The New Clarion

The New Clarion header image 2

Emotionalist Politics

January 12th, 2009 by Myrhaf · 7 Comments · Politics

Dr. Paul Kengor reminds us of the left’s virulent hatred of President Bush for the last eight years, as seen most famously in Howard Dean.

Perpetually angry, Vermont Governor Howard Dean not only disagreed with George W. Bush but detested him. In fact, it was that palpable sentiment that on Jan. 11, 2004 prompted 66-year-old Iowan, Dale Ungerer, to rise at a Democratic debate and question Dean.

Appealing to the spirit of the season, Ungerer asked Dean why he acted “crass” and did not treat the president in a neighborly way. He urged Dean to “please tone down” the heated rhetoric, invoking Scripture: “You should help your neighbor and not tear him down.”

Dean was displeased. The physician-turned-governor leveled his finger at the senior citizen and ordered, “You sit down!” To raucous applause from a hall of screaming liberals, he shouted: “George Bush is not my neighbor! … It is time not to put up [with] any of this ‘love thy neighbor’ stuff!”

Ultimately, Dr. Dean’s presidential bid failed, torpedoed by too many outbursts, most notably an infamous episode where he looked into the camera, clenched his fist, and yelped a primal scream, sounding like a disturbed man.

But Dean wasn’t finished. Amazingly, Democrats had the audacity to tap him to run the Democratic National Committee, where Dean’s revulsion of George W. Bush and “white, Christian” Republicans—which was Howard Dean’s divisive description—could be channeled into a campaign to take the presidency—and Congress—by 2008. Unthinkable as it seemed, it worked.

I don’t know if Dean led the movement so much as he rode the wave of hatred that was already there on the left. He became the public voice of the fury on the left.

And what a fury it was! At leftist web sites such Daily Kos and Democratic Underground, commenters never tired of venting their hatred of Bush in juvenile name-calling and ad hominem smears. To this outside reader it seemed that their arguments did not need to make sense — the expression of emotion was their reason for being.

The intense hatred from the left of Bush and all things Republican never made sense to me. If you step back to assess the Bush presidency as a whole, the left should be delighted by it. Bush increased the size and power of the federal government as Bill Clinton never could have. Bush rarely even gave free market economics the lip service that is standard on the right. From his prescription drug bill to the recent bailouts, Bush’s presidency was a unrelenting increase of state power, with the exception of his tax cut at the beginning of his first term. If he were a Democrat, the left would want his face on Mt. Rushmore.

Instead, the left obsessed over such minor issues as Enron, Halliburton, the Plame affair, Guantanamo Bay and water boarding. Even their opposition to the war in Iraq, no minor thing, focused on the relatively unimportant issue of the missing stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. WMD’s overshadowed the more important issues of what our strategy against Islamist terrorism should be and whether the neoconservative idea of bringing “democracy” to the Middle East can work.

We see the flipside of this unthinking hatred of Bush in the left’s unthinking adoration of Barack Obama. Obama might say nothing but gaseous generalities in his speeches, and the left will swoon. Instead of the rectal exam the liberal media usually give presidential candidates, they strove not to examine Obama’s past.

The common denominator of the left’s reaction to Bush and Obama is unthinking. We are witness to a disturbing rise of emotionalism on the left. Liberals indulge in their emotions, without subjecting those emotions to reason. It’s like the old hippie slogan, “If it feels good, do it” has become the fundamental premise of the left.

This rise in emotionalism is a symptom of the decline of reason in the west. The left is the party of intellectuals, artists and academics; it is the party of modern philosophy. As the radical subjectivism in modern and postmodern philosophy renders reason impractical, what is left but emotional whim? Leftists are moved by a collective emotionalism, which can overflow into the frenzy of a mob — see the violence of “anarchists” outside any G8 meeting.

The emotionalism of the subjectivist left has its brother on the religious right. Fundamentalists on the right, whether Islamic, Christian or whatever, believe they are serving the will of a supernatural entity. When you’re taking orders from some fantasy called “God,” there is no need for reason.

Whether moved by a collectivist subjectivism or revelations from a supernatural realm, neither side gives a damn about reason. Both sides follow their emotional whims. Irrationality might be more advanced on the left, but the religious right is catching up. In the long run religion has the advantage as people turn away from the black hole of postmodernism to religion in a futile search for values and meaning.

This orgy of emotionalism on the left and right bodes ill for the future. When factions give up trying to persuade with reason, they inevitably resort to force.  Emotionalism must lead to violence and ultimately dictatorship.

