October 16, 2003
As I noted the other day, I
almost feel I never knew what hate really was until I saw the liberal
reaction to Rush Limbaughs drug problem. The Germans have a word
for this sort of spiteful glee in others suffering, but its
hard to spell and you probably know it anyway.
What makes this gloating
insufferable is that so many of the guys ill-wishers add the pious
wish that his miseries will teach him to be a more compassionate
person. You know, like them.
Well, maybe it will. When King
Lear foolishly gives away his kingdom and winds up roughing it out on a
stormy heath, he thinks, for the first time in his long life
hes fourscore and upward of all the poor
people who have never lived in the style to which he has become
accustomed. And he feels for them, and regrets having been indifferent to
them: O, I have taen too little care of this!
But to a liberal, that would mean
that Lear should have turned England into a welfare state. To a liberal, the
state is the natural channel of compassion. And so it
follows, as the night the day, that we should all be praying (though not on
public property, of course) that Limbaughs travails will turn him
into a liberal.
That would admittedly solve a
big problem for liberals. Theyve been trying to figure out a way to
counter Limbaugh on talk radio. The trouble is that nobody can find a
liberal Limbaugh. But if Limbaugh himself becomes a liberal, presto! A
huge burden is lifted from the shoulders of Al Franken. Suddenly
liberalism will dominate talk radio at last!
That, of course, would raise
another problem. Who would listen?
Talk radio is a conservative
medium. It has a gut appeal to basic liberals would say atavistic
instincts: patriotism, piety, loyalty to family, love of private
property, annoyance with the nanny state. If liberals could appeal to these
things, they wouldnt be liberals.
Liberalism is at bottom an inversion of these values. Chesterton
summed it up nicely as the modern and morbid habit of always
sacrificing the normal to the abnormal. Its a kind of
alienation from the normal and natural, as in the drive for legal abortion,
gay marriage, the welfare state itself, and myriad other causes that
attract liberals and baffle the rest of us.
Hard cases make bad
law, says the old adage. But liberalism starts with the hard cases,
then cant draw the line anywhere. At first it wanted abortion legal
in the first trimester for poor minority girls whod been raped by
their fathers; now it passionately resists restrictions on late-term
slaughters of fully developed infants in the birth canal.
Whos going to make this
grisly stuff appetizing to the talk-radio audience? Limbaugh
couldnt do it any more than Al Franken could.
Why doesnt liberal
compassion extend to the unborn child? Because
compassion has a special meaning in the liberal dialect.
In the liberal era, now waning,
the state has been exalted in a new way. It has become the mediator of
social concern. It released man from his traditional primary duties to his
own flesh and blood, and imposed, chiefly through taxation, new political
duties to total strangers. He could divorce his wife and abort his children,
but he had to pay for the welfare of people hed never met.
Compassion became political and anonymous.
Old family obligations are now
optional. But political duties are absolute. You cant divorce the
state, even if youre trapped in an abusive relationship with it.
Liberalism is really piecemeal
socialism, and socialism always attacks three basic social institutions:
religion, the family, and private property. Religion, because it offers a
rival authority to the state; the family, because it means a rival loyalty to
the state; and property, because it means material independence of the
All must be equal but
equal under the state. This is the equality of interchangeable units, not
the equality of free citizens. It rests not on compassion, but on massive,
pervasive state coercion and limitless taxation.
In the long run, this means social
collapse, as witness the mother of all socialist states, the Soviet Union,
and our own inner cities.
But the socialist dream dies
hard. The true believers still think it can be sustained and revived to win
the hearts of the masses, if only it can take over talk radio. This is just
the latest of many socialist fantasies.