Intelligent Persons, on Both Sides of the American Political Feud, Are Acting Like Idiots

Ken Burns Suggests Nazism Is Intruding Into Our Political Conduct

The governor of New York, and future president, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, at Albany in 1930.

by Conrad Black

Mark Levin, despite his tendency to shout at his television audience, is often a formidable critic of the contemporary American left. He is, though, an exemplar of the now pandemical affliction of much of the American political intelligentsia, left and right, to impute absurdly extreme faults to their opponents.

In his justified contempt for the Biden regime and most Democrats, Mr. Levin has demonized the Democratic Party as an instrument of almost systemic evil since before the Civil War.

In an apparently parallel process, the distinguished liberal documentary filmmaker Ken Burns, has made himself a leader of what I cited, in the words of the ineffable Ann Coulter last week, as the “pompous douchebaggery” of likening Donald Trump and his supporters to Adolf Hitler and the German Nazis.

Mr. Levin must know that the founders of the Democratic Party, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, were the principal authors of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution (respectively), as Mr. Levin never tires of reverently quoting both documents and they are displayed on the walls of his television studio.

He would be aware that the original Democratic Party won 13 of the 15 elections between 1800 and 1856, essentially on the proposition in the South that they would make the Union work for the South and in the North that they would keep the South in the Union.

Andrew Jackson advanced the same theme and even threatened to hang his vice president, John C. Calhoun, if he championed the secession of South Carolina or the nullification of federal laws in that state. The other capable early Democratic president, James K. Polk, largely completed the territorial expansion of the United States with the trumped-up Mexican war; Jefferson’s Louisiana purchase and Polk’s land-grab from Mexico each added almost 1,000,000 square miles to the modest territory with which the 13 colonies began.

These men were slaveholders, and they were, up to a point, slippery or even sleazy political hypocrites. Theodore Roosevelt so regarded them, but they kept the country together until the North was strong enough to suppress the southern insurrection. Times change, and their hour passed.

It is high time the crystalline, beatific mythos of America conformed a little more closely to historical fact, but that does not erase the great service rendered by the early Democratic leaders to America. Mr. Levin is obsessed by Franklin D. Roosevelt; he considers the New Deal to be an unconstitutional vote-buying exercise whose massive public works and conservation projects had no value for the country.

He completely overlooks Roosevelt’s heroic championship of the democracies before Pearl Harbor, the Lend-Lease Act which gave Britain and Canada everything they wanted on long-term credit, and he dismisses Roosevelt’s orders to the United States Navy, while America was ostensibly a neutral country, to attack German ships on detection out to 1,800 miles from the American East Coast as “playing footsie with Hitler.”

In a particularly nonsensical outburst on his television program on September 26, Mr. Levin accused Roosevelt of racist prejudice against African-Americans. In fact, he vastly improved the lot of African-Americans by treating them with fiscal equality in all of the New Deal public works, conservation, job retraining, and welfare schemes, and facilitated the most radical advance of the African-American standard of living in the United States since the emancipation of the slaves.

Roosevelt finessed many of these issues, including the appalling official reticence about anti-lynching laws, because he had to have the votes of the southern Democrats in order to arm America, assist the democracies, and be prepared to defeat Hitler and the Japanese. If he had split his party by alienating the southern whites, Republican isolationists would have governed the country and Hitler would have conquered Europe.

The Democrats have often been a great party, and both parties have built the country and both have at times been terribly inadequate, as the Democrats are now. Trump-haters more than counterbalance Levin and almost all those who insist on referring to “the Democrat Party,” (a derogatory description that I believe began with the red-baiting Senator, Joseph R. McCarthy — it is like anti-Semites who use the word “Jew” as an adjective).

They are now, led by their faltering president, pushing this nauseating slander of a similarity between Mr. Trump, his followers, and his policies, to the Nazis. President Obama portentously announced, as he unveiled his hare-brained notions of unilateral nuclear disarmament, “Words must mean something.”

Nowadays, though, in American political discourse often they don’t. Hillary Clinton last week shared with us her brilliant aperçu that a Nazi Nuremberg rally where hundreds of thousands of uniformed party militants extended their right hands towards Hitler and shrieked “Sieg heil” in unison was practically replicated by some hundreds of Trump supporters at the front of a rally in Ohio recently, good-naturedly raising their arms straight up with index fingers extended as sports fans do when their team is number one.

Mrs. Clinton is the woman who destroyed 33,000 emails under subpoena, flopped a great deal of classified information straight into the lap of the Kremlin through negligent use of email servers, and corrupted the senior intelligence and FBI to the point that the infamous Steele Dossier of lies and libels against her opponent was dumped into the press as authentic intelligence, indicating that Donald Trump was, to quote National Intelligence director James Clapper, (without a shred of evidence), “a Russian intelligence asset.”

Speaker Pelosi three years ago said that the enclosures that President Obama had constructed on the Mexican border, where children abandoned by illegal migrants were quite comfortably lodged, were reminiscent of Auschwitz. CNN reporter Christiane Amanpour (a very pleasant woman personally) two years ago informed her viewers that the anniversary of the murderous Kristallnacht pogroms in Germany in 1938 put America in mind of Donald Trump.

Only a lucky recluse would have been spared the exultant orgies of fatuity over the alleged barbarism of those who wish to make America great again, normally a reasonable ambition.

Perhaps the ne plus ultra of defamatory nonsense from someone who knows better is Ken Burns’ reflection two weeks ago when the governor of Florida, having obtained the voluntary agreement of 50 people who had entered the country illegally to be transported to the rich and professedly tolerant island of Martha’s Vineyard and did so. Burns said Governor DeSantis had committed an act comparable to the dispatch of innocent victims stuffed into cattle cars to Auschwitz where they were gassed and incinerated.

Mr. Burns concluded his recent television documentary on the United States and the Holocaust, which was generally a good professional job, by claiming that Nazism was beginning to intrude into contemporary American political conduct.

There was even a fleeting cameo appearance of the scourge of “douchebaggery,” Ann Coulter, as illustrative of the green shoots of current American Nazism. Intelligent people are acting and speaking like malicious idiots, on both sides of the political divide. This reduces political discourse to defamatory imbecility, and it trivializes the greatest tragedies and acts of heroism of modern history. America must outgrow this maladjusted juvenilism.

First published in the New York Sun.

2 Responses

  1. Perhaps it’s more like incompetents on both sides are behaving as expected, as usual, as imbeciles. Otherwise, since end of the Cold War, we’d have mutuaĺly beneficial coexistence, if not loving cooperation.

  2. Lovely writing and true. Some respect is due in a democracy. I am not sure which side is more disrespectful.

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