How Liberals Lost a Liberal

Thursday's Editorial   —   Posted on April 24, 2008

(by Dennis Prager, TownHall.com) – The Democratic Party’s preoccupation with the question of when America will leave Iraq rather than with how America will win in Iraq reminds me of how and why this nearly lifelong liberal and Democrat became identified as a conservative and Republican activist.

I have identified as liberal all my life. How could I not? I was raised a Jew in New York City, where I did graduate work in the social sciences at Columbia University. It is almost redundant to call a New York Jewish intellectual a liberal. In fact, I never voted for a Republican candidate for president until Ronald Reagan in 1980. But I have not voted for a Democrat since 1980.

What happened? Did I suddenly change my values in 1980? Or did liberalism? Obviously, one (or both) of us changed.

As I know my values, the answer is as clear as it could be — it is liberalism that has changed, not I. In a word, liberalism became leftism. Or, to put it another way — since my frame of reference is moral values — liberalism’s moral compass broke. It did so during the Vietnam War, though I could not bring myself to vote Republican until 1980. The emotional and psychological hold that the Democratic Party and the word “liberal” have on those who consider themselves liberal is stronger than the ability of most of these individuals to acknowledge just how far from liberal values contemporary liberalism and the Democratic Party have strayed.

Here are four key examples that should prompt any consistent liberal to vote Republican and oppose “progressives” and others on the left.

The issue that began the emotionally difficult task of getting this liberal to identify with conservatives and become an active Republican was Communism. I had always identified the Democratic Party and liberalism with anti-Communism. Indeed, the labor movement and the Democratic Party actually led American opposition to Communism. It was the Democrat Harry Truman, not Republicans, who made the difficult and unpopular decision to fight another war just a few years after World War II — the war against Chinese and Korean Communists. It was Democrats — John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson — who also led the war against Chinese and Vietnamese Communists.

Then Vietnam occurred, and Democrats and liberals (in academia, labor and the media) abandoned that war and abandoned millions of Asians to totalitarianism and death, defamed America’s military, became anti-war instead of anti-evil, became anti-anti-Communist instead of anti-Communist, and embraced isolationism, a doctrine I and others previously had always associated with conservatives and the Republican Party. This change was perfectly exemplified in 1972, when the Democratic presidential nominee George McGovern ran on the platform “Come home, America.”

This in turn led to the liberal embrace of the immoral doctrine of moral equivalence. As I was taught at Columbia, where I studied international relations, America was equally responsible for the Cold War, and there was little moral difference between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. They were essentially two superpowers, each looking out for its imperialist self-interest. I will never forget when the professor of my graduate seminar in advanced Communist Studies, Zbigniew Brzezinski, chided me for using the word “totalitarian” to describe the Soviet Union.

I recall, too, asking the late eminent liberal historian Arthur Schlesinger, in a public forum in Los Angeles in the late 1970s, if he would say that America was, all things considered, a better, i.e., more moral, society than Soviet society. He said he would not.

It was therefore not surprising, only depressingly reinforcing of my view of what had happened to liberals, when liberals and Democrats condemned President Ronald Reagan for describing the Soviet Union as an “evil empire.”

Identifying and confronting evil remains the Achilles’ heel of liberals, progressives and the rest of the left. It was not only Communism that post-Vietnam liberals refused to identify as evil and forcefully confront. Every major liberal newspaper in America condemned Israel’s 1981 destruction of Saddam Hussein’s nuclear reactor (in which one person — a French agent there to aid the Israeli bombers, and who therefore knowingly risked his life — was killed). As The New York Times editorialized: “Israel’s sneak attack … was an act of inexcusable and short-sighted aggression.”

Most Democrats in Congress even opposed the first Gulf War, sanctioned by the United Nations and international law, against Saddam Hussein’s Iraq and its bloody annexation of Kuwait.

And today, the liberal and Democratic world’s only concern with regard to Iraq, where America is engaged in the greatest current battle against organized evil, is how soon America can withdraw.

There were an even larger number of domestic issues that alienated this erstwhile liberal and Democrat. But nothing quite compares with liberal and progressive abandonment of the war against evil, the most important venture the human race must engage in every generation.

I can understand why a leftist would vote for the party not one of whose contenders for the presidency uttered the words “Islamic terror” in a single presidential debate. But I still cannot understand why a true liberal would.

Copyright ©2008 Salem Web Network, April 15, 2008. All Rights Reserved. Reprinted here on April 24th with permission from Townhall.com and Dennis Prager.  Visit the websites at Townhall.com and DennisPrager.townhall.com.

Questions

1.  What question asked by the Democratic Party reminds Dennis Prager of how and why he became a conservative after having identified as a liberal for many years?

2.  What is a ‘moral compass’?

3.  When did liberalism’s moral compass break, according to Dennis Prager?

4.  Re-read the four examples Mr. Prager gives for why any consistent liberal should vote Republican and oppose “progressives” (leftists) today.  He asserts that liberals no longer identify and confront evil – that they have abandoned the war against evil.  Do you think his examples from recent history prove his point?  Explain your answer.

5.  Read the following quote.  What does Mr. Boone say has served as the moral compass of the U.S. since its founding?  Should it remain so for the future?  Explain your answer.
“For most of our history as a nation, the Judeo-Christian principles that fostered and permeated our Declaration of Independence and our Constitution – our very way of life – dictated that immoral, corrupt, dishonest behavior was simply unacceptable. It was no secret that we all, fallible and failing at times, actually believed that there are unchanging standards of acceptable behavior. And, that failure to live up to those widely accepted standards would bring consequences: loss of reputation, position, compensation and possibly jail time, depending on the enormity of the breach.  America was guided by and founded upon principles from the Ten Commandments and the Sermon on the Mount, the Golden Rule and all the well-known biblical pronouncements and examples.  The Bible has served as our moral compass, not forcing behavior but pointing the way to compatible, harmonious, civilized society.” (P. Boone, 3/15/08) 

OPTIONAL:  Email your reaction to Mr. Pragers’s commentary to DennisPrager@DennisPrager.com.  Remember to name the article you are commenting on, and that you read it at StudentNewsDaily.com.  Be clear, concise and polite.