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Anatomy of an attitude
Question of the Day
SANTA BARBARA, Calif.
Leftists are not content merely to win elections and pass legislation but insist on impugning their opponents as immoral, author Peter Schweizer told a gathering of students here.
author Peter Schweizer told a gathering of students here.
"If you oppose their economic agenda, you're greedy; if you oppose their environmental agenda, you're a polluter; if you oppose labor unions, you're heartless; if you oppose affirmative action, you're a racist and a bigot," Mr. Schweizer told an audience of about four dozen high school and college students attending a conference titled "Deconstructing the Left" last month.
Mr. Schweizer joined other conservative speakers at the conference, hosted by the Young America's Foundation, in describing left-wing politics as characterized by narcissism, self-righteousness and hypocrisy, a movement that views itself as occupying the moral high ground while presenting big government as the solution to all of this country's problems.
Mr. Schweizer, author of "Do as I Say, Not as I Do" and a fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, added that many of the same people pushing a leftist agenda don't live up to the ideals they prescribe "because they know on a practical level they don't work."
He cited as examples Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat, who opposes gun control and yet his own bodyguard was caught with several firearms, and filmmaker Michael Moore, who chides companies for not hiring more blacks, yet of the 134 producers, editors, cinematographers, composers and production coordinators he has hired for his films, only three were black.
"They have a set of rules for most Americans, and they have a set of rules for themselves," Mr. Schweizer said.
Several of the speakers at the conference held at YAF's Reagan Ranch Center accused leftists of having a self-righteous attitude. Steven Hayward called them "snobs," saying they have this "we're better than you, and we don't have to argue about it" attitude.
"Snobbery has become a formal value to the left," said Mr. Hayward, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and author of books such as "Greatness: Reagan, Churchill, and the Making of Extraordinary Leaders" and "The Age of Reagan."
About 250 years ago, liberalism was the idea that individuals should be free to pursue their own self-chosen purpose, but it now stands for very different values, Mr. Hayward said. Over the past century, modern liberalism has elevated compassion above all other virtues and embraced relativism, evolution and multiculturalism, he said.
To the left, "the idea of objectivity itself is nothing more than part of an oppressive social structure," Mr. Hayward said.
Liberalism has also sacrificed individual rights for the sake of so-called human rights, such as the right to housing, the right to a job and other government-funded rights, he said.
He noted that the U.N. Universal Declaration of Rights includes an article calling for the right to paid vacations. "Liberalism, having abolished the idea of the divine right of kings, had now restored the idea of the absolute rule of the divine right of the state," Mr. Hayward said.
Ward Connerly, chairman of the American Civil Rights Institute, former regent of the University of California and author of "Creating Equal: My Fight Against Race Preferences," underscored Mr. Hayward's comments as he talked about how leftists apply their beliefs with regard to race.
Leftists are inclined to think people are evil and that government is needed to correct or balance the problem, he said.
"Those on the left really believe that American life is controlled by white males, and that women and ... minorities can't get an equal share in American life because of that evil nature," Mr. Connerly said. "That's the paradigm that exists."
Leftists are ultimately motivated by narcissism, said Tammy Bruce, a nationally syndicated radio talk-show host and author of books such as "The New Thought Police" and "The Death of Right and Wrong."
"A leftist is operating out of a very different framework socially, emotionally and structurally," Ms. Bruce said, citing such examples as antiwar activist Cindy Sheehan and former CIA employee Valerie Plame. "You are looking at ... malignant narcissist."
Ms. Bruce, a former member of the National Organization for Women board of directors, encouraged the students to stand firm when confronted with pressure from leftists on campuses and to never give up the moral high ground.
"This argument that you should sacrifice yourself, completely eliminate yourself for some greater root good, is an effort by the powerful who don't want you to exercise that personal freedom or that personal power," Ms. Bruce said.
The students also received a warning about campus leftists from Andrew Breitbart, co-author of "Hollywood, Interrupted" and founder of the news site Breitbart.com, who said there is conspiracy among academics to not teach conservative ideas.
Many leftists choose career paths — including academia, journalism and entertainment — that allow them to promulgate their beliefs, he said. But he also criticized conservatives for being too closed-minded in who they support, citing a movie producer who wanted to portray Marines as heroes, but who was shunned by many conservatives after they learned about his past drug addiction.
"The only way we are going to change journalism and Hollywood is if we allow more people into this fight," Mr. Breitbart said. "We have to effect change on a much larger scale."
Several students said the conference inspired them.
"It's been really helpful," said Ashley Herzog, a 21-year-old junior attending Ohio University and a contributing columnist for Townhall.com. "You never hear this perspective at my school. These speakers would never be invited."
Andrew Coffin, acting director of the Reagan Ranch Center, YAF's West Coast headquarters, said the conference is one of many efforts meant to help conservative students become emboldened and have a better understanding of their beliefs.
About 300,000 students go through one at least one of the foundation's programs each year, including its conferences, seminars, campus lectures and internships, he said.
"They become the type of activist citizen that's made this country great," Mr. Coffin said of the foundation's alumni.
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