Of a Purge on the Left
Todd Gitlin sticks up
for an unlikely group: Liberal boomers.At a time when liberals hold next to no sway in any leading institution of national government, when the prime liberal institution of the last centuryorganized labor wobbles helplessly, when most national media tilt so far to the right as to parody themselves, the guardians of purity rise to a high pitch of sanctimoniousness aimed at ... heretics. Liberals, that is.
Liberals, they argue, are a powerful force of accommodation — baby-boomer liberals particularly, baby-boomer liberals in the humanities even more particularly. These heretics are not a generation preparing to shuffle into retirement counting their 401(k)'s but a cunningly if undeservedly potent clique standing astride the culture, betraying the masses and fending off bright alternatives to ideological darkness. Only their treason could possibly explain the triumph of the barbarians' reign of error.
Indeed. As we have often remarked here, the Left seems to reserve its greatest ire for liberal Democrats. Yes, they hate Bush and Cheney and Rumsfeld, but they really despise Christopher Mathews, Joe Lieberman and Rahm Emanuel.As at many junctures when revolutionaries suffer defeat — as in the early 1970s, when the New Left unraveled in fratricide — they conclude they must have been stabbed in the back. Shrinking in real-world significance toward the vanishing point, they go hunting for enemies within.
I don't ordinarily agree with Gitlin, but he hits the mark with this essay.