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Liberal Clichés 101: Abstract Democracy and Unity
Capitol Confidential ^ | 7/10/2012 | Bruce Walker

Posted on 07/12/2012 1:07:49 PM PDT by MichCapCon

Jonah Goldberg’s “Tyranny of Clichés: How Liberals Cheat in the War of Ideas” provides a quick, enjoyable, highly readable analysis of the memes employed by progressive argumentation. Repeated often enough, these clichés seemingly have a ring of what faux conservative comic Stephen Colbert would call “truthiness.”

Therefore, a field guide such as Goldberg’s is in order to better enable those who would identify and refute such liberal claims that either stall or prevent completely honest and open public policy discourse. Liberals or progressives or what-have-you aren’t the only portion of the political spectrum subjected to Goldberg’s opprobrium. Conservatives also take a bit of a lashing for their repeated mantras of capitalism and democracy, about which Goldberg notes:

(Lost on many conservatives is the fact that the two core stanchions undergirding the American system are quite simply unnatural. Democracy is not natural. Capitalism is not natural. Both depend on and exploit natural phenomena — self-interest, the yearning for respect — just as a house depends on stone, wood, and metal. But you won’t find a naturally occurring house in the woods, will you? Capitalism is the greatest system ever created for peacefully universalizing prosperity, but it doesn’t feel like it because it is unnatural. Democracy is the noblest of experiments; you will be hard-pressed to find a tribe putting everything up for a vote as a matter of custom and ritual, never mind binding law.) Lastly, Goldberg decimates the continued calls for unity (expressed by every president in this writer’s memory) as a greater good. Unity for a “good” cause is, of course, wonderful, but there are also groups that unite for undesirable or even evil purposes. Think of the gangs joined together to brutalize neighborhoods and countries united under despotic regimes. After all, sometimes the urge to Kumbaya leads to the socialist salsa, the Pol Pot polka, or the Taliban tango. Again, to quote Goldberg directly:

In short, black hats and white hats alike can admire the principle of unus pro omnibus, omnes pro uno (all for one, one for all!). And yet, once you start paying attention you’ll see how thoroughly the cult of unity infects our politics. On the right it generally gives its expression in the form of patriotism and is honest about it, though George W. Bush hammered the whole “I’m a uniter not a divider” refrain until it was wet mush. On the left and in the “center,” overt appeals to patriotism are less common or more forced. What comes more naturally are appeals to unity and coming together. Unity is the secular humanist euphemism for patriotism…. But taken to its rational conclusion, appeals to unity are troubling because they work on the assumption that strength in number is, on its own, a virtue. That is not the American political tradition or creed. In America the hero is not the mob. It is the man – or woman – who stands up to the mob and says: You will not lynch this man today.

Leaving aside the polarized “liberal vs. conservative” dynamic, which itself admittedly is a cliché, Goldberg’s “The Tyranny of Clichés” should be required reading for all competitive debaters, public officials, opinion writers and anyone compelled to post comments on the Web pages of their local newspaper — because the only thing better than the ability to recognize the empty and/or lazy rhetoric behind the deployment of these clichés is the avoidance of using them in the first place.

TOPICS: Books/Literature
KEYWORDS: jonahgoldberg; pages; review; tyrannyofcliches

1 posted on 07/12/2012 1:07:56 PM PDT by MichCapCon
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To: MichCapCon
Thanks for posting.

Not having Goldberg's work yet, we might observe that one over-used "cliche" of so-called "progressives" and one that those who self-describe as "conservative" never seem to refute adequately is the one which claims that America was and is a "democracy."

Anyone who has read the Founders' and Framers' writings and speeches knows that the idea of a pure "democracy" was soundly rejected. The Year 2012 might be a good time for reading the concluding paragraphs of John Quincy Adams' "Jubilee" Address of 1839. This son of John Adams, who was 9 when the Declaration was authored, 20 when the Constitution was adopted, and served in various capacities, including that of President, had been invited by the NY Historical Society. If anyone can clear up the "democracy" myth and cliche for us, Adams should be qualified.

Here are excerpts from that Address:

". . . but history, ancient or modem, had never exhibited in the real life of man, an example in which those two properties were so happily blended together, as they were in the person of George Washington. These properties belong rather to the moral than the intellectual nature of man. They are not infrequently found in minds little cultivated by science, but they require for the exercise of that mutual control which guards them from degenerating into arrogance or weakness, the guidance of a sound judgment, and the regulation of a profound sense of responsibility to a higher Power. It was this adaptation of the character of Washington to that of the institution over the composition of which lie had presided, as he was now called to preside over its administration, which constituted one of the most favorable omens of it: eventful stability and success.

"But this institution was republican, and even democratic. And here not to be misunderstood, I mean by democratic, a government, the administration of which must always be rendered comfortable to that predominating public opinion, which even in the ages of heathen antiquity, was denominated the queen of the world: and by republican I mean a government reposing, not upon the virtues or the powers of any one man - not upon that honor, which Montesquieu lays down as the fundamental principle of monarchy - far less upon that fear which he pronounces the basis of despotism; but upon that virtue which he, a noble of aristocratic peerage, and the subject of an absolute monarch, boldly proclaims as a fundamental principle of republican government. The Constitution of the United States was republican and democratic - but the experience of all former ages had shown that of all human governments, democracy was the most unstable, fluctuating and short-lived; and it was obvious that if virtue - the virtue of the people, was the foundation of republican government, the stability and duration of the government must depend upon the stability and duration of the virtue by which it is sustained.