7 Comments so far ↓

  • Robin Raven Cow

    I really don’t think I’m being an emotional Leftie in saying that Enron, Halliburton, the Plame affair, Guantanamo Bay and waterboarding, and the missing WMDs are not minor issues that we can toss aside in our evaluation of the Bush presidency. Bush & Company didn’t lead us to war in Iraq with an inspiring strategy to fight Islamist terrorism–they led us to war, ostensibly, to get the WMDs, with the real mission being to overthrow Saddam: “Mission Accomplished.” The result? Regardless of whether our intent was to fight terrorists, Iraq is now filled with terror.

    As I was reading this post, you started by attributing emotionalism only to the Left, and I thought, they are both pretty emotional; is this really a contest you want to start? Then you included the far right in the emotionalist camp as well–thanks for that. I see an awful lot of blog posts dredging up old quotes and clips of Obama that align him with Socialists and Communists, warning that we should all be very afraid. As if the recent bailouts aren’t already Socialist enough. Who should I really be afraid of?

  • Myrhaf

    I’m afraid of the escalating loss of freedom in America. Both parties are responsible as they turn to the left.

    The WMD excuse was created by the Bush administration because it wanted the UN to endorse its invasion. They could not have argued, “The US has the right to destroy any dictatorship that threatens us.” This would not be altruistic, but would be asserting our national interest, so it was out. (Not to mention that the UN is full of dictatorships.)

    Bush, like the rest of the world, including the Clinton administration, other arab countries, the President of France and perhaps even Saddam Hussein, thought Iraq had stockpiles of WMD’s. Turned out to be a mistake. It’s not a big deal.

    The greater scandal is that Bush and our appeasing State Department felt the need to get UN approval of our invasion of Iraq in the first place. We should be able to fight back against countries that threaten us without begging for permission from the rest of the world. The biggest scandal of all is that the regime of the Mullahs in Iran still exists to threaten us after supporting terrorism against us for over two decades.

  • madmax

    “I really don’t think I’m being an emotional Leftie in saying that Enron, Halliburton, the Plame affair, Guantanamo Bay and waterboarding, and the missing WMDs are not minor issues that we can toss aside in our evaluation of the Bush presidency.”

    Yes you are. Anyone who even mentions Halliburton as a serious national problem is by definition an “emotional Leftie.” That Bush didn’t totally cave on waterboarding and other torture tactics is actually one of his positives. Torture of the enemy is sometimes necessary in war. At least Bush partially recognizes this.

    Enron was as Ponzi scheme entirely the result of the massively regulated energy industry. Bush’s crime is that he – a former oil man – didn’t move to at least partially deregulate the energy sector. He basically caved to the Left which is the story of his Presidency.

    Guantanamo is essentially a summer resort for enemies of America. And Liberals think it is the equivalent of the Gulag. The real crime is that it is so soft and that it isn’t a real hard labor camp for the enemies – especially Islamic enemies – that are waging war on America. Guantanamo is another litmus test – along with Halliburton – on whether or not a person is a leftist. The more anti-Guantanamo, the more of a Moonbat Leftist the person is.

    Myrhaf’s point stands. The Left’s opposition to Bush was for all the wrong reasons. In fact, the Left almost always opposed the few better elements of Bush’s Presidency.

  • Harold

    Ouch. +_+

  • Robin Raven Cow

    Yes, the litmus paper will come back “blue” when used on me–no surprise, no ouch. I didn’t intent to disclaim being liberal; I meant to disclaim being emotional. 😉

    But for Conservatives to believe they are more principled and any less emotionally motivated than anyone that’s “moonbat” if you want to call names, madmax.

    On torture and Guantanamo: if the USA’s mission is to promote and defend the rights we hold so dear, how can we compromise those principles in the process? Torture is not necessary, and usually results in wrong information anyway. We would never torture our own people, and we can’t give any people a taste of Democracy by practicing it on others. Neither can we afford to compromise our principles when it comes to due process. I’m all for catching the bad guys–but bring them to trial. Otherwise we don’t even know we’ve got the bad guys.

    If these are the few better points of Bush’s Presidency…good riddance. I will wager that Bush’s popularity even among the Right will not stand the test of time.

  • Peter Murphy

    Thank you, Myrhaf, for a fine piece.

    Ominous parallel: both Obama and Hitler harnessed rising swoons of emotionalism.

    As Hitler wrote to Rauschning, quoted in Ominous Parallels by Peikoff: “At a mass meeting, thought is eliminated. And because this is the state of mind I require, because it secures to me the best sounding-board for my speeches, I order everyone to attend the meetings, where they become part of the mass whether they like it or not, ‘intellectuals’ and bourgeois as well as workers. I mingle the people. I speak to them only as the mass.”

    “The masses are like an animal that obeys its instincts. They do not reach conclusions by reasoning.”