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The Liberal God Dies Again

The god of liberalism is an idea and ideas are notoriously fragile things. They fall apart once they make the transition from the ivory tower of the mind to the mud and dross of reality. Every writer and artist has had the experience of holding a perfect ideal in his mind only to lose it as he struggles to set it down on canvas or paper. The creative process is that recognition that the ideal cannot be made real.

Liberalism, progressivism and the various names by which the modern left identifies and is identified is the belief that the ideal can and must be made real. That anything short of the ideal is a savage state of repression, tyranny, patriarchy, fascism and the whole litany of crimes against ideal humanity.

The liberal god rises as an idea and dies again. And rises again. No matter how many times the whole thing ends in blood and bankruptcy, the worshipers return to worship the coming of the god again.

"People in every corner of the globe who saw in him a hope for the future and a chance for mankind. We weep for our children and their children and everyone’s children: For he was charting their destinies as he was charting ours," Art Buchwald wrote in the International Herald-Tribune after the assassination of JFK.

In Buchwald's crude Stalinist panegyric, JFK was a deity who charted the destinies of the whole world. "He cared about all of us," he writes. No sparrow could fall but that JFK would see it. JFK would help the "Negro", the "working man", "the artist, the writer and the poet",  "teachers and pupils" and even "old people".

But John F. Kennedy the man with flaws and strengths is not present in the North Korean scale orgy of leader worship because it isn't really him that Buchwald is mourning. It isn't Kennedy the man that liberals weep for every year. It is liberalism.

Camelot is liberalism. The death of Kennedy was the death of the idea. Liberalism didn't die, but its best avatar did. The ideal became the real with a magic bullet. The man who was supposed to chart the destiny of the world couldn't save himself from a "single lousy Communist" who killed the hope that he was supposed to represent.

The god of liberalism vests in an avatar like Kennedy or Obama. The avatar is messianic. It is superhuman. Its empathy is unlimited. Its liberal godhood elevates us all by merely being in its presence, hearing it speak or reading one of its speeches. It is the idea made flesh. The secular god.

But the god of the left must die. It is a mad illusion to think that any man can chart the destinies of the world. Buchwald put far too great a burden on JFK. Had a lousy Communist not killed him, then, like Obama, he would have lived to disappoint and infuriate his followers.

The Russians went mad when Stalin died. The North Korean weeping was equally insecure. When you believe that your destiny is charted by a man who is the only hope for your future; what can you do but weep, not for him, but as Buchwald writes, "We weep for the millions of people who are weeping for him."

The ideas of the left always fail because the avatars and muses always fail. The ideas that seem so bright in theory fail when confronted with the actual task of charting human lives and the unpleasant reality that the Negro, the working man, the old people and the students may not want the same things that the idealists want for them.

For a golden moment, the avatar of liberalism makes it seem as if all things are possible, he weaves an enchanting spell of transcendence that promises that paradoxes can be reconciled and that people will set aside their "selfish" needs and interests. They will stop thinking of themselves and start thinking of what they can do for their country. They will become the change they were waiting for.

The progressive ideal is that all men and women will become avatars of the liberal god in the same way that what we think of as Communism was only meant as a temporary system of rule that would give way to the true Communism in which there would be no more need for rulers and secret police because each man would be a true Communist with no need for external pressure and coercion.

Instead of this golden age, the tyranny of the avatar grows, coercion increases, protests spread and the project decays into a totalitarian state or is overthrown. The golden age never arrives. The ideal is slain by the real. And the true believers go into mourning for what might have been.

The tyranny of the ideal is the most brutal of all tyrannies for men and women are not ideal; they are real. Its plans are bound to fail and yet it has such a passionate grip on the minds of its believers that it is bound to rise again and again.

And so this cycle of the liberal god who dies and rises again, dies and rises, keeps repeating. As long as the tyranny of the ideal remains a rallying cry, as long as men and women choose to believe that a better world can be created through central planning, forcible redistribution and mass reeducation then the cycle will continue. No matter how often the liberal god dies, he will rise again.

The secular god of the progressive ideal has become an entity of life, death and rebirth. Its failures only incite its followers to believe that it will come again. It does not matter how many gulags and mass graves lie in its wake. It is a matter of faith. And in a secular world, there is nothing left to believe in except a better world.

