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No Enemies to the Left

The disastrous results in Israel's election are yet another example of the right cannibalizing itself. It's not the first time this happened in Israeli political history or American political history or European political history. It's an ongoing theme whose motto is still, "No enemies to the left."

What the "mainstream" conservatives fear most of all is a drift to the right. Some of this is the whimper of whipped dogs. Every party to the right of Stalin has had to spend decades fending off accusations that it was the second coming of the Third Reich, the KKK and Genghis Khan. The Pavlovian training has taken hold and every conservative echelon is expert at going into damage control mode when it senses that its own right might do something that would give the left fuel for their accusations.

But there's another factor at work here. It's cultural. Mainstream conservatives have become another arm of the urban technocracy. They want many of the same things that liberals do, but with less regulations and more tax shelters. They aren't interested in major changes, only the minor ones that will keep the system going. Even when they are dedicated reformers, their vision extends no further than a bunch of high tech cities full of immigrants going to universities and then inventing things.

They are competent, rather than imaginative. The left repeatedly outmaneuvers them because the left is always pushing to the left, while they are content to put a chair against the door and wait for those crazy hippies to get off the LSD, cut their hair and give up. But to their surprise the left never does.

The leaders of mainstream conservatism aren't angry, and they dismiss the people who are as loons. When the left does something oppressive or defeats them, they don't get mad, they get ironically amused. They make detached observations citing Trollope. They are as much a part of the jet setting elite, as their liberal colleagues, and they have an exit strategy, whether it's Singapore or Thailand.

They aren't liberals themselves, but their conservatism is an outmoded thing that was only fit for a conservative society. In a conservative society, they are the old guard. In a liberal society, they are still the old guard, standing for the values of moderation, civility and not getting too worked up about things that can't be changed. In a liberal society, what they conserve is not conservatism, but the liberalism of their youth.

The one thing that worries them is the ascendance of the right. They don't much like their own base. It's angry, noisy and ignorant. It doesn't understand the rules of the game. And it represents a threat to their careers.

They may draw cartoons and sing a few songs, but they aren't revolutionaries. They don't want a culture war. And they don't really want to change the way things are. They may not approve of the politics of their children, and they gasp in horror at debt ratios and proposals to privatize things, but overall they like the way things are. And they imagine that it can remain that way, hanging forever in mid-air, never going further left or further right, a perfect balance that will endure for all time.

They have a simple arrangement with the right. They pledge allegiance, faintly, to its beliefs, mouth the right words during elections, promise to ban abortion, build settlements and leave the EU, and then they shake their heads ruefully and go back to the club regretting the necessity for participating in this clown show. Between elections they sometimes put their intellectual firepower at the disposal of these ideas, though never when these ideas appear to be polling badly, especially with the young.

In exchange the right, the real right, those angry people with quaint ideas about personal freedom, moral revival and national greatness, are expected to know their place. And their place is behind the sawhorses at the rally and in line at the voting booth. When that changes, then they attack their own right with far more vehemence and violence than they ever employ against the left.

The left does not worry them all that much. In a way the left has become their career. The opposition defines their work. Its radicalism ensures that they will always have a base, no matter where that base comes from.

There will always be victims of government regulation, baffled casualties of the culture wars mourning their lost children and men and women who woke up one day from their routine of work and parenting to find out that the country had been stolen from them. There will always be mugging and terror victims who suddenly begin thinking about the big issues that they never really thought about before. And those people will be their base, will sign their checks, buy their books and come to hear them speak.

As long as the left does its work, the moderate conservative leaders will always have a place, if not in the sun, than in the comfortable shade. They have no real enemies to the left. Their enemies are to the right.

The left can raise their taxes, make them jump through regulatory hoops and turn their children into idiots. But the right can take away their positions. The left turns them into dinosaurs every twenty years, but the resurgence of the right can do that in two years. Their job, the job they take on to protect their job, isn't to keep down the left, but to keep down the right so that it doesn't embarrass them in front of the left or break apart the comfortable conservatism that they have built up.

A revolutionary right would not be conservative. It would be a revolutionary movement that is less concerned with talking about how much better things were X years ago and more concerned with forcing a return to the way things were. It would not do this in the name of conserving anything, because it recognizes that there is hardly anything left to conserve, it would do this because it is natural and good, but more so it would do it because it is the only way out of the long fall.

