First appeared in print in The Rhinoceros Times, Greensboro, NC
Extremism and Ben Stein; Trial Lawyers as Candidates
Once upon a time, the Democratic Party stood for moderation, rejecting both the extreme Left and extreme Right.
That was back when far more Americans considered themselves to be Democrats than Republicans.
You'd think that Democratic leaders would realize that their party started its drastic slide from political dominance when control of the party was seized by the politically correct.
But how could the leadership notice this? The leadership consists of the very people whose seizure of power caused the problem. Following the standard pattern of ideologues everywhere, they are convinced that the solution to the problem they caused is to get more power so they can do it even more.
It's the same disease that afflicts the education establishment. Hmmm ... let's see ... untested theories, district-wide conformity, destruction of small neighborhood schools, union control of hiring and firing -- those contributed to our problems. So the solution? More theories! More conformity! More consolidation! Stronger teachers' unions!
Likewise, in the name of diversity, the Democratic Party has ceased to be diverse. Its money comes from Hollywood, trial lawyers, and the steadily diminishing trade unions. Almost completely.
Its ideology comes out of paranoia and fanaticism and new religions that pretend not to be religions, like Environmentalism and Multiculturalism.
And its political methods come straight from Joe McCarthy.
The only reason this isn't obvious is that the mainstream media is cooperating in the pretense that it is President Bush who is "divisive," rather than the people telling outrageous lies about him.
The most obvious example of this -- though no one seems to mention it anymore -- is the famous Hollywood get-together for Kerry where a lot of celebs said truly offensive, stupid, false, and vile things about President Bush and the Republican Party.
Somehow no one has been able to get the film or video of that event to show us stupid-but-famous people saying these things ... while Kerry looks on approvingly.
If this had been a Republican event, and the vile things had been said about Kerry by a whole bunch of famous Republicans (there are some; you'd just never know it from the mainstream media), how long do you think it would take for that video to get on the air?
Fifteen minutes? Twenty?
We'd see it over and over again.
Somehow the public's "right to know," which allows all kinds of ugly, vicious, or privacy-invading videos to be aired, disappears when it might damage the Left's candidate for the presidency.
Just as the mainstream media decided not to show the footage of 9/11 -- because it would "inflame passions" -- they have decided that the American people can't be trusted with some truth. We have a right to know and see only what they want us to.
If that film or video is not aired prior to the election, it'll be just one more example of the way the Left gets a free ride from the media. Yes, the event was reported. But the images were withheld and the story was dropped. Like Hillary's missing files, somehow this video is amazingly elusive. It won't show up until ... oh, until the election is over.
Ben Stein and Phil DeMuth have come out with a book, Can America Survive? The Rage of the Left, the Truth, and What to Do about It. With humor, reasonableness, and -- hard to believe -- actual facts and logic -- this book is a plea for a return to moderation and compromise.
Yes, that's right, Republicans pleading for moderation. We've come a long way since 1964 and Goldwater's acceptance speech at the Republican convention: "I would remind you that extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice! And let me remind you also that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue!"
Whose public rhetoric today sounds just like that? Nobody in Bush's camp.
But a lot of people in the "we hate George Bush and someday we'll figure out why, but till then we'll lie about him" camp talk like that.
Stein is an actor who first became nationally famous for a short scene in Ferris Beuller's Day Off as the most boring teacher alive, and now is best known for the game show Win Ben Stein's Money. What a lot of people don't remember is that in his youth (when he looked exactly the same age as now), he was a speech writer for Richard Nixon. He has written political columns for many years. And he remains a staunch Republican ... which means that I disagree with him about a lot of things.
But in this book I found myself nodding and saying, "Thank you for setting that straight!"
Phil DeMuth is an investment adviser whose brother is the head of the American Enterprise Institute. Together, these two authors have done the unthinkable: They have actually done some research and examined some of the ridiculous claims being made by the Left today.
The early chapters of Can America Survive? are devoted to refuting some of the most outrageous -- and common -- claims made by the Left in recent years. Each chapter begins with a series of quotes from prominent Leftists, so that it's plain that Stein and DeMuth are not knocking down straw men. These are the things that leading Democrats and their supporters are actually saying.
In the end, though, this book is not a plea for people to vote for Bush. They are not entering the partisan fray. They are trying to get the partisans to return to some degree of reasonableness.
Because they are afraid -- as I am -- that the hate-filled lies of the Left will, like the hate-filled lies of Hitler, of Mussolini, and of the extreme pro-slavery faction in the South before the Civil War, lead to violence or loss of political freedom or a breakdown of civilized values.
Anyone who thinks it can't happen here has only to remember that twenty years ago nobody would have believed that leading Democrats would speak the way they are speaking now. Nobody twenty years ago would have believed that the Democrats would be insisting on gay marriage -- it would have been unthinkable.
On page 176, near the end of the book, the authors point out that even as conservatives, they agree that while they have shown that American poverty is grossly exaggerated by the Left, there are problems of the poor that must be dealt with -- like their lack of access to reasonable health care, and they also agree that the environment needs protecting (quite a concession for Republicans).
"But the real problem in this country," they say, "is exposed when anger over these matters gets so intense and bitter that it interferes with the critical item on our national and international agenda: defending our nation from the Islamic terrorists who want to end our free society, our religious, ethnic, and gender progress."