"Now the virtue which had been infused into the Constitution of the United States, and was to give to its vital existence, the stability and duration to which it was destined, was no other than the concretion of those abstract principles which had been first proclaimed in the Declaration of Independence - namely, the self-evident truths of the natural and unalienable rights of man, of the indefeasible constituent and dissolvent sovereignty of the people, always subordinate to a rule of right and wrong, and always responsible to the Supreme Ruler of the universe for the rightful exercise of that sovereign, constituent, and dissolvent power.

"This was the platform upon which the Constitution of the United States had been erected. Its VIRTUES, its republican character, consisted in its conformity to the principles proclaimed in the Declaration of Independence, and as its administration must necessarily be always pliable to the fluctuating varieties of public opinion; its stability and duration by a Re overruling and irresistible necessity, was to depend upon the stability and duration in the hearts and minds of the people of that virtue, or in other words, of those principles, proclaimed in the Declaration of Independence, and embodied in the Constitution of the United States.


". . . the Constitution as construed by Washington, still proved an effective government for the country.

"And such it has still proved, through every successive change of administration it has undergone. Of these, it becomes not me to speak in detail. Nor were it possible, without too great a trespass upon your time. The example of Washington, of retiring from the Presidency after a double term of four years, was followed by Mr. Jefferson, against the urgent solicitations of several state Legislatures. This second example of voluntary self- chastened ambition, by the decided approbation of public opinion, has been held obligatory upon their successors, and has become a tacit subsidiary Constitutional law. If not entirely satisfactory to the nation, it is rather by its admitting one re-election, than by its interdicting a second. Every change of a President of the United States, has exhibited some variety of policy from that of his predecessor. In more than one case, the change has extended to political and even to moral principle; but the policy of the country has been fashioned far more by the influences of public opinion, and the prevailing humors in the two Houses of Congress, than by the judgment, the will, or the principles of the President of the United States. The President himself is no more than a representative of public opinion at the time of his election; and as public opinion is subject to great and frequent fluctuations, he must accommodate his policy to them; or the people will speedily give him a successor; or either House of Congress will effectually control his power. It is thus, and in no other sense that the Constitution of the United States is democratic - for the government of our country, instead of a Democracy the most simple, is the most complicated government on the face of the globe. From the immense extent of our territory, the difference of manners, habits, opinions, and above all, the clashing interests of the North, South, East, and West, public opinion formed by the combination of numerous aggregates, becomes itself a problem of compound arithmetic, which nothing but the result of the popular elections can solve.

"It has been my purpose, Fellow-Citizens, in this discourse to show:-

"And now the future is all before us, and Providence our guide.

"When the children of Israel, after forty years of wanderings in the wilderness, were about to enter upon the promised land, their leader, Moses, who was not permitted to cross the Jordan with them, just before his removal from among them, commanded that when the Lord their God should have brought them into the land, they should put the curse upon Mount Ebal, and the blessing upon Mount Gerizim. This injunction was faithfully fulfilled by his successor Joshua. Immediately after they had taken possession of the land, Joshua built an altar to the Lord, of whole stones, upon Mount Ebal. And there he wrote upon the stones a copy of the law of Moses, which he had written in the presence of the children of Israel: and all Israel, and their elders and officers, and their judges, stood on the two sides of the ark of the covenant, home by the priests and Levites, six tribes over against Mount Gerizim, and six over against Mount Ebal. And he read all the words of the law, the blessings and cursings, according to all that was written in the book of the law.

Fellow-citizens, the ark of your covenant is the Declaration of independence. Your Mount Ebal, is the confederacy of separate state sovereignties, and your Mount Gerizim is the Constitution of the United States. In that scene of tremendous and awful solemnity, narrated in the Holy Scriptures, there is not a curse pronounced against the people, upon Mount Ebal, not a blessing promised them upon Mount Gerizim, which your posterity may not suffer or enjoy, from your and their adherence to, or departure from, the principles of the Declaration of Independence, practically interwoven in the Constitution of the United States. Lay up these principles, then, in your hearts, and in your souls - bind them for signs upon your hands, that they may be as frontlets between your eyes - teach them to your children, speaking of them when sitting in your houses, when walking by the way, when lying down and when rising up - write them upon the doorplates of your houses, and upon your gates - cling to them as to the issues of life - adhere to them as to the cords of your eternal salvation. So may your children's children at the next return of this day of jubilee, after a full century of experience under your national Constitution, celebrate it again in the full enjoyment of all the blessings recognized by you in the commemoration of this day, and of all the blessings promised to the children of Israel upon Mount Gerizim, as the reward of obedience to the law of God." (Underlining added for emphasis)

So said John Quincy Adams who had served in many posts, including Secretary of State, President, and remained in his seat in Congress until he died!

2 posted on 07/12/2012 2:07:44 PM PDT by loveliberty2
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To: loveliberty2

Thank you!

3 posted on 07/12/2012 3:53:17 PM PDT by spankalib (The downside of liberty is the need to tolerate those who despise it.)
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To: loveliberty2

There are two definitions of democracy that I remember.

I am unsure of the author of the first but it goes like this: Democracy is two wolves and a sheep voting on what’s for dinner.

The second is from Milton Friedman: Democracy is when A and B decide on what to give C and how D is going to pay for it.

4 posted on 07/12/2012 4:50:33 PM PDT by Sergio (An object at rest cannot be stopped! - The Evil Midnight Bomber What Bombs at Midnight)
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To: Sergio
Thanks for your quotations on "democracy.: Love the ones on other subjects on your "about" page also.

Nobody explained the ideas of liberty and warned of the counterfeit ideas of tyranny more explicitly than America's Founders and early generations.

5 posted on 07/12/2012 6:39:53 PM PDT by loveliberty2
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