Obama is dying now. ObamaCare, his great work, has failed. Like Ra and all the others, he will pass into the darkness and the ideas will reemerge again in a new avatar. Perhaps it will be Elizabeth Warren. Or someone else. And it will not be remembered that health care nationalization does not work. Like Communism, it will only be another experiment that was carried out incorrectly.

Men are flesh and blood. They are born and they die. But ideas appear to transcend them. That is what attracts men to ideas. Even the worst of them carry the taste of immortality on their lips.

"Alone--free--the human being is always defeated. It must be so, because every human being is doomed to die, which is the greatest of all failures. But if he can make complete, utter submission, if he can escape from his identity, if he can merge himself in the Party so that he IS the Party, then he is all-powerful and immortal," O'Brien declares in Orwell's 1984.

And so the messiahs come offering transcendence through submission to the Party. But they die and they fail, and the Party, that ugly confused creature with a million mindless heads, a trillion talking points, and no soul, looks around for a new avatar to embody its secular religion.

A man who will call for the submission of the world so that the world may become the Party and the Party may become the world.

"'We are the priests of power, god is power," Orwell tells Winston. This is the liberal priesthood of community organizers and activists, NGO chiefs and talking heads, senate aides and prattling pundits who wait for a god who will justify their power and their cruelty, who will convince them that their immortality within the body of the Party is within reach.

And then he dies and they appoint another avatar to embody the progressive godhood and wait again for their community organizer god to be born anew.

This liberal avatar will care for the Negro, the working man, the artist, the poet and writer, the teacher and the pupil, he will "save us from war", "command" us and "chart the destinies" of the whole world. He will do what he was unable to do in any of his prior reincarnations-- he will make the ideal into the real, he will make the impossible ideas of the left finally work.


  1. Anonymous4/12/13


  2. To what seems like a majority of people in America these days, truth is defined by power.

    Another brilliant essay. Thank you.

  3. Anonymous4/12/13

    Another Irish view.

    When was your last moment of Certitude? Mine was crushed forever in that second I saw the grief paralyse my mother’s face. We were saying the Rosary, all of us on bended knees, leaning against the chairs in the kitchen in Grange hall. It was November 22, 1963, Friday evening, Irish time, dark and dreary and I remember the wind throwing rain at the thick glass in the kitchen window. I was eleven. My idiot younger brother was eight and he was making rude signs at me behind my mothers back. The three yorkies had chosen their destination and stay for the duration of the Vatican performance. Belle was draped across the back of my legs as I leaned against the seat of the chair. Life was good because Belle ran our house and had picked me. I later discovered that whom she honoured each night was less a function of love and more a consequence of who had last slipped her a piece of roast beef. I rarely was such honoured, it was usually my father and it was only in later life that I figured out the scam. My father had greatest access to the left-over roast beef. The game among us children was to try and entice the various dogs to switch allegiance by trading places, while looking pious and without the parents noticing.

    The ‘phone rang and my Mother did something she never had done before. Nothing ever interrupted the Rosary in our house. She rose and picked up the receiver and we all looked around trying to understand this event. Belle started moving and I reached back to re-assure her, I didn’t want to have the little traitor move to a more favoured or advantageous pair of legs. My Mother said “Hello”, then a pause and then “What” in a tone of foreboding I had never before or ever since heard in the timbre of her voice and then a half-strangled groan. Belle jumped from the back of my legs and ran to my father who had started to stand-up. The sense of disaster was overpowering and I felt a sense of unease like never before in my young life. My father was now standing by my mother’s side with his arm around her waist while she spoke for a minute or two longer. I could hear words intermittently but didn’t know what was being said, other than it was trouble. The telephone was a relatively new technology in Ireland and in its rudimentary form it rang a short single ring for a local call, a longer continuous emittence for long distance and a curious chirping sound for an out-of-country call. I had only ever heard the last one once before, when my grandmother died in Canada. I shuddered to think what this might be.