When such movements or figures emerge, often unready for the spotlight, it is the mainstream leaders who gang up and destroy them. In liberal societies where fighting the left is a dangerous sport, an activity constrained by the image concerns imposed by media overlords and social media meme mobs, right on right violence is the one safe sport. It is where they can unleash their full range of attacks, destroying those whose crime is the courage to seek real change, rather than their idyllic urban technocracy of skyscrapers and dot coms.

When the bloody work is done, and the mainstream conservatives have their scalp, a political figure whom they can use to prove that the right is completely unready for mainstream politics and should leave the hard business of running for office to the experts, then the experts waddle out to the face the left, lose or break even, and then formulate a plan for winning by going to the left.

It's a sad state of affairs that repeats itself time and time again. The names changes, the issues change, but the battles remain the same. While the left becomes radicalized, the right becomes marginalized. Even when the moderate conservatives win, their triumph rests in managing a system and a culture that serves the left, more than it does them. And toward the end, they become what they have hated, drifting slowly into liberalism, denouncing in angry fits of rage the resurgence of the right.

Thus conservative movements and parties cannibalize themselves. The left believes that there are no enemies to the left. And so do the leaders of the right. And when they are through fighting each other, then often the left wins by default.


  1. Anonymous22/1/13

    Do you think Otzma Le-Yisrael failed because of the right being against them, or their own incompetent campaigning?

    Also what do you think of Bennet?

  2. Otzma was too splintery. BY suffered the fate of so many parties to the right when they begin getting somewhere, which is the theme here.

  3. Daniel Greenfield doesn't factor in how post-ideological Western society has become.

    People don't want to hear about ideology. They want nothing like Seinfeld said his show was all about. Its popular to assume every one will get along happily, that conflicts are a thing of the past.

    Conservatives are playing a losing hand here. Its tough to beat Seinfeldians who offer conflict free low calorie dessert. And that appears to win every time.

    In Israel and around the Western World. Long Live Seinfeld!

  4. Anonymous23/1/13

    We will arise and defeat the Left. But not as revolutionaries. As counterrevolutionaries.

    Viva la contrarevolucion! Viva Cristo Rey!

  5. people don't care about ideology, they care about the actual issues and consequences

  6. Daniel, if there are no issues on the table, what's left to argue?

    In the Israeli election campaign, the conflicts were entirely about personal foibles.

    In other words, nothing for the voters to care about. No wonder they voted for the parties of nothing.

  7. I think people have low standards as 'ideals'.
    And, we live in a time of self. When everyone does what serves the self, there is little hope for entire nations.

  8. This election was very much about issues but they weren't the issues people thought they would be. Lapid chashed in on the chareidi-hatred ticket and managed to rope in many otherwise pro-Israel voters but focusing on how who will deal wisely with the chareidim whilst de-emphasizing his willingness to make most of J and S Judenrein. His campaign was well planned. His website shifted his "solution" to the conflict with the Arabs from a frontpage banner to a page hidden 4 of five clicks away. He never spoke about expelling Jews even though his platform demands it and he choose his tokens brilliantly. As much as I despise the man's policies and his socialist, defeatest platform will spend this country in oblivion usless his surrender to the Arabs do that first, I hve to say he played the public brilliantly.

  9. A mental disorder has crippled Israel. This disorder is rooted in fear, but this fear has yet to be adequately diagnosed. ... The idea that fear permeates the Jewish psyche is not new. It is the well-known consequence of two thousand years of statelessness and dispersion, persecution and humiliation, pogroms and holocaust. It is the inevitable result of the world’s perennial and deadly hatred of Jews and Judaism. ... There is nothing paranoid about this fear. It reflects a somber assessment of a typically hostile world. But this fear has been magnified and rendered pathological by a related fear engendered by the triumph of democracy over Zionism in the mentality of Israel’s ruling elites. ... Having absorbed the “ethos” of democracy into their psyche, Israel’s ruling elites have imbibed the moral and cultural relativism that dominates the democratic mind. Hence they can no longer believe in the absolute justice of Israel’s cause. Paul Eidelberg, Diagnosis of a Mental Disorder

  10. Even when the moderate conservatives win, their triumph rests in managing a system and a culture that serves the left, more than it does them. And toward the end, they become what they have hated, drifting slowly into liberalism, denouncing in angry fits of rage the resurgence of the right.

