The election of Barack Obama as president of the United States marks a dramatic victory for the progressive left in America and a resounding repudiation of George W. Bush’s presidency and the Republican-controlled Congress with which he governed for six years. Obama’s election also represents an historic moment for the United States.There's more at the link.
Many have been celebrating throughout the nation, and for good reason, because America, by electing a black man to the highest office in the land, has taken another impressive stride to overcome the last, lingering legacies of slavery and Jim Crow. To be sure, it would have been better if more progressives had bothered to notice, let alone take pride in, how far their country had come when George W. Bush — white, southern, and conservative — named in his first term Colin Powell secretary of state and Condoleezza Rice national security advisor, and in his second term elevated Rice to secretary of state. But the stirring fact remains that Obama’s triumph crowns a half century of steady progress in fulfilling the Declaration of Independence’s grand promise of freedom and equality for all, and in realizing the Constitution’s aspiration to build a more perfect union through representative government. At the same time, Obama’s election reaffirms the reality, frequently denied or derided by progressive anti-American sentiment at home and abroad, that the United States is a land of golden opportunity.
But winning elections is one thing. Governing is another. One reason for apprehension about whether Obama and the congressional Democrats are prepared for the enormous power they will exercise is structural ....
The structural temptation for Obama and his party to take their principles to an extreme is especially worrisome given the propensity for extreme positions and principles that the left of late has shown ....
Perhaps encouragements to moderation will come from other quarters. With President Bush’s departure from the White House, Bush hatred, along with its many ugly symptoms, may subside. The constraints of office and the realities brought home by daily intelligence briefings on America’s enemies may effectively counsel caution and sobriety. And the centrist Democratic candidates who decisively contributed to victory in the 2006 congressional elections and who, with election 2008, now represent a conservative bloc within the Democratic Party, may exercise a restraining influence on the Obama administration.
Unfortunately, the likelihood is small that Obama will receive encouragement from the intellectual class to reach out to the elected representatives of the 46 percent of the country who, on November 4, voted for John McCain and Sarah Palin. Dominated by left-of-center partisans, the mainstream media in Election 2008 frequently abandoned its traditional watchdog function, ignoring, deflecting, or suppressing even reasonable criticism of Obama and his running mate, Joe Biden, while pursuing and amplifying even trivial criticisms of McCain and Palin. Meanwhile, colleges and universities, also dominated by left-of-center partisans, remain bastions of intellectual conformism, stigmatizing, where they can’t formally punish, speech and speakers that depart from campus orthodoxy.
The left, though, displays other worrying signs beyond the media’s failure to objectively report the news and our universities’ failure to promote vigorous exploration of all sides of the moral and political challenges the nation confronts. Unfortunately, it is not rare these days for progressives to indulge in a mocking disdain for traditional religious faith and to blithely regard fellow citizens who hold opposing views about abortion, embryonic stem cell research, and same-sex marriage as ignoramuses unfit for civilized discourse. In addition, the left has shown an unwillingness to examine responsibly the tradeoffs between security and liberty the nation has made and will have to continue to make in the struggle against Islamic extremism and mega-terror. It has been all too ready to join forces with the vilifiers of Israel, as demonstrated by its enthusiasm for Stephen Walt’s and John Mearsheimer’s fact-challenged and poorly argued claims, according to which for decades “the Israel Lobby” has dictated American foreign policy in the Middle East while Cold War containment of the Soviet Union and maintenance of the flow of oil from the Persian Gulf, apparently, had little or no impact on America’s conduct in the region. And it is disposed not merely to criticize the U.S. when the country is in the wrong, but to see the country as in the wrong grossly and constantly, and, from Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo Bay abroad to race relations and immigration reform at home, it exhibits a penchant for enthusiastically trumpeting the most sensational accusations against America.
Thursday, January 15, 2009
Peter Berkowitz offers a useful analysis of secular progressive ideology in his new essay, "The European Left and Ours." It's an important discussion, especially since hardline American leftists routinely offer the European socialist states as models for the progressive revolution they advance in the American state and society: