There is stiff competition these days for the most morose precinct on the left. The New York Times editorial page is a perennial candidate, but they’ve been dyspeptic about America since about the second week of the Johnson administration, so a thick layer of Trumpismo can’t really addle them more than the Nixon darkness, Reagan madness, and Bush tyranny already has.
The New Yorker is trying hard to be the most insane, but I think the real winner has to be the New York Review of Books. I still subscribe to the NYRB, as nearly every issue has something genuinely worth reading, and it is, along with the Democracy Journal, a good portal into the thinking of smart liberalism—especially necessary since The New Republic decided to chuck 100 years of worthy liberalism to become a clown show.
Just about every issue of the NYRB now comes with several alarmist articles about how we’re doomed in the Age of Trump. And even the erudite liberals of the NYRB can’t resist the reductio ad Hitlerum, such as Timothy Snyder’s article in the latest issue, “The Reichstag Warning.” The article barely mentions Trump, but the subtext blares from every paragraph. Not only does the piece validate Godwin’s Law once again (“The longer a political argument continues, the probability that Hitler will be invoked always approaches 1.0”), but it also offers Strange New Respect for . . . George W. Bush!
It is aspiring tyrants who say that “civil liberties end when an attack on our safety begins.” Conversely, leaders who wish to preserve the rule of law find other ways to speak about real terrorist threats, and certainly do not invent them or deliberately make them worse.
In this respect, the Bush administration’s reaction to the September 11, 2001 attacks was not as awful as it might have been. To be sure, 9/11 was used to justify the vast expansion of NSA spying and the torture of foreign detainees. It also became the specious pretext for an ill-considered invasion of Iraq that killed hundreds of thousands of people, spread terrorism throughout the Middle East, and ended the American century. But at least the Bush administration did not claim that Muslims as a whole were responsible, nor try to change the basic rules of the political game in the United States. Had it done so, and succeeded, we might already today be living in a post-democratic country.
And of course the obligatory cliché ending, complete with obligatory Harrah Arendt reference:
The Reichstag fire has long been an example for tyrants; it should today be a warning for citizens. It was the burning of the Reichstag that disabused Hannah Arendt of the “opinion that one can simply be a bystander.” Best to learn that now, rather than waiting for the flames.
This would be even funnier if there wasn’t such a shameful record of establishment liberals missing the meaning of the Reichstag Fire the first time around, as previously dissected here on Power Line.
So I think the NYRB gets the prize as the most miserable place in liberaldom to work these days. Oh the humanity!