The Frayed Ends of Sanity: the John Stewart Rally

Comedy Central's "Rally to Restore Sanity" ended without incident, and apparently without a point. What can you expect from a bunch of self-proclaimed "moderates" who don't think Obama has been liberal enough(!) and who think it is the height of moderation to feature a performance from fatwa-supporting Yusef Islam (nee' Cat Stevens), and have him appear in a comedy bit featuring Ozzy Osbourne and the O'Jay's? Ann Applebaum, for one, despairs of what this will mean for the political reputations of political moderates, especially when these moderates are meant to include the hordes bused in by Arriana Huffington, not to mention the sort of jerks who carry signs featuring Glenn Beck with a Hitler mustache:
This is how words, and then ideas, vanish from our political lexicon: Whatever connotations it once had, the word "moderate" has now come to mean "liberal" or even "left-wing" in American politics. It has been a long time since "moderate" Republicans were regarded as important, centrist assets by their party: Nowadays, they are far more likely to be regarded as closet lefties and potential traitors. "Moderate" Democrats, meanwhile, no longer exist: In their place, we have "conservative Democrats." Nobody pays attention to them either -- unless, suddenly, one of them threatens to vote against health-care reform. And then he is vilified.
She's right about political moderates, especially those in politics and the media who have either proclaimed themselves as belonging to that special breed or professed to admiring them from afar. Maybe there was a time when "moderate" meant "Gerald Ford" on the one hand and "Scoop Jackson" on the other. But moderates are fast leaving the stage and they have no one but themselves to blame. Just the fact that Applebaum approvingly cites Mike Bloomberg as a moderate should be a clue. The man is a trimmer who uses party ID as a flag of convenience and nothing more, but his meddlesomeness (no salt?) marks him out as a Big Government liberal, no matter how wealthy or sophisticated he might think he is.

But, Bloomberg is just the tip of the moderate iceberg. In the last few years, so-called moderates have been behind some of the worst moments in American politics.

There were Arlen Spector, Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins voting to pass the failed stimulus.

There were "conservative" Ben Nelson and Mary Landrieu providing the final votes for health care reform based on frank political pay-offs.

There was "pro-life Democrat" (what a cruel joke) Bart Stupak who helped pass health care reform and then promptly retired rather than face the wrath of his constituents.

There were the sour grapes GOP moderates like Bob Bennet and Mike Castle who couldn't get out of the primary and then refused to endorse their party's nominees, something they wouldn't countenance if the situation was reversed.

There was Lincoln Chaffee who remained a Republican solely to provide cheap "GOP civil war" headlines for the media.

There was Arnold Schwarzennegar who ran on a campaign to shrink government...and expanded it, passing a high speed rail boondoggle, a cap & trade bill, and enough job killing legislation to ruin his state's economy.

There was Bob Casey, another "pro-life Democrat" who voted for health care reform.

There was Lindsay Graham who spent more time defending the civil rights of terrorists than defending the American soldiers tasked with fighting them.

There was the grotesque Charle Crist who has made the most brazen grab for power in recent years. Is there any doubt that if Crist were a south of the border caudillo that he would have had the army arrest Marco Rubio months ago? The only thing worse than Charlie Crist is knowing that he is the first choice of at least 20% of Florida voters.

Then there's the moderate voters, to whom some of the worst moments in politics have been directed because strategists on both sides know it's easier to stampede moderates with Willie Horton, James Byrd, Bushhitler, and "I can see Russia from my house" rather than appeal to their supposed wisdom and pragmatism.

And never forget that TARP was passed by moderates in both parties- the chest beating "party of the common man" Dems as well as the fiscal conservative "party of free markets" - while the Left and the Right joined in rare accord against the rip-off.

But, worst of all, there was Barack Obama, who declared himself a post-partisan from "purple" America who promised to unite the country under a fluffy cloud of reasonableness and sanity...and passed the most left-wing agenda in decades over the fierce objections of a plurality, if not a majority, of the citizenry.

These are the moderates whom Applebaum despairs of losing, and whom the Steward rally was supposed to be helping to save. But the atmosphere of the rally gave the game away by showing how little you can trust someone who declares moderation uber alles as the beau ideal of American politics. This was a political rally, held the weekend before an intensely contested election...yet its organizers disclaimed any political intent. They declared themselves to be representing the missing moderate middle...yet they spent the day telling jokes. We are constantly told how John Steward is a deep thinking, scary smart analyst, beloved by the culturally crucial urban hipster demographic...yet he admonishes us that he is "just a comedian." And., of course, there's plenty of time for Glen Beck=Hitler/Sarah Palin=I'm with stupid/Christine O'Donnell=masturbating witches jokes...but somehow not enough time for jokes about the other side.

If you are confused, you are meant to be. Liberalism only survives when it can confuse people, and maintain what Thomas Lifson has called the liberal trance.
Having made the journey from liberalism to full-throated conservatism myself, I recognize the importance of this particular revelation. It is the key to opening a mind to rethinking other assumptions about politics. It breaks the trance, so to speak, which keeps many otherwise thoughtful, intelligent, caring people enmeshed in the delusions of modern American liberalism. To these liberals, membership in the cadre of caring, enlightened, public-spirited Americans defines what it means to be a good and responsible member of the civic community.

The overwhelming focus on caricaturing and demonizing conservatives as racist ignoramuses is based on a pragmatic understanding of the importance of maintaining this trance. Because liberal ideas manifestly fail when implemented, the liberal trance is the only way to maintain the allegiance of intelligent liberals to the cause. This is why academia, media, and other liberal hotbeds are so intolerant of conservatives. They fear that real and prolonged exposure to the vibrancy and humanity of modern American conservatism will bleed away the most thoughtful liberals from the cause.
Political moderation has always been derided more as a pose than a philosophy, a way to get things done and do the deal. But right now, political moderates have no place in a world where the Democratic Party has moved decisively to the Left and so many Americans have been radicalized by the assault on their liberties, much of it enabled by the moderates whom they had trusted to protect them and their Constitution.

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