April 22, 2009
The political left in this country has been angry for so long now that when the term "The Left" is used, it's understood that they're angry. The phrase, 'the angry Left' is redundant.
Just take the Left's childishly angry response to the recent Tea Party protests. The big thing for Lefty bloggers and pundits is to use the gay bashing term "tea baggers" to describe the protesters. Those protests, by the way, were probably some of the least angry protests in human history. The Left's reaction to the protests were far angrier than the actual protests. Lefty thinkers like Jeanie Garafolo's angry charge that every protester is merely a white supremacist had more vitriol and anger in it than the sum total of all the protests themselves. So it's childish gay bashing jokes and cartoon like levels of anger from the Left as usual in response to the Tea Party Protests.
And now the (far) Left is downright hysterical that Obama is hesitant to prosecute former members of the Bush administration for essentially being too successful in thwarting an attack on American soil in the immediate days following 9-11 by using enhanced interrogation techniques that were at the time fully legal. If the angry, backwards looking Left wants to conduct kangaroo courts and show trials like a banana republic regime persecuting those whom with which they disagree politically, I say bring it on. I can't wait to see what happens when the American people see that the Left has now taken to punishing and prosecuting certain public servants in the Bush Administration in order to satisfy a political vendetta. Public servants who were in good faith doing what they could to successfully protect us. The whole thing is pricelessly irrational.
All of this anger and hysteria on the left begs the question, why in victory is the Left still so angry?
To answer that question let's consult an article penned by Byron York, frequent commentator on NPR, the ultra right wing talk radio network that I listen to daily.
These should be happy times for liberals and the Democratic party as a whole. They control the White House and both houses of Congress, while opposition Republicans are leaderless and lost. So why do some Democrats, particularly those farther to the left, appear so angry?
If you doubt it, just watch a few minutes of MSNBC, where the recent nationwide series of "tea parties" to protest federal spending and taxes set off an angry, almost manic response. The most telling came on Keith Olbermann's program, during which the actress Janeane Garofalo, who plays an FBI computer geek on “24,” denounced the tea parties as "racism straight up."
"Let's be very honest about what this is about," Garofalo said. "It's not about bashing Democrats. It's not about taxes…This is about hating a black man in the White House."
Garofalo linked the tea parties to what she described as a peculiar feature of the conservative brain. "The limbic brain inside a right-winger, or Republican, or conservative, or your average white power activist -- the limbic brain is much larger in their head space than in a reasonable person," she explained. "And it is pushing against the frontal lobe. So their synapses are misfiring." (The limbic brain is the deep portion of the brain that mediates, controls and expresses emotion.)
Now, it's possible Garofalo was joking; she used to do comedy. But she didn't seem to be joking, and her comments were consistent with a long and dishonorable history of attributing political conservatism to mental abnormality. And as she spoke about the alleged anger on the right, Garofalo herself seemed visibly angry. Why were she, and Olbermann, and many others on the left, so apparently troubled by a virtually powerless opposition?
I asked William Anderson, a friend who is a political conservative, a medical doctor, and a lecturer in psychiatry at Harvard. "They are angry, but I think they are also scared, and I think it's because they have a sense that their triumph is a precarious one," Anderson told me. Democrats won in 2008 in some part because of the cycles of American politics; Republicans were exhausted and it was the other party's turn. Now, having won, they are unsure of how long victory will last.
"They see that they have a very small window of opportunity to do all the things they want," Anderson continued. "They see the window of opportunity as small because they know in their deepest hearts that the vast majority of the American people wouldn't go for all of the things they want to do." So they are frantic to do as much as possible before the opposition coalesces. And the tea parties might be the beginning of that coalescence.
Then there is the question of self-image. Watching Garofalo and Olbermann discuss the tea parties, it was impossible to avoid the sense that they saw themselves as two good people talking about many bad people. "One of the things about narcissism is that it looks like people who are just proud of themselves and smug, but in fact narcissism is a very brittle and unstable state," Anderson told me. "People who are deeply invested in narcissism spend an awful lot of energy trying to maintain the illusion they have of themselves as being powerful and good, and they are exquisitely sensitive to anything that might prick that balloon."
Again, the tea parties could represent a threat. What if the protesters weren't racists, weren't violent, weren't mentally defective? What if their point was legitimate, or even partly legitimate? Those are questions better batted down than answered.
Finally, there is the sense of anxiety and fragility that stems from the liberals' newly-won power. They control everything in government, and some fear what the responsibility of governing is doing to them.
Their president of hope and change has chosen not to prosecute the authors of the Bush-era "torture memos." He is escalating the war in Afghanistan. He seems determined to bail out the nation's richest bankers. For some on the left, it can be difficult to abide those actions and still maintain the image of one's self atop the moral high ground. So they lash out at the easy target presented by the tea parties.
And that is how political triumph can produce anger and unhappiness. Don't be surprised if there is much more of both in the days to come.
-Byron York Washington Examiner 4/20/09