Taking into account the left’s disappearance into Democratic neoliberalism helps explain how and why so many self-proclaimed leftists or progressives — individuals, institutions, organizations, and erstwhile avatars of leftist opinion such as The Nation — came to be swept up in the extravagant rhetoric and expectations that have surrounded the campaign, election, and presidency of Barack Obama.
Obama and his campaign did not dupe or simply co-opt unsuspecting radicals. On the contrary, Obama has been clear all along that he is not a leftist. Throughout his career he has studiously distanced himself from radical politics. In his books and speeches he has frequently drawn on stereotypical images of leftist dogmatism or folly. When not engaging in rhetorically pretentious, jingoist oratory about the superiority of American political and economic institutions, he has often chided the left in gratuitous asides that seem intended mainly to reassure conservative sensibilities of his judiciousness — rather as Booker T. Washington used black chicken-stealing stereotypes to establish his bona fides with segregationist audiences. This inclination to toss off casual references to the left’s “excesses” or socialism’s “failure” has been a defining element of Brand Obama and suggests that he is a new kind of pragmatic progressive who is likely to bridge — or rise above — left and right and appeal across ideological divisions. Assertions that Obama possesses this singular ability contributed to the view that he was electable and, once elected, capable of forging a new, visionary, postpartisan consensus. — Adolph Reed, Jr., “The Long, Slow Surrender of American Liberals”
A lot of contemporary phenomena, like faith in progress, is really an attempt to evade the reality of death. In actuality, each of our lives is singular and final; there is no second chance. This is not a rehearsal. It’s the real thing. It’s very easy to escape that reality with religion, but I don’t despise that – if that’s what you need, then that’s fine. What I certainly do despise is the emergence of religious needs in people who despise religion. But not the needs themselves. — John Gray
Nabokov was a Nixon man
Camatte: The Wandering of Humanity
But few consider the war any affair of ours. No one goes to war on general grounds of humanity. We extend sympathy on general grounds of humanity. We fight only when our material interests are touched. Yours were when Belgium was invaded; ours weren’t. — Robert Frost, in a 1915 letter
What we call the beginning is often the end
And to make and end is to make a beginning.
The end is where we start from. And every phrase
And sentence that is right (where every word is at home,
Taking its place to support the others,
The word neither diffident nor ostentatious,
An easy commerce of the old and the new,
The common word exact without vulgarity,
The formal word precise but not pedantic,
The complete consort dancing together)
Every phrase and every sentence is an end and a beginning,
Every poem an epitaph. And any action
Is a step to the block, to the fire, down the sea’s throat
Or to an illegible stone: and that is where we start.
We die with the dying:
See, they depart, and we go with them.
We are born with the dead:
See, they return, and bring us with them.
The moment of the rose and the moment of the yew-tree
Are of equal duration. A people without history
Is not redeemed from time, for history is a pattern
Of timeless moments. So, while the light fails
On a winter’s afternoon, in a secluded chapel
History is now and England.
With the drawing of this Love and the voice of this Calling
We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
Through the unknown, unremembered gate
When the last of earth left to discover
Is that which was the beginning;
At the source of the longest river
The voice of the hidden waterfall
And the children in the apple-tree
Not known, because not looked for
But heard, half-heard, in the stillness
Between two waves of the sea.
Quick now, here, now, always—
A condition of complete simplicity
(Costing not less than everything)
And all shall be well and
All manner of thing shall be well
When the tongues of flames are in-folded
Into the crowned knot of fire
And the fire and the rose are one.
One other point about authoritarianism is worth mentioning. Scholars have been searching for left wing authoritarianism for decades and have yet to find any evidence of it. Bob Altemeyer famously called it the “Loch Ness Monster of political psychology.” In our opinion, that may be because they haven’t yet looked in the right place. We think left wing authoritarians may have two possible origins. One possibility is that left wing authoritarianism may come from the interaction of BOTH very low SDO and very high RWA inside the same person. The result would be a personality type that has deeply egalitarian and redistributionist impulses but is also hostile to outsiders and dissenters and holds deeply prejudicial beliefs. It’s not hard to see how leaders like Hugo Chavez, Fidel Castro, or even Pope Francis might fit this profile. Later on in this post, we’ll go into more detail about how SDO and RWA interact with each other. —
what’s that parable about the three blind men and an elephant?
More on Altemeyer here. Clearly at least some lefties disagree. Here’s his book, The Authoritarians.