Having read Mr. Blumstein’s most recent piece, I realize an apology is in order – not to Mr. Blumstein, but rather to Arthur Schlesinger, Lionel Trilling, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Barack Obama and countless other self-described “liberals” who did not in any way deserve to be lumped in with the likes of Mr. Blumstein. Mr. Blumstein is absolutely right – “liberal” is not a derogatory word, so I will be more specific. Mr. Blumstein’s two pieces (and hopefully, the Argus will only bear two such instances of intellectual pollution) evince an attitude which is common among unthinking liberals who mistake conventional wisdom for the profundity of the ages, and who mistake pointless asseverations about genuine intellectual issues for contributions to intellectual debate. Mr. Blumstein is probably the only person I have ever read who manages to simultaneously cram thousands of unsubstantiated assertions into a piece while simultaneously failing to even address any of the contentions of the piece he is attempting to refute, and then peppering said pointless piece with demonstrably false ad hominem attacks.
For an example of such an ad hominem attack, one need only look at Mr. Blumstein’s first paragraph, where he accuses me of reading “Wall Street Journal editorials and NRO Corner posts.” While the links I had posted in my original piece somehow mysteriously evaporated in the process of being formatted on the Argus website, let me assure the reader that none of them came either from the Wall Street Journal or the Corner at National Review Online, though both are fine sources for information. But, knowing that Mr. Blumstein would not find such evidence persuasive, I instead linked only to Paul Krugman’s column at the New York Times, an announcement by the UCLA campus news website, the Wikipedia article on Barry Goldwater and, and this is the only biased source, an article on FDR’s legacy from the Mises Institute. If Mr. Blumstein cannot be bothered to research my claims that is his own fault, but to try to fashion my reading preferences into an attack…well, if that’s “liberal”, then so is Joseph McCarthy.
And the worst part is that Mr. Blumstein’s claims about my reading preferences are the least incoherent portions of his piece! Take, for instance, this priceless gem at the beginning of his fourth paragraph: “In contrast, those on the Right are not satisfied with debating Democratic policies. Instead they feel the need to treat the impulses underlying them as pathological.” Really? Well then, I must have dreamed up Theodor Adorno’s book The Authoritarian Personality, which argued that all non-socialist views resulted from a pathological desire to be controlled and to control others. For that matter, I must have imagined George Lakoff’s book The Political Mind, which holds among other things that Progressives hold the views they do because of their respect for “empathy” whereas conservatives lack this to the extent that they sympathize with entrepreneurs who cheat their customers (Lakoff’s work on political psychology generally has been so one-sided that even the nonpartisan linguist Steven Pinker felt the need to pan it publicly). Oh, and those 1,189 psychiatrists who claimed Barry Goldwater was psychologically unfit to be President must have also been figments of my deranged, right-wing imagination. Not to mention every left wing blog post which asserts that conservatives are mentally ill, which must also be part of my deranged mind.
Contrary to this slander, I did not assert that Mr. Blumstein’s views were at all pathological (unless intellectual dishonesty and incoherence count as mental illness now). I simply asserted that they made no sense, and I provided evidence to prove my point. He appears to have either skimmed my article or not read it at all – a typical malady of someone too engrossed in their own self-righteous crusading spirit to be bothered by contrary points of view. Not to mention, Blumstein seem to have absolutely no knowledge of the fact that people within his own movement disagree over the meaning and spirit of liberalism. Take, for instance, his claim that “Our Constitution is fundamentally liberal in that it is not rights foundationalist– we can change it in any way we want.” I am sure that my infamously wingnut fascist Constitutional Law Professor John Finn or, alternately, President-elect Obama’s legal advisor Lawrence Tribe would dispute this claim hotly. I don’t care what Mr. Blumstein’s major is – he should know better.
He should also know better than to conflate Winthrop’s “A Modell of Christian Charity” with an apologia for government intervention. No one in this debate believes that charity and mutual aid are social evils. (Who really “continues to tackle straw men left and right?” I wonder.) Some of us just want the overweening state to keep its hands out of our pockets. I could go on, really, I could, but I see no reason to waste my time continually refuting claims with no reasoning behind them. I will only add that those of us on the Right may be angry that the Left twisted our ideals into collectivist mockeries of their former selves, but we are only too happy to assume intellectual honesty on their misguided parts. If Mr. Blumstein is the exception, that is too bad, and whatever he calls himself – liberal, moderate, or even “republican” – I suggest he quit while he’s ahead (so to speak) and put down his shovel before he enlarges the already cosmic cavity into which his attempts to refute my arguments have put him. For my part, I leave off here, as I think I will almost certainly have more cause to argue with Mr. Booth, as well as a greater assurance that my opponent will be principled.