On the next page, they say, "We could handle nutty people carrying around placards warning about the 'horrors' of globalization and explaining that America is the Great Satan; and we could deal with Looney Tunes-type individuals blowing their tops about the supposed wickedness of racism and how any self-respecting person should hate America because of its bigotry, if we weren't at war with those who really mean to put an end to this country and our way of life."
Since I actually think there are some gross and unnecessary ill effects of globalization, and there really are vestiges of racism that seem impervious to change, I suppose I would probably be one of those people insisting that we must make corrections.
But nobody would hear me say these things, because I would be outshouted by the people Stein and DeMuth are talking about, the screamers who talk like the most insane John Birch Society paranoid talking about the danger of Communism in the 1950s.
To compare one extremist group with another, it's worth remembering that Communism really was a threat in the 1950s ... and 1960s. We didn't invade South Korea, North Korea did. We didn't provoke the Communists to attempt to seize Greece, Thailand, Malaya, and other hot spots. And Alger Hiss really was a Communist agent -- who sat at Roosevelt's right hand at Yalta and advised him not to trust Churchill and instead to trust Stalin as the great powers were dividing up the postwar world.
In other words, it was not insane to be anti-Communist in the 1950s, just as it is not insane to think that some American policies in the process of globalization are selfishly causing harm to innocent farmers abroad; or that to ignore the depletion of oil is short-sighted; or that there is no excuse for millions of Americans to be left without access to decent health care (by modern standards).
What is insane is to try to silence those who don't agree with you program in every particular; to lie constantly to support your position, instead of relying on honest evidence; and to charge your opponents with all kinds of crimes and lies and conspiracies and dark motives.
I thought it was the politically correct who used to say that it was bad to demonize people. Now they're the ones who do it. I guess it wasn't demonization that was bad. They just wanted to control the list of who got demonized.
Extremism that admits of no compromise is the great evil of our time.
For instance, on abortion, the Left won't admit that any abortion should be restricted, because that would be the "slippery slope" leading to a complete ban. (They should know; after all, Roe v. Wade, allowing first-trimester abortions, was the slippery slope that led to murdering healthy full-term babies during the process of birth.)
In fact, the Left are the experts on "slippery slopes." Didn't they all assure us when pressing for decriminalization of homosexuality that of course this would never lead to something as outrageous as homosexual marriage. And yet ... that slope sure turned out to be slippery, didn't it.
As with the Brezhnev doctrine (that any nation that turned Communist could never be allowed to lose its Communist government), there appears to be a Leftist doctrine that traditionalists must be forced to compromise again and again until finally the Left has everything it wants on any particular issue -- at which point there will never be another compromise in order to make things more bearable to those who don't accept the extremists' view of what's good and right.
Now even moderates like me have to scream to be heard in this climate of hate and lies.
I promise you, reading Can America Survive? will come as a blessed relief from all the screaming. Stein and DeMuth recognize that some people will disagree with them -- and they don't think it means you're evil or stupid. Their plea is for civil discourse. Peaceful conversations. Commitment to telling the truth and trying to find common ground.
You know, the things that made America great ... when we were great.
On another subject: Can we please put a stop to all the nonsense about how John Edwards isn't fit for the Vice-presidency (and, by extension, the Presidency) because he's a trial lawyer?
It's as stupid as the claim that because President Bush was in the oil business, he must be using the power of the presidency to help Big Oil.
Ideally, our politicians should actually have lived in the real world before serving as our government. They should have had to make a living and have some understanding of what it takes to build a career and accomplish something in life.
In other words, they have to have done something. President Bush worked in the oil business. John Edwards worked as a trial lawyer. Good for them.
Besides, whatever you might think of the current system of regulating the health-care industry by lawsuit, remember that the lawyers didn't invent this system, though they profit from it. It was the doctors back in the 1960s and 1970s who opened the door to malpractice suits by outrageously and criminally neglecting to police themselves.
The lawyers would never have had such wild success in malpractice lawsuits if doctors had policed themselves. But the medical profession failed to get rid of bad doctors who were killing or crippling their patients through ignorance, incompetence, or neglect. Not only that, but the medical profession, like the trial lawyers today, lobbied against the government regulating them.
So the trial lawyers stepped in as the only friends the poor suffering victims had.
You don't like the result? I know I don't. But without the lawyers with their malpractice suits, lousy doctors would still be perfectly free to kill their patients without suffering any real penalty. That's how it used to be. Now the hospitals and HMOs police the medical field -- for fear of getting sued.
So ... has the whole system of malpractice litigation gotten out of hand? Absolutely it has -- it has gone too far and we're all paying for it. But John Edwards did not invent the system, and the fact that he was very, very good at his job should be as promising as the fact that, unlike most sons of famous men, George W. Bush was a successful businessman.
Because when you think about it, is there any profession which cannot be ridiculed as preparation for high office?
Do we really want to live in a country where only the people who inherit wealth or marry extremely wealthy women and never have to work for a living can hold high office? I mean, you can't mock John Kerry for his pre-politics career. He didn't have one.
I believe anybody should be able to try for political office, and that no honest job should make them ineligible to be taken seriously as a candidate. And I'm disgusted by people who mock a candidate or impugn his motives solely on the basis of how he made a living before getting into politics.
Copyright © 2004 by Orson Scott Card.
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