    Overton Window at work. Short of full-blown revolt, I wonder if there is some way to reverse this gradual OW process, at least in theory? .. or it's always one way only.

  11. In some sense the situation in America today is eerily reminiscent of what was happening in pre-Civil War America. Instead of slaves we have the new government serfs who are economically and culturally discriminated against. Back in the Middle Ages a serf had to work 3 months out of every year for the "evil" rulers. Today a hard working American has to work 3.5 months. The Americans who pay taxes spend more on taxes than on food, clothing, and housing combined. ... In the end the world will come tumbling down for those who reject the historical American commitment to individual responsibility. Eventually the producers will either give up or rebel and then those whose only capability is to vote for thieves will find themselves unable to take care of themselves. ... But out of love for our fellow American's, even the takers, we need to think about the unthinkable; how do we return America to the ideals that made America great? The path will not be without suffering but we can pray that it will be without the violence needed to right America the last time, when we eliminated the evil of slavery. source: obvioustalk.blogspot.com

  12. George23/1/13

    Only 60K voted for Otzma. But if we look at our history we see the majority has always always been wrong. So by rights (no pun intended), we should hold an election then let the smallest parties become the leaders, not the bland pablum majority.

  13. Anonymous23/1/13

    I think another wise Jewish man said the same thing not too long ago.

    'So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.'
    << Revelation 3:16 >>
    King James Bible (Cambridge Ed.)

    Or another way:
    Civility will be the death of Civilization.

  14. Anonymous23/1/13

    Politics is inherently corrupt, and party "leaders" disappoint. If parties were abolished, voters could write their choice of individual based on their known competence, honesty, etc. A plurality of votes would be enough to decide who is elected.

  15. Anonymous23/1/13

    But why is the right so indiferent to power?
    Why a right wing president or PM wont use it's power to press oponents like the media or the legal system or others the way you expect of people in power all over history? Are right wing leders different? Less egomaniac? Less ambitious?

  16. So in other words, the "real" Conservaatives, those of us ho are dumb enough to work in order to support our family actually have no rperesentation in Government at all.

    Well that's a big bummer.

  17. I'm afraid this happened with the American Revolution itself, the "moderate conservatives" being Alexander Hamilton, John Marshall, maybe John Adams. Is this a law of nature?

  18. Anonymous23/1/13

    Another Home Run, DG.

    BTW: I like the cascade of images you choose to accompany your near-daily essays. It's obvious a lot of thought goes into choosing them.

    Darned crafty of you!

  19. Anonymous23/1/13

    Liberals are not the threat, something most commentators and all RINOs fail to grasp. Leftists are, something you, DG, do grasp.

    Daniel Patrick Moynihan, William Proxmire, Joe Lieberman and, dare I say it, George McGovern, were liberals. Disagree with them you and I may, but would any doubt their patriotism, their best wishes for the United States, their desires to make us a more perfect Republic?

    (I will ignore the pragmatic pols, the Faustian Harry Reids of the world who would sell their soul but who have no core beliefs other than maintaining their own personal power.)

    Barack Obama, Elizabeth Warren, Van Jones, and their ilk? They are leftists to the core, haters of America, overthrowers-in-waiting of capitalism, tyrannists all. And while the leftists consistently call Republicans and libertarians Nazis; tea-baggers; right-wing nutjobs, wackjobs, and extremists; fascists; and more, we call them ... liberals, thus ensuring that average Americans will never even have the opportunity to distinguish these Fascists and Marxists from real liberals.

    I am not invoking semantic hobgoblins. We think it a travesty when the War on Islam becomes the War on Terrorism which becomes Overseas Contingency Operations.

    Words matter. Names matter. Brands matter.

    We continue to accept from the leftists our being labeled extremists. We then appease them by calling them ... liberals (a rare few, such as Andrew McCarthy and DG, do use the proper appellation). The term liberal should never be used by a conservative, libertarian or truthful writer unless he is actually writing about ... well, a liberal.

    What all who yearn for freedom must do is to stop the madness. Start calling -- in print and elsewhere -- leftists leftists or left-wing extremists. Truth is what they fear most. It is time to start delivering it.

