The Anger of Liberals

Andrew Sullivan —  Oct 31 2006 @ 2:34pm

Oldgloryptown_1

A longtime reader writes:

Why do you think the anger of the left – the decent left – is any less than yours? Do you think we feel less betrayed? Wrong. Do you think we are less betrayed? Wrong.

Like your African-American friends, many of us on the left knew the WMD argument was game. I wrote you years ago that the WMD was a set-up; that they knew it; that they lied about it; that they believed they’d find some old munitions left over from the first Gulf War that they could hold up and justify themselves with; that they were shocked Tcscover_10 shitless when they found the whole country swept clean and they were left standing there speechless like the idiots they are. But even I never suspected the level of incompetence and perfidy they’ve shown since – to the American people, and to the Iraqis.

Do I blame you for being mad? Not a bit. But keep in mind that those of us on the left who saw this coming – and saw a hundred other issues coming, from abrogation of the wall between church and state to the ballooning deficit – we have spent the last five years being called every ugly, vicious name in the book because we tried to stop this, because we tried to warn the American people: haters, traitors, pussies, weenies, liars, partisans, hacks, wacks, radicals, commies, atheists, morally confused, mentally challenged and anything, anything except patriots who love this country and everything it stands for – or ought to stand for. Even the name "liberal", that honorable word, has been made into a curse. So don’t tell me the anger of the betrayed and decent right and center is deeper. Just tell us thanks for keeping the faith, for fighting the good fight. Just for once, call us brothers and sisters.

And remember: don’t get mad. Get even. Keep speaking out. The book (yes, I’ve read it), the blog: they make a difference. They matter. When you explain, as you do in the book, how you see classic conservatism as the defense of liberty from brutality through doubt, caution, common sense and rigorous self-examination, when you show how our Declaration of Independence and our Constitution are classic small-c conservative documents, you build a ground for dialog between left and right and a way out of this mess.

I do not agree with all your views on particular policies – but that’s not necessary, because I respect and trust your good intentions and good faith, your essential humility and humanity – and I’ve seen you grow and change over the years, often, as now, with considerable pain. That’s to be respected, and it’s why I advise all liberals to give "The Conservative Soul" a read; it’s well worth it. In any case, we agree on the bedrock issues, which utterly transcend left and right. We can agree to disagree on particular policies here and there – and get on with it. The challenges we face in the coming years – from global warming to nuclear proliferation to economic instability – will require us to meet on common ground.

On these grounds, I have indeed come to see that many, many liberals are indeed my brothers and my sisters. And increasing numbers of conservatives as well, thank God. For some on the far left, Bush could never have done any right, ever. I’m not going to exculpate the hate-filled parts of the far-left. But many, many others on the left were right about these people in power; and I was wrong. I threw some smug invective their way and, in retrospect, I am ashamed of it. Sure, I recognized my error before the last election, but that doesn’t excuse it. Sure, some of it was just misunderstanding each other, in a climate of great fear, and some of it was just my arrogance that I was right. But that doesn’t excuse it all either. My book is an attempt to rescue something from the wreckage – an atonement of sorts – and to move forward.

Because the world still needs America: the decent America we all love and so many around the world do not see any more.