal" and "progressive" because, right now, the entire American left is searching for (or fighting over) their definition.

I think the best any author can do is have them make sense in context.
"I don't believe there is a simple, straightforward way to define or use the terms "liberal" and "progressive""

I disagree - the liberal vs. progressive split on the left is tracable back to the immediate post-war period, when progressives coalesced around Henry Wallace to oppose the Marshall Plan, democracy for E. Europe, and so on, while the liberals founded the ADA to support limited assertion of American power for containment. That's broadly the same situation as today.

[Korea later split the progressives becasue it was UN approved].

30 years ago your statement would have made sense - there were still actively contending ideologies of the left fighting it out. Hitchens is one of the better preserved fossils of that era.

But the entire left is, for all practical purposes non-ideological today, and so the old progressive vs liberal split has returned to the fore.

Progressives were never about ideology but were instead the aforementioned morality play - they can continue on quite nicely with no cnetral ideology because they are about what they are against, without having anything in particular to be for. Finding fault and casting blame are easy. Pardon my language, but anyone can be a bitch.

Liberals (at least the elite ones that dominate debate) have a curious trait - they need a lot of reinforcement. Lacking a shared ideology, they require a constant stream of journal articles, symposia, and editorials advocating a position. Without the high-school cliqueness to keep them in line they tend to get all wobbly and revert to neo-progressivism, i.e. bitching.

The disagreement on the left that you describe is the natural friction between the progressives (who know who they are against) and the liberals (who can't decide what they should be for).
I don't think there is any meaningful distinction between "liberal" and "progressive." I am a believer in "liberalism" or "progressivism" and I don't see any real difference between the two. The reason liberals use the word "progressive" is that conservatives have made "liberal" into a dirty word. I don't think modern day "progressives" are any closer to Henry Wallace than they are to Teddy Roosevelt - both of whom called themselves progressives.

Anyway, I happen to think Beinart was exactly right on this point. I think Israel deserves loads of criticism - not because it is "wrong" but because it is acting stupidly and impetuously. That was my beef with the neo-cons too. Some are amoral hypocrites, but most are just naive fools who don't understand the limits of American firepower. For liberal Democrats to castigate Maliki for criticizing Israel is to shadow some of the most idiotic elements of neo-conservatism - and for nothing.
What's so 'progressive' about Progressives? Wouldn't a more apt label be Regressives? What was the last forward-thinking idea offered by the so-called Progressives?
Liberal, Progressive, whatever. The Left should stop playing name games and just call themselves what they are--Socialists.
The problem with Beinart is 2 fold. First, he continuously tells the democrats they have a problem without actually - you know - providing leadership on the solution. He really is just a professional complainer.

The second problem (far worse, imho) is that he pretty much is the stereotype of the reason why people don't believe that the democrats stand for anything. What he does is tells everyone democrats need to take stand X, Y and Z to get elected. So, right off the bat, what you're basically telling people is that you're only taking these stands to be elected.

And quite frankly, it's really hard to see how the democrat's actions weakened them. It's been a consistent point of the anti-war left that what is going on in Iraq is a predictable consequence of having no strategy beyond the initial battle, combined with a complete implosion of any justification of the action in the first place.

I seem to remember y'all piling on Dean when he said that capturing Saddam didn't make us any safer - a point which is not just conventional wisdom now, but actually the belief of the bulk of polled Americans.

Considering that the right is floundering in the 30's with GW's approval, and that the right's congressional approval is almost subterranean, I think that it's probably unwise of y'all to be whistling past the grave yard.

But hey. Have a love fest with Peter and ignoring the frickin' obvious...
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