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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Hard Boys

During a recent solitary drive, I did something I hadn’t done in a long, long time: listened to Rush Limbaugh for thirty minutes or so. I was curious to learn if Rush’s recent extracurricular problems, and/or the November election results, had made him a tad humbler.Of course not. The first few minutes of Rush were devoted to redundant and completely idiotic assertions (on the authority of some British journalist, no less) that “liberals” were demanding the presidency for Hillary Clinton as compensation for her endurance of a troubled marriage. (Guess Rush doesn’t read many “liberal” blogs, eh?). But it got a lot worse: Limbaugh then started reading, verbatim, a long blog post by a Selwyn Duke entitled “Soft People, Hard People.” Aside from making Sigmund Freud stir in his grave, Duke basically argues that the “feminization” of American society, and our “weak” and sentimental attachment to things like civil liberties, sexual equality and independent media, doom us to extinction by the “hard people” of the Third World, especially Islamists, who laugh, laugh, laugh at our “soft” refusal to fight fire with fire.This is, of course, an argument about the indefensibility of “civilized” impulses that goes all the way back to Gibbons’ suggestion that Christianity fatally undermined the martial spirit of Rome. More recently, it was an essential element of the fascist contention that bourgeois liberal parliamentary democracy was too weak and “soft” to prevail against Bolshevism.Since Duke, and his publicist Limbaugh, don’t explicitly call for imprisonment of what Duke calls the “enemy inside the gates,” (though he does indulge in the “disease” metaphor for domestic enemies that the Nazis were so fond of, implying as it did a license to exterminate them as an act of biological self-defense), maybe a fairer analogy would be the Cold War argument that civil liberties should not be extended to communists, and that “hard” anti-communist authoritarian regimes beyond our borders deserved our maximum support. Indeed, Dinesh D’Souza recently extended that argument into the post-Cold War era by claiming that Jimmy Carter’s human rights fetish destabilized Reza Pahlavi and led to the Islamic Revolution in Iran and every Middle East calamity since then.Aside from confirming that Rush Limbaugh is as nutty and dangerous as ever, his reading of Duke’s jeremiad provided a timely reminder that there is and always has been a vast and momentous difference in world-view between Left-Center and Right, even among those who thought the Cold War was worth fighting, and among those who now think we are in a war with Jihadism. Some folks on the Left appear to believe there’s really no fundamental difference between Dick Cheney (who clearly thinks only “soft people” care about Abu Ghraib or Gitmo) and, say, Joe Biden or Hillary Clinton, or Peter Beinart or Thomas Friedman (who clearly think the universal values of liberalism are America’s best weapons in any war).If the only thing that matters to you is being right or wrong on the original decision to go into Iraq, or if your litmus test is whether this or that person favors immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops, maybe such subtle distinctions as this or that person’s basic orientation on civil liberties, sexual equality, human rights, independent media, or the ultimate meaning of Western Civilization, represent nothing more than a lot of elitist talk. But in the long run, when it comes to electoral choices between the Hard Boys of the Right who think liberal values should be discarded as self-destructive baggage, and the Soft Men and Women of the Center-Left who think they are the essence of any civilization worth fighting for–maybe it will matter a whole lot.

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