  4. Anonymous4/12/13

    Part 2.
    My Mother returned the hand piece to its cradle and my father helped her sit down. She had a stunned look on her face and she looked around at us as if seeing us all for the first or maybe last time in her life. It took her a minute to gather her thoughts and then she tremulously said “I have bad news”. “President Kennedy was killed today”. I instantly understood the gravity of the moment as I sure knew who President Kennedy was and what he meant to me, my mother and in fact all of Ireland. I didn’t have a clue who was President of Ireland but I sure knew the importance of John Fitzgerald Kennedy, the latest in a long line of heroes who we Irish felt sure was going to make the world a better place for us. He was a living God. He could do no wrong and could solve all problems. He was the living superman that the comic version was a mere shadow of.
    The world changed for me in that instant. It was never the same again. We never finished that Rosary. My father put the kettle on. My mother was shattered, smaller, frail. We kids milled, uncertain, confused and unsettled. My heart felt blacker than the night outside. How could this Superman have succumbed? Maybe she had made a mistake, maybe just a rumour. No, I wouldn’t accept it. He would be all right and all would be fine with the world in the morning, except I had this uneasy feeling it wouldn’t be. I had been certain that this man was the second coming and now my Mother was saying that he was dead. It was my Auntie Kitty who had called and she was a world traveller. She always seemed to know everything before anyone else so I knew it correct.

    My world changed in a second.

    I have travelled much of it since that devastating night. I was bestowed a new citizenship. More wars have been fought since the “War to end all Wars”. Dictator thugs come and go. We have another monster in the Kremlin. Thieves and liars and conmen abound. Bobby was killed. They killed Martin. The Queen still sits on the toilet. We have better guns to kill more people more devastatingly. The elite get richer. The last good priest died a while back. I no longer believe what they continue to spout and blather. A football player is now worth a hundred and fifty million dollars and yet he has still to say something or anything that will help us. What price a man like John Fitzgerald Kennedy? Max.

  5. Anonymous4/12/13

    "Liberalism" is as old as the first recorded wars. Taking and entitlement of scared "elites" who build "empires" on the corpses of their supporters.

    There WAS freedom before slavery. It all started like this.... http://www.marcrubin.com/noah-article3.ivnu

  6. Anonymous4/12/13

    I consider myself a conservative , and I agree with your values 98% of the time. But I am finding my views more in conflict with both parties every day . It seems more and more everyday that both sides have the "game " perfected and will say or do whatever necessary to maintain the status quo. Let's face it,, if there ever was an American Dream..... it died a long time ago. And what was that crushed dream we were all fighting for? no one even remembers except the dream to just survive.. and to survive in what? a bankrupt nation with no future to offer anyone..except the ones who get theirs now while the getting is good.. Where are the leaders of true vision,, the leaders with a long term solid plan for America, A plan beyond driving their associates and shareholders stock high enough to grab that bonus...for the short term? God help us.....God help us all!

  7. Anonymous4/12/13

    It's human nature to believe in something greater than yourself. So when people don't believe in God, they'll believe in anything or anybody. It's called paganism.

  8. Both parties believe they are gifts to mankind but both parties are corrupt to their very core. Neither party stands for much except lining their pockets anymore.

  9. Anonymous4/12/13

    Obama, Mao, Stalin and the rest of them= golden calf.
    Punishment usually follows.

  10. The god or ideal of liberalism – which, if left unchecked, can only lead to the totalitarianism described by Greenfield here – rests fundamentally on the god or ideal of altruism, in which individuals are expected to sacrifice themselves and their values to the next-door neighbor and to the nation. Every dictatorship and totalitarian system rests on the ideal of altruism, and the notion that if everyone was just properly educated and trained and disciplined, men would become robots and automatically "do the right thing" without thought or personal motive. Every man on a white horse and every dictator or wannabe dictator has inveighed against selfishness, and has a vision of a literally selfless creature who does "the right thing" without being asked to or prodded with whips, guns, or torture, because he has been programmed to act without personal reasons. Whether it's Woodrow Wilson or FDR or Truman or JFK – or Obama – they have all counted on the same magic of force and on the same morality of altruism. And so had Hitler and Mussolini and Pol Pot and Lenin and Stalin, whose "idealism" could only lead to the charnel houses of totalitarianism. Britain and Western Europe are well on their way to liberal totalitarianism, because what is done is in the name of good of "all." That's altruism in action. And now Europe and the U.S. are faced with a pincer movement between secular altruism and the altruism preached by Islam, which certainly isn't as "refined" as the Western brand.

