Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Weiner and the end of liberalism

By Bernie Quigley

For The Hill on 6/15/11

One of the more curious aspects of the Weiner situation – it might be called the Weiner phenomenon – is that it went on for so long and the messages got stranger and stranger. This morning’s Drudge headline: “New pictures show teen Weiner cross dressing and ’oiled up’ . . . .” He seemed to want to get caught. There is desperation to his behavior like that of the Soviets at the end of empire or Kim Jong-il threatening the entire outside world with wilder and crazier schemes when he is virtually alone and crated in isolation. My thought was that Weiner is not a stupid guy. He isn’t really perverted in any conventional sense. He is simply acting out political action and behavior to offend; oppositional behavior to offend the “Bible Belt” which he sees, probably correctly, as the rising wellspring of conservative cultural and economic vision in North America. Like the wacky Kim Jong-il, Weiner, so very distant from the center of the circle; so far from the master’s voice, acts out an inchoate end game. Possibly we are seeing the desperate end of western liberalism.

“It’s New York City. This isn’t Bible Belt tolerance; that’s not a New York thing,” Robert Liff, a New York Democratic political operative told McClatchy newspapers. “We’re a live-and-let-live city.”

It’s those gnarly red necks out there in the Bible Belt; cooking hot dogs on their Webber grills, doing cannonballs in their suburban swimming pools, going to church. Going hunting. Having children.

Worth suggesting the end of liberalism because that seems to be going on in Canada. In the recent election conservative Stephen Harper won again after serving since 2004. For once, Canada did not follow America’s cue and send up a pseudo-Obama. The Liberal Party won the fewest seats in their history and party leader Michael Ignatieff was defeated in his riding.

What is significant here is that Michael Ignatieff, a retired Harvard professor and liberal writer, won only 34 seats. It has been said that in Canada, the old liberalism – Roosevelt, Obama, Weiner-style liberalism – is dead.

My guess is that we are seeing something of the same happening here with the rise in influence of people like Ron Paul, Texas Governor Rick Perry, Sarah Palin and the Tea Party.

Ted Kennedy, not only the Senate champion of liberal thinking, but the bearer of a family vision of liberalism which has dominated America and the west since 1960, has been dead now almost two years. Looking back to Jefferson, to Victoria and Eisenhower, an “avatar” or archetypal quality of leadership can be observed: When the archetypal leader dies the movement dies with him and the country quickly moves on. Just as the heartland moved to the rustic, two-fisted populist Andrew Jackson of Tennessee’s frontier just three years after the historic revolutionary Jefferson’s death.

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