Media Matters

The Nation Loses Its Mind

Paranoia is all that the politburo left has left.

By 10.25.04

Send to Kindle

Is the political left just a bus ticket away from a trip to the funny farm? I'm not talking about your run-of-the-mill Democrat, but rather the anti-war, activist left. Case in point is a piece by Charlie Brooker in the Guardian that ended:

On November 2, the entire civilised world will be praying, praying Bush loses. And Sod's law dictates he'll probably win, thereby disproving the existence of God once and for all. The world will endure four more years of idiocy, arrogance and unwarranted bloodshed, with no benevolent deity to watch over and save us. John Wilkes Booth, Lee Harvey Oswald, John Hinckley Jr-where are you now that we need you?

The Guardian is now trying to lamely explain it away as humor, "an ironic joke." I know that the first time I read it I found it rip-roaring, knee-slapping hilarious, didn't you? I never realized that advocating the assassination of a sitting president was part of the comedy of "civilised" world. It makes me realize that, compared to Europhiles, how completely unsophisticated I am.

By contrast, The Nation magazine was quite serious when, in its endorsement of John Kerry, it wrote that Bush "has pandered to a 'base' of religious fanatics, many of whom are looking forward to a day of 'rapture' when Jesus returns to earth and kills everyone but them [italics added]." That is The Nation's slightly more subtle way of calling evangelicals the "Taliban Wing" of the Republican Party. The more nefarious implication is that a second Bush Administration will see many residents of Dupont Circle being strung up in RFK Stadium.

Is the political left really that paranoid? Well, to the extent that The Nation is any indication, the answer is a clear "yes." The Nation worries that the " gift of a true electoral mandate now to this previously unelected President would give fresh legitimacy and momentum to all his disastrous policies." And that "could in turn place our constitutional system itself at risk."

The Nation is a bit vague about how our constitutional system would be undone in a second Bush term. This is the best they can do:

No one can know when or how the decisive test of democracy might arrive. It could come quickly, perhaps in a crackdown following another terrorist attack on American soil, this time conceivably on a far greater scale than September 11, or it could come slowly, in a protraction of the process, already well under way, of gradual strangulation of independent institutions, amounting to a coup in slow-motion--a hardening of an informal monopoly of power into a formal monopoly--leaving the institutions of democracy technically intact but corrupted and hollowed out from within, helpless to resist a central authority that has drawn all real power into its own hands.

A "coup in slow-motion"? Apparently, the editors of The Nation have no idea how that sounds.

I can only venture a guess at what they mean by the "gradual strangulation of independent institutions," which is "already well under way." One such institution is the probably the press. Earlier in the piece they bemoan the corporate chieftains

…who swell Bush's campaign coffers while at the same time helping to bring the news media, now owned mostly by large companies, to heel. It is the media that amplify his Administration's war propaganda while failing to expose the deceptions put forward as justification for war and puffing up the bubble of illusion whose creation is perhaps the Administration's top priority.

Apparently The Nation's editors can't see the reality right in front of their own noses. Have they not noticed the media's coverage of the 9/11 hearings, of Richard Clarke, and of Abu Ghraib? Then there was the Dan "Fake, But Accurate" memo scandal, and the memo from the political director of ABCNews, Mark Halperin, urging reporters to not "hold both sides equally accountable." It doesn't seem like Rove and Co. are doing a very good job of bringing the big media dogs to heel.

And who is behind the slow-motion coup? Well, it is

…in fact a culmination of a long, deliberate (if not conspiratorial) campaign of politicization of the judiciary, pushed by right-wing legislators as well as such groups as the Federalist Society. In a series of reapportionment battles, notably the one waged by House majority leader Tom DeLay in Texas, the party used legislative power to entrench itself in that same legislature. Meanwhile, a web of think tanks and other institutions, supposedly independent but actually de facto instruments of the Republican Party, was created. They cooperated in vetting political loyalists for government posts and in flooding the news media with apologists for the party and its policies. Under DeLay's leadership, the Congressional Republicans, leaving no stone unturned, have sought to take over even the lobbying establishment of Washington by threatening firms that hire former Democrats to work for them.

Sorry, but appointing like-minded judges, waging reapportionment battles, funding sympathetic think-tanks, spreading your message in the media, and getting your ideological soul-mates in government posts and hired by influential lobbying firms are all legitimate parts of something called democracy. In fact, the Democrats do this too, when they hold power. But in the normal workings of a free society, The Nation sees a near conspiracy to turn this nation into a de facto authoritarian regime. "They're coming to take me away!" you can almost hear Victor Navasky saying.

To understand the cause of this conniption fit, one must know what animates . For that, look at where The Nationexplains its disagreements with John Kerry:

We believe the United States should withdraw from Iraq; he wants to "win" the war there. We think the military budget should be cut; he plans to increase it, adding 40,000 troops. (For what, exactly? to fight another wrong war, at the wrong place, at the wrong time?) We reject pre-emptive war; he embraces it. We oppose the wall that Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is building on Palestinian lands; he supports it. We believe in the elimination of all nuclear weapons; he wants only to stop their spread. He calls for significant expansion of healthcare; we call for a single-payer system that would cover everyone. He opposes gay marriage; we back it.

Name one policy proposal they advocate that is either supported by a majority of Americans or is likely to be in the near future. The Nation's version of the "good society" is one that most Americans no longer share, if they ever did. Yet it's inconceivable to them that their ideas no longer hold sway over a majority of this country, so they desperately invent reasons why they are losing. It's coup plotters. It's those corporate moguls. It's those damn maniacal wide-eyed true-believing Christians. If we could just defeat this vast right-wing conspiracy, then Americans would vote their true interests and the left-wing nirvana would be upon us.

The fact of the matter is that America is changing in ways that a far-left magazine can no longer stomach. It increasingly rejects government solutions, wants an aggressive foreign policy against terrorism, and admires individualism. President Bush's reelection will only accelerate these trends.

No wonder The Nation is on the verge of losing it.

Like this Article

Print this Article

Print Article
About the Author

David Hogberg is a senior fellow at the National Center for Public Policy Research.  Follow David Hogberg on Twitter.