Begala reveals modern liberalism

By W. James Antle III
web posted November 27, 2000

Aside from Al Gore's ongoing efforts to gain the presidency via Democratic counters who read "chads" like tea leaves to ascertain the intentions of voters who produce defective ballots (with these psychics perceiving the average chad to be the equivalent of a Gore vote), nothing lately has gotten conservatives more up in arms than this little gem from Paul Begala:

"Yes, ...tens of millions of good people in Middle America voted Republican. But if you look closely at that map (red marked Bush) you see a more complex picture. You see the state where James Byrd was lynch-dragged behind a pickup truck until his body came apart - it's red. You see the state where Matthew Shepard was crucified on a split-rail fence for the crime of being gay - it's red. You see the state where right-wing extremists blew up a federal office building and murdered scores of federal employees - it's red. The state where an Army private who was thought to be gay was bludgeoned to death with a baseball bat, and the state where neo-Nazi skinheads murdered two African-Americans because of their skin color, and the state where Bob Jones University spews its anti-Catholic bigotry: they're all red too."

This sort of guilt-by-association slur is what passes for reasoned argument and logical thought among the smarmier Clinton-Gore hacks. (Just as such grammatically repulsive manufactured word-phrases as "lynch-dragged" passes for English.)

Begala with Bill Clinton in August 1998...just ahead of
Begala with Bill Clinton in August 1998...just ahead of "The Speech"

It is self-evident that Begala is a moron. His fulminations, published in his column, are part of his efforts to leave behind the Sidney Blumenthal revenge of the nerds stuff and become a famous Democratic attack dog like James Carville. Except Carville is a liberal analogue of Rush Limbaugh insofar as he is a rabid partisan given to rhetoric that delights the like-minded while infuriating those who disagree, yet both men are sufficiently planted in the real world to not believe their own more outlandish statements. Not so with Begala, who is probably shorter on substance than any of the more prominent Clinton-Gore gophers. These ad homenim attacks are actually his thought process, such as it is, at work.

Begala's analysis of the conventional electoral map, with George W. Bush's states (or counties, depending on the map) in red and Gore's in blue, is dim-witted on its own terms. Every one of these "red" states has voted for a Democrat whose policies Begala would approve of in the past half century. Furthermore, when FDR, Harry Truman, John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson carried these states, they did not just have the sort of isolated incidents Begala catalogs in his column, but institutionalized injustices like state-sanctioned racial segregation. In 1976, Jimmy Carter carried every state George Wallace ("segregation today, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever") carried in 1968 and had Wallace's endorsement (as Bill Clinton did in 1992). In 1992, Clinton carried Louisiana, which a year before had a former neo-Nazi and Ku Klux Klan grand wizard qualify for a run-off in the governor's race and win a majority of the white vote. Intelligent observers would ask, so what?

Would Begala hold Al Gore responsible for every so-called hate crime or other injustice against minorities that took place in jurisdictions he won? Worse, should Gore be held responsible for every rape, burglary, drive-by shooting, instance of welfare fraud or case of domestic violence which took place in these areas? Don't meditate on these questions for too long.

The point however is not the absurdity of Begala's undignified rant but the fact that no one should be surprised by it. The belief that much of the America they are fighting so hard to govern is corrupt, violent and at least vaguely evil motivates a great deal of liberal activism. Contemporary liberalism has set itself against the practices, preferences, predilections and values of normal Americans on the grounds that these behaviors and attitudes are ignorant, wrong-headed, harmful and likely to oppress others. That is why the chief business of liberalism is to use the modern state against the vices once understood as virtues.

The acquisition of wealth and property is seen as a manifestation of greed and avarice. What is compassionate is for the welfare state to absorb an ever-larger share of the people's income through taxes and redistribute it to those truly in need. The result of people keeping their own wealth and property without government supervision is that they will misuse it to discriminate against others, abuse workers, pollute and otherwise harm others and endanger themselves. They will spend profligately and save fleetingly, with an end result of greater poverty. This can only be averted by having government intervene in the marketplace, substituting its judgment for the private citizen's whenever liberals deem it appropriate.

Self-defense by ordinary citizens who own weapons is considered a dangerous relic of our Western Frontier past. Second Amendment and human experience notwithstanding, guns are best left in the hands of government. Otherwise, one is likely to hurt oneself or get angry and begin shooting others. Simple possession of guns is enough to breed a crime wave.

Most Americans still subscribe to values derived from the Judeo-Christian ethic, which is a problem wherever it contradicts modern liberalism. Traditional American notions about marriage, the family and childbearing may be grounded in centuries of experience and a rich religious heritage, but liberals know this is inherently discriminatory. These values and customs are deemed reactionary and hateful, and since they are likely to oppress sexual minorities and others alienated from traditional culture, expressions of them are to be legislated against wherever possible. Contract, association and property rights are abridged, family institutions are legally redefined and anyone who doesn't pretend to agree risks a hate-crime prosecution. Disagreement after all is seen as tantamount to intent to murder.

Even worse is the attitudes some Americans have about abortion. Some people's unfounded superstitions about prenatal life and the immortality of the soul have led them to be biased against reproductive freedom. This prejudice against the most meaningful liberty women enjoy inevitably leads to hatred and violence, such as bombing clinics and shooting people. Laws need to be passed to insure that what liberals call reproductive rights can be exercised up to the moment of birth and limit the ability of people to protest against it.

Liberalism seeks to police race relations, gun ownership, how a numerical majority may exercise its religious faith in the presence of a minority that disagrees and countless other everyday occurrences because its implicit premise is that a large part of America is inherently racist, intolerant and given to violence and mischief. Conservatives are seen as keeping people free to run amok with these awful tendencies, presumably because they enjoy the resulting exclusion, oppression and carnage. This viewpoint explains why the left increasingly has difficulty confining its disagreements with the right to policy and issues, often questioning conservatives' motives and basic human decency instead.

Not all liberals adhere to these views, as liberalism once was differently motivated and many who voted for Gore and Green Party candidate Ralph Nader draw on this older liberal tradition. Others accept contemporary liberalism's axioms, but do not do so consciously. But escalating rhetoric from people like Begala demonstrates that many are acutely aware of these liberal presumptions and ready to exploit them. Prior to the Clinton-Gore years, conservatives tended to see their opponents as erring brethren, with the notable exceptions of the McCarthy era and the John Birch Society. Today's liberals see the opposition not as merely mistaken, but as evil. The relatively minor Bush-Gore policy disagreements are seen as a larger struggle between rich versus poor, corporate polluters versus the environment, misogynist versus feminist, and bigot versus believer in equality.

Conservatives should not be shocked to read a diatribe like Begala's. Nor should they be astonished by Gore's willingness to exhaust all available options to win at any cost. They are driven by their beliefs about us and Americans like us, which actually coincide with the assumptions underlying their policy agenda. Let us be aware and make this plain to the electorate, while being careful not to imitate their moral arrogance.

W. James Antle III is a former researcher for the Rhema Group, an Ohio-based political consulting firm. You can e-mail comments to

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