Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Michael Barone writes, hilarity ensues

By Michael J.W. Stickings

I think it's quite hilarious that Michael Barone, never a stranger to hyperbole or outright falsehood, claims that liberals are anti-dissent:

It is an interesting phenomenon that the response of the left half of our political spectrum to criticism and argument is often to try to shut it down.

It's also hilarious that he writes this without a trace of irony.

It is true that the Democratic Party seeks loyalty. What political party doesn't? Even here, though, it is nothing like the Republican Party, which demands lockstep marching, opposes difference, and gives the boot to those who do not play along. This is the party, after all -- the GOP, that is -- that effectively turned itself into a great huge rubber stamp during the Bush years.

But take partisan politics out of it. The problem with liberals -- if it is indeed a problem, which is not clear -- is not opposition to dissent altogether but too much dissent, often so much that the liberal-progressive coalition, including in the Democratic Party (which of course also includes many not on the left at all), breaks apart over key issues, unable to get anything substantive done. The left, broadly speaking, is full of difference, that is, and never shy about publicizing it, even to the point of internal conflict. Where the right is all about power, and just wants to do things to maximize its power, the left is all about justice. The right wants to do, the left wants to do right, and to get it right. This is why there is often so much bickering on the left.

It is simply ridiculous to assert, as Barone does, that liberals seek to silence dissent. Simply, there is enormous respect for dissent, and difference, among liberals. Indeed, liberals are nothing if not tolerant. We even tolerate dissent from the right, often to our political detriment (see health-care reform, for example). The same cannot, I would argue, be said about the right, which equates dissent with treason, and which demands not just unity but conformity (see Iraq War, war on terror, national security, taxes, "values" issues like abortion, etc.)

Liberals are not "violent," and do not simply want to "shut [dissent] down." Quite the reverse.

If it's the stifling of criticism Barone wants, he need look no further than his own kind.

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