'Why I Am No Longer a "Brain-Dead Liberal"'
Nothing annoys a liberal more than when one of their celebrated intelligentsia defects toward the Right.
This week, yet another Leftist icon, David Mamet, announced he is coming to his senses.
Mamet is a Tony- and Oscar-nominated playwright, screenwriter and film director. His notable plays include Glengarry Glen Ross, which won the Pulitzer Prize in 1984, and Speed-the-Plow. His films include The Verdict, Wag the Dog, The Postman Always Rings Twice and Ronin (a personal favorite). He currently writes for and produces the television show “The Unit.”
As an author and essayist, he has accrued a large and loyal following among the Leftist glitterati.
Mamet chose to “come out” with an op-ed published by Norman Mailer’s rag, The Village Voice, entitled, “Why I am no longer a ‘Brain-Dead Liberal’,” in which he outlines, in some detail, his migration from the Left.
Mamet opens his essay with a quote from macro economist John Maynard Keynes, who responded to a challenge about his changing views, saying, “When the facts change, I change my opinion. What do you do, sir?”
You may recall that Keynes, whose early 20th century writings advocated the “New Deal” socialist economic policies still embraced by Democrats, was roundly criticized for adjusting his economic opinion after free market economist Friedrich von Hayek critiqued Keynes’ 1930 Treatise on Money. In fact, after reading Hayek’s seminal condemnation of socialism, The Road to Serfdom, Keynes proclaimed, “Morally and philosophically I find myself in agreement with virtually the whole of it: and not only in agreement with it, but in deeply moved agreement.” (Apparently, Demos did not get the memo.)
According to Mamet, his own transformation began when he “wrote a play about politics, and as part of the ‘writing process,’ I started thinking about politics.” Now there’s a novel concept for Leftist politicos, actually “thinking about politics.”
He notes that central to Leftist thinking is the precept that so much is wrong with America, and responds, “This is, to me, the synthesis of this worldview with which I now found myself disenchanted: that everything is always wrong. … I took the liberal view for many decades,” says Mamet, “but I believe I have changed my mind.”
Mamet continues, “In my life, a brief review revealed, everything was not always wrong, and neither was nor is always wrong in the community in which I live, or in my country. Further, it was not always wrong in previous communities in which I lived, and among the various and mobile classes of which I was at various times a part. And, I wondered, how could I have spent decades thinking that everything was always wrong. … We in the United States get from day to day under rather wonderful and privileged circumstances – that we are not and never have been the villains that some of the world and some of our citizens make us out to be, but that we are a confection of normal individuals living under a spectacularly effective compact called the Constitution, and lucky to get it.”
Mamet contrasts current criticisms of President George Bush with the Left’s most revered protagonist, John F. Kennedy: “Bush got us into Iraq, JFK into Vietnam. Bush stole the election in Florida; Kennedy stole his in Chicago. Bush outed a CIA agent; Kennedy left hundreds of them to die in the surf at the Bay of Pigs. Bush lied about his military service; Kennedy accepted a Pulitzer Prize for a book written by Ted Sorenson. Bush was in bed with the Saudis, Kennedy with the Mafia.”
On capitalism: “Oh, and I began to question my hatred for ‘the Corporations,’ the hatred of which, I found, was but the flip side of my hunger for those goods and services they provide and without which we could not live.”
On the military: “And I began to question my distrust of the ‘Bad, Bad Military’ of my youth, which, I saw, was then and is now made up of those men and women who actually risk their lives to protect the rest of us from a very hostile world.”
On the Left’s relentless classist rhetoric: “Classes in the United States are mobile, not static, which is the Marxist view. That is: Immigrants came and continue to come here penniless and can (and do) become rich; the nerd makes a trillion dollars; the single mother, penniless and ignorant of English, sends her two sons to college (my grandmother). On the other hand, the rich and the children of the rich can go belly-up; the hegemony of the railroads is appropriated by the airlines, that of the networks by the Internet; and the individual may and probably will change status more than once within his lifetime.”
On the freedom to think: “Prior to the midterm elections, my rabbi was taking a lot of flack. The congregation is exclusively liberal, he is a self-described independent (read ‘conservative’), and he was driving the flock wild. Why? Because a) he never discussed politics; and b) he taught that the quality of political discourse must be addressed first – that Jewish law teaches that it is incumbent upon each person to hear the other fellow out. I, like many of the liberal congregation, began, teeth grinding, to attempt to do so. And in doing so, I recognized that I held two views of America (politics, government, corporations, the military). One was of a state where everything was magically wrong and must be immediately corrected at any cost; and the other – the world in which I actually functioned day to day – was made up of people, most of whom were reasonably trying to maximize their comfort by getting along with each other (in the workplace, the marketplace, the jury room, on the freeway, even at the school-board meeting).”
He concludes, “I realized that the time had come for me to avow my participation in that America in which I chose to live, and that that country was not a schoolroom teaching values, but a marketplace. I began reading not only the economics of Thomas Sowell (our greatest contemporary philosopher) but Milton Friedman, Paul Johnson, