Wednesday, May 9, 2012

American History Distorted: How Lawrence O'Donnell Unintentionally Shows Why Contemporary Leftist-Style "Liberalism" Is Wrong

 By Barry Rubin

The following statement from Lawrence O'Donnell is being widely circulated on the Internet. I'm sure that most of those who read it think these are self-evident truths about history proving that Republicans and conservatives are so obviously evil that the issue is beyond reasonable debate. Such credulity in the face of the current hegemonic narrative is an accurate sign of how American history has been taught to the current generation. It also shows us why we hear the equivalent of "the science is settled" on the difference between the two currently competing views of America.

"What did liberals do that was so offensive to the Republican Party? I’ll tell you what they did. Liberals got women the right to vote. Liberals got African-Americans the right to vote. Liberals created Social Security and lifted millions of elderly people out of poverty. Liberals ended segregation. Liberals passed the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act. Liberals created Medicare. Liberals passed the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act. What did Conservatives do? They opposed them on every one of those things, every one. So when you try to hurl that label at my feet, ‘Liberal,’ as if it were something to be ashamed of, something dirty, something to run away from, it won’t work, because I will pick up that label and I will wear it as a badge of honor."

This statement is well worth analyzing. Begin by noting that while this is supposedly a pro-liberal statement it is actually intended as a pro-Democratic Party statement. The message is by the “Anti-Republican Crusaders" directed explicitly against Republicans. The conflation of the accomplishments listed and the word liberal, on the one hand, and the presentation of Democratic Party as one creates considerable problems for his historical narrative.

We need your support. To make a tax-deductible donation to the GLORIA Center by PayPal or credit card: click Donate button: Checks: "American Friends of IDC.” “For GLORIA Center” on memo line. Mail: American Friends of IDC, 116 East 16th St., 11th Fl., NY, NY 10003.

Please be subscriber 29,2004. Put email address in upper right-hand box:

As a side remark, I thought the word “Crusaders” was not PC. Weren’t the Crusaders supposedly aggressive, cruel bigots? What will O’Donnell’s radical Islamist allies think of this usage?
In addition, either O’Donnell doesn’t know much about American history or he thinks the American people don’t. Probably both parts of that statement are true.

I am still a registered Democrat but I'm also someone who tries to be an honest historian. The following analysis is academic--in the old sense of the word--and as balanced as I can make it.

O’Donnell’s list is the dominant narrative in America today. You will find it promoted in every mass media outlet and taught as the only possible interpretation of U.S. history in schools. How accurate is it? Well, that’s the third question that should be asked. The first two are:

--Why is it that Obama and the current radicals-pretending-to be liberals have to run on an old historical record rather than their own record in office and the current anti-liberal ideas they propound?

--Why is it that we should assume that the situation faced by America today is the same as it was in 1913 or 1933 or 1964? Perhaps more government and regulation was needed in those years but since we have had decades of more and more of these things isn’t it possible that we’ve had enough, in fact, far more than enough?

These are two questions most of the American people never see.

Let’s go through O’Donnell’s list:

Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His book, Israel: An Introduction, has just been published by Yale University Press. Other recent books include The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan). The website of the GLORIA Center  and of his blog, Rubin Reports. His original articles are published at PJMedia.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.