  11. Kennedy was the last "liberal"president in the original meaning of the word and not in what the meaning has been distorted into. Surely Daniel you must have watched some of JFK's speeches on Youtube, even if he did not write them himself he must have agreed with the content, a content the depth of which none of Obama's well spoken and well brought ones (be it always from a cue) ever even approached. You Daniel, are to young to have experienced the hope Kennedy restored that America would once again be the America that by the sacrifice of many of it's sons had not only liberated Europe from Nazism but had brought optimism to the world for the future. Do not forget either that Kennedy valiantly partook in WWII and showed real merit, not just a media invented one. Further he proved himself well in the Cuba crisis and thereby also proved he had outgrown making decisions based on other peoples ideas like the Bay of pigs invasion he had inherited from the Eisenhower administration. On a personal level he may have had many human weaknesses and had he not been murdered he also would have made erroneous decisions but he deserves better than being thrown in a pot with Stalin or Obama.

  12. Anonymous5/12/13

    Once again I've come away amazed by the insight in your post. Thank you so much for sharing!

  13. Sadie5/12/13

    Daniel: You've been linked below.
    When the Rough God Goes Riding the Liberal God Dies Again
    Sometimes it's possible to set Sultan Knish to music. This is one of those times:

  14. Anonymous5/12/13

    All of this frustration about never reaching the ideal is easily avoided by a simple act. Believe in and trust God. God gave us all we need to live in joy and fulfillment. He gave us the only idea that will never fail. Throughout human history we have seen what happens when people reject God and his plan for their lives and until the end of the world, this will be so because human history is a rerun of the snake in the Garden of Eden. Over and over and over, the con man uses his charm and wiles to lead people away from the light and into the darkness. And so it will be until the end of time.


  15. Anonymous5/12/13

    To the anonymous Irish: I'm surprised that Catholics would place a mere man as high on a pedestal as your family did. Maybe that is how the Catholic Church was destroyed from within as Jesus was shoved aside while the progressive ideal that Daniel so brilliantly writes of in this commentary became the new Catholic religion.


  16. Those of you who are curious, the full Art Buchwald poem, "We Weep," can be found here: http://iht-retrospective.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/11/22/1963-art-buchwald-we-weep/?_r=0. Mr. Greenfield also linked the article in which it was first excerpted, "What's to Like About JFK?" on Rule of Reason in his article.

  17. Anonymous5/12/13

    Had he lived Kennedy would have ranked as an average President. His death afforded the Leftists an opportunity to build a myth, ignoring the truth (he was quite conservative in his policies - tax cuts, smaller government, national defense) and building the phony, Liberal construct of "Camelot" as suggested by his widow.

    I never got the connection. Was JFK supposed to be King Arthur (cuckold) and Jackie, Guenevere (adulteress)? LBJ works in the role of Mordred, the king's treacherous, illegitimate son who works to unravel all of Arthur's good works.

  18. Anonymous5/12/13

    Dear Daniel -- Love your writing, eloquent and powerful.

    Have you read Whittaker Chambers's memoir, "Witness"?

    Shockingly, but not surprisingly, it has been "scrubbed" from the stacks of the New York Public Library -- there are No Circulating Copies in the entire system! This outrageous censorship hasn't been noted by anyone that I know of.

    Chambers says, in his passionate and beautiful "Letter to My Children" that serves as his introduction to the memoir, that we are in a great spiritual war: that it's the war of those who believe God is God, versus those who believe Man is God. That we are battling the second-oldest faith of mankind, born in the Garden of Eden when Satan whispered in Eve's ear, "Ye shall be as gods...."

    Chambers, who left the Communist party and testified against Alger Hiss in the famous treason trial (Hiss was convicted of treason), believed he was leaving the winning side (Communists, Leftists) and joining the losers who are fighting the long defeat. Yet he, a believing Christian (Quaker), could do no other.

    I would urge every American citizen to read this book. You can find it on Amazon or Ebay for a modest sum, even if the NYPL has burned it. When you do, you will see why.

    Yours in the ranks of life.

  19. Unfortunately the New York Public Library has drastically scrubbed its collection in general. Its circulating books are now primarily books that were printed in the last few years. Anything older than that is vanishing from the system every day and even the research materials are being trucked out of the city.

    If you want a Chinese movie from the last 2 years, you're in luck. If you want an important book that's much older than that, the NYPL is no longer the place.

  20. The answer to Liberal failure is on the face of elderly Liberal women. That pinched look and those deep anger lines come from a lifetime of never finding anything good about anything. Can you just imagine what kind of life they lead, most of them rich and never exposed to the turmoil they create with their insanity. The lack of basic pleasure in anything anyone else does without their know it all guidance. They destroy everything they touch.


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