Politics & Media
Feb 07, 2024, 06:27AM

The Chosen Liberals

You’re allowed to do nuance, if you’re on the left.

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I’ll write about Jews, Canadians, women, and blacks, respectively, over the coming four weeks of Black History Month, as a way of honoring multiple often-marginalized groups, meaning no disrespect to others. But the prize for “most improved,” if they gave one to previously-vilified senators, would have to go to hulking, speech-impaired John Fetterman, and I don’t mean because of his improving syntax.

Who could’ve foreseen that the horrific Hamas-Israel conflict would bring out steely, party-bucking resolve in this politician, who for so long was talked about as if he were a mere pitiable charity case by both his Democratic colleagues and Republican detractors?

The man who it seemed might be elected only because liberals needed a warm non-Republican body from Pennsylvania in his seat in DC—and as a result didn’t care how badly garbled or brain-damage-evincing his sentences seemed—now hoists the Israeli flag in defiance of both the majority sentiment in his party and the anger of pro-Palestinian protestors outside his home, who chant that he endorses “genocide” but likely are forgiving of Hamas themselves. (Hey, man, it’s four months since organized Palestinian terror attacks killed over a thousand Israelis, so isn’t it time to let bygones be bygones, etc.)

Reasonable people can disagree about Fetterman’s surprising support for Israel, U.S. border security, pot legalization, and more, but you can’t deny he’s willing to stick his neck out and deviate from the herd—not to mention willing to confront corrupt New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez.

Meanwhile, at my old school, Brown University, the Israel-Hamas conflict lately takes the form of a big hunger strike aimed at getting the institution to divest from and boycott Israel. Brown’s even more progressive/left than the Democratic Party—and now of all times just happens to have sent out a fundraising mass e-mail focused on a charismatic Muslim student, lest you think they’ve forgotten the “out” group as they encourage generosity in their sometimes-masochistic, easily guilt-tripped liberal alums.

But Brown is also about one-third Jewish, so I suspect those hunger-striking students will get pretty hungry indeed waiting for the place to cut ties with Israel. Might the strikers accept halal food as a sort of moderate temporary solution? I’m just thinking out loud here. (Regardless, I hope the place will never again suffer violence like the recent, apparently bigotry-motivated murder of a Muslim student.)

I’m hardly surprised or upset that a liberal political party or a liberal college are riven by differing perspectives on conflict in Israel. (Recent sparring on the topic between two people talked about as long-shot contenders for the Libertarian Party presidential nomination, Dave Smith and RFK Jr., is a reminder that my own political faction can’t quite make up its mind on the topic either.) I must say I’m a little irked—though this is a trifling concern compared to a potential third world war—by the fact that liberals are allowed to be at odds with each other on such a topic without often being accused of being closet Nazis.

By contrast, try taking an unpopular and radical position on Israel or Palestinians—in any direction—if you’re a conservative and see whether you get a generous listen. See whether your motives are assumed to be good.

If you’re Biden, you can praise Israel one day and condemn Israeli settlements the next, and the liberal establishment will still talk about you as if you’re gradually triangulating your way toward permanent global peace. But if you’re, oh, say, Donald Trump—not that I’m suggesting he’s great—you can have a Jewish grandson and move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem and progressives will still pretend they fear you’re going to herd all the non-Christians into internment camps any day now. One election away from a thousand years of undemocratic darkness, etc., etc.

Given how much liberals have learned to change their positions on a dime for political advantage over the past eight years, including on matters of warfare (once ostensibly viewed as bad by the left), I suppose the logical culmination of their current thinking would be an all-out, multi-directional Middle East war, with extra bombs directed at Iran, combined with constant assurances that they’re doing far more for peace than those heartless Republicans ever would. The public tends to rally behind wartime presidents, so the Biden people must surely be crunching the numbers by now to see if the voters they lose on the left by being gung-ho pro-Israel are offset by the “moderates” they pick up by being manly warriors.

But then, even if that cynical strategy works, we shouldn’t pity the Republican Party too much, since it has itself rarely hesitated to use war as a way to boost its popularity, even when the wars themselves don’t work out so well. Trump, to his credit—and unlike many in his own party—is reportedly genuinely alarmed by how much most Washingtonians in both parties love war and the constant stream of would-be advisors telling him where the U.S. should bomb next.

Yet if Trump gets back into office and so much as looks sideways at exorbitant military budgets, he’ll probably be accused of being motivated by anti-Semitism and indifference to Israel. The left, though, can basically do whatever it wants and then give itself Nobel Peace Prizes and thanks on behalf of all humanity for, well, supposedly at least trying to heal divisions and to prevent World War III, no matter how many times the rubble ends up bouncing. Fingers crossed.

Todd Seavey is the author of Libertarianism for Beginners and is on X at @ToddSeavey


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