Did Politico’s Evan Mandery set out to expose the authoritarian nature of the American left in this article called “What Happened to Alan Dershowitz”? I’m not sure. Regardless, he has done a good job of it.
Here are the key passages:
Over this storied career, Dershowitz’s public persona has remained more or less unchanged: loud, provocative, brilliant and principled, if also relentlessly self-promoting. And, until recently, his positions have been tolerated, if not always embraced, by the legal academy and universally acknowledged for their moral seriousness.
About a year ago, after Mueller’s appointment on May 17, that started to change. Around then, Dershowitz—never one to overlook a celebrity being railroaded—started getting more TV airtime for his argument that a sitting president could not be guilty of obstruction of justice. The liberal intelligentsia recoiled. Dershowitz speaks openly of having been shunned by friends and condemned by relatives since then—even, he told me, at his family’s recent Passover Seder, where his grandson and nephew urged him to dial down his public defense of the president.
He’s been harshly critiqued by former Harvard colleagues and within the small, tightly entwined community of civil libertarians. In late March, when legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin confronted him directly on Anderson Cooper 360—“I don’t know what’s going on with you … this is not who you used to be”—it felt like a moment of collective catharsis for liberals who see Trump as a threat to democracy.
There’s nothing wrong with “harshly critiqu[ing]” Dershowitz for his legal analysis of the persecution of President Trump, provided the criticism is of his arguments, not the man. But “shunning” and refusing to “tolerat[e]” are another matter.
It reminds me of the old saying “friends don’t let friends vote Republican,” with its authoritarian overtones. But Dershowitz isn’t even voting Republican, he says he voted for Hillary Clinton. He remains a liberal Democrat.
Dershowitz just doesn’t want to see the criminal law abused, and civil libertarian principles violated, in the left’s quest to destroy Trump. That’s enough to make him a pariah.
Some of his critics defend Dershowitz’s right to argue as he does — mighty big of them — but denounce him for doing it on Fox News. In effect, they are seeking to dictate where he speaks, another indicator of authoritarianism.
Dershowitz’s critics assert that it would be fine for him to make civil liberties arguments were not Trump a threat to democracy. But since Trump is, they say, Dershowitz should keep these arguments to himself.
Politico’s Mandery appears sympathetic to this line. “[P]erhaps the democratic project is under existential threat—and history, if it survives as an independent academic enterprise, will look back pityingly upon civil libertarians who coddled power with their concerns about prosecutorial overreach while a fundamentally corrupt president undermined the great American project,” he proclaims.
But missing from Mandery’s article is any evidence or serious example that would remotely support this alarmist rhetoric.
Authoritarians typically argue that they need to trample on civil liberties to protect true democracy, or some other “great project.” The American left is no different. It always has an excuse to erode our liberties.
If the left wants to argue that Trump is an “existential threat” to the “great American project,” and, indeed, to the “independent academic enterprise” of history, make the case. But don’t shun Alan Dershowitz because he refuses to abandon long-held principles of civil liberties in the name of these absurdities.
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