  20. quite true, however as the left continues its long march, the lines have blurred and the liberal is becoming more of an endangered species

    liberals have become moderate leftists, with the liberal of today qualifying as a left-wing extremist 60 years ago

    the leftist circa 2012 is more extreme on most issues than a 1930's Communist, not counting open support for gulags

  21. Anonymous23/1/13

    You are one helluvah writer.
    Humbly Yours EH

  22. Anonymous23/1/13

    Don't focus on all the silly parties (political and otherwise) but consider this:

    Without any meaningful attachment to Torah study and practice, a citizen of Israel has no real understanding of his public and private duties.

  23. Anonymous23/1/13

    @Daniel -- I couldn't agree more and that's all the more reason why only those who can legitimately be deemed "liberals" (even by today's generous standards) ought to be called such. From the average illiterate, innumerate American's POV, "liberal" is seen as approbation; "leftist," in contrast still suggests "too extreme," and even leftist preach they are moderate. We need to use what's left of language to cut through the noise and peel off the 4-5 percentage points of Americans needed to never again elect an Obama, Warren, et al.

    As for the gulags, give them another 10 years unabated.

  24. Anonymous24/1/13

    You miss the mark by referring to the GOP elites as "mainstream" conservatives. People like John McCain, Mitt Romney, Olympia Snowe, John Boehner, Mitch McConnell and many others aren't conservatives of any sort; they exist merely to offer the pretense that we have a two-party system. As you state, they say what actual conservatives in the electorate want to hear ("fiscal conservativism, balanced budgets, right to life, etc"), fooling them to get their support.

    Let's call "mainstream" conservatives what they really are: progressives on the right. Like their brethren on the left, they're fighting for the progressive agenda. Why do you think they're constantly coming up with garbage like "compassionate" conservatism? It's because only someone on the ostensible "right" can make socialism palatable to the American public. So they market it as "compassionate" conservatism, and voila! We get Medicaid Part D.

    John McCain wasn't a maverick -- he was a progressive sporting an R after his name, just like the entire Senate contingent from the state of Maine. And all us actual conservatives/libertarians get talked into supporting such people because who else can we vote for, the democrats?

    If you think republican progressives have gone after the tea party and libertarians with a vengeance, just wait until 2014.

    I completely agree with your basic premise here, that what you call the "mainstream" conservatives fight against those further right much harder than they do the leftists. It's because they're on the same side as the leftists; they're simply the "lite" version of progressivism.

  25. Anonymous24/1/13

    @Anonymous: I agree completely with your characterization of the Republican mainstream, a better "m" word perhaps being Milquetoasts.

    But just as I earlier expressed my displeasure with the incorrect use of the word "liberal," when "leftist" was more accurate, as your post demonstrates, I must also urge you to reconsider the use of the term "progressive." "Progressive" is a leftist term and, stripped of all meaning and context (as it is interpreted by most), it sounds somewhat comforting. Who isn't for progress? I argue that we should never call leftists "liberals" or "progressives." Free-market capitalists are the real progressives, but we can't change connotations overnight, and therefore the term has no use to us, except to say: "Progressive" is a leftist code word to hide their extremist agenda from the American people. Whenever you hear "progressive," remember that Huge Chavez is a progressive. Jacques Derrida aside, the onus is on us to deconstruct and dismantle the progressive agenda, and the only way to start is through truth-in-labeling (as the FTC would put it): leftist.

  26. Simon Raban24/1/13

    I think calling Israeli elections disastrous is a gross exaggeration. U.S. electing Obama was a disaster, but Israel elected mostly right and centrists parties. Yesh Atid platform was very reasonable from Israeli point of view. The question is whether Lapid will be able to deliver. In any case, these elections worked out very well for Netanyahu.

  27. vladdy5/2/13

    As for the comments saying "Just wait till 2014" (about vicious atttacks by the left), I totally agree. I wasted soo much breath in 2008 trying to convince somebody, anybody, that if they let it work on Sarah Palin, the left would use that power of destruction on every conservativbe candidate. "But she has too much baggage" is the best I got in return (the worst was to call her a stupid wacko) I just didn't realize it wasn't only the left that would do this to us -- it was also the establishment "right" and the media.

    Every time a conservative is attacked by profane and vile ad hominem remarks, members of the conservative movement should hold pressers to point out the dirt and corruption behind the attacks. The general public doesn't know the truth because it isn't told.


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