Cannon to the Left of Them

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“You’re either with us or with the evildoers.”

Only George W. Bush says stuff like that? Not entirely. Todd Gitlin, who has a long history on the left (and unlike Hitchens and others, still is there), discovered the mirror image of that mantra recently when he wrote approvingly about the idea of a liberal American patriotism.

This is nowhere more true than on the left. I’ve been rediscovering this cardinal principle since publishing a book a couple of months ago in which I argued what seemed to me to be the not-soterribly-controversial point that it was possible to be liberal and patriotic at the same time. A slightly iconoclastic idea, maybe, but for many of my longtime colleagues on the left, that was all it took. The night of the long knives had begun.

Why is the left so determined to eat its own? Sometimes it can be explained as the fervor of fighters determined to root out impurities. These keepers of the true flame are convinced that they have the people’s interest at heart â€â€? and harbor the suspicion that the people are being misled by wolves masquerading as shepherds. The misleaders must therefore be thrashed.

There’s more, worth reading. I often dispute what Gitlin writes, but I also own some of his books and I do think he’s a serious thinker, worth the trouble of reading and debating. Which is not true of many of the people who are attacking him.

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