Peter Wood and the New Anger
Peter writes in the National Review Online:
I have corresponded with Peter in the past over other opinion pieces, so I couldn't help myself from writing to him again. I need to say that I like Peter, that were we geographically close I like to think we would be friends, but his vision of the world is just slightly askew. Anyway, here is what I said.
Peter, I think you just stepped in it big time. Chait is not exactly a leading light on the progressive left, and when it comes to pure vituperation, the left doesn't hold a candle to the Right Wing Noise Machine.
It's interesting to me that we keep meeting over these opinion articles of yours. You are entitled to your opinion, and I think a lot of you personally, but on this one, Peter, you're not holding the screwdriver by the handle.
You are right in this much - the progressive left IS angry. But we are also thoughtful, and much less afraid of the hordes of Muslim radicals than we are of Republican radicals. This country is in crisis, Peter, and that crisis has been precipitated by this administration's actions both at home and abroad.
Anger is not an inappropriate response - it just is. What you do with anger is what determines appropriate from inappropriate, and the 2006 elections speak to the actions of the progressive left, which actions were prompted by that anger. This country WILL change course, not because the progressive left was rude, but because it was ACTIVE, and results oriented.
The Left provided much more commodious quarters? Even recognizing that this is an opinion piece, don't you think that statement is a little over the top? Not to mention comparing Howard Dean and Ann Coulter. This Ann "We need somebody to put rat poisoning in Justice Stevens' creme brulee," Coulter said. "That's just a joke, for you in the media." Coulter? What has Dean done to deserve such a comparison? I don't think working to attain a majority in both Houses of Congress qualifies, Peter.
The strange twists a mind takes, eh, Peter?
And then there is this from you: "Perhaps this can be added to the many reasons why â€œliberaltarianismâ€ wonâ€™t work. It is an emotional mismatch. Cindy Sheehan just isnâ€™t a good mate for Sherlock Holmes."
In a way, that statement encapsulates all one needs to know about libertarians - you compared a courageous woman, one whose son was lost to Bush's war and one who campaigns tirelessly in an effort to end that war, a war that has cost hundreds of thousands of lives to no good end, with a made up man from another century, one whose only imperfection was a drug addiction.
The world is real, Peter, as is Cindy Sheehan. Sherlock is make believe, as is "libertarianism". Libertarianism is not a political philosophy, it's kool aid for the Ayn Rand true believers. That's why progressives aren't all that interested in a bastardization of liberal with libertarian. There's enough kool aid in the mix already. It's time for reality to set in.
Your view of Chait fits pretty well with that of Ramesh Ponnuru (on the NRO Corner today)â€”someone whose views and yours probably donâ€™t match very often.
I think the Right Wing Noise Machine and the Left Wing Noise Machine operate on similar decibel levels, but in somewhat different contexts.Â Neither one is particularly helpful.Â I give you this point:Â â€œThis country is in crisis, Peter, and that crisis has been precipitated by this administration's actions both at home and abroad.â€Â You and I probably agree on the crisis abroad: the war in Iraq has been a disaster.Â The crisis at home?Â The main crisis at home seems to me Â to be the extreme divisiveness that has left us unable to find sensible middle ground on dozens of issues.Â
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â What Iâ€™d say about Ann Coulter is that she is a crazy provocateur.Â I know lots of traditionalists and conservatives and have never met one who has a good word to say about her.Â She isnâ€™t, by that standard, a particular good index of what the â€œRightâ€ thinks.Â She is, however, a good representation of what the left thinks the Right thinks.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â I chose Chait precisely because he is not thought of as a â€œleading lightâ€ progressive.Â He is thought of a mainstream, fairly centrist liberal.Â His views donâ€™t represent the â€œprogressive left,â€Â but the old fogey left that the progressive left disdains.Â That someone like Chait can revel in anger tells the story a whole lot better than pointing to Atrios or Cindy Sheehan.Â
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â As to what Dean has done to merit that passing mention in my article, I give a full account in the book, but the short way to put it is that Dean opened Democratic campaigning to the New Anger style.Â He was the mainstream politician who brought vituperative anger on stage.Â You may think thatâ€™s a commendable or necessary thing; I donâ€™t.Â Will the Leftâ€™s anger really change the country?Â Maybe, but Iâ€™m skeptical.Â Anger is too destructive emotion to be much good for building anything that will last.Â
Say it isnâ€™t so!Â Sherlock Holmes is real!Â
Like I said,Â I like to think we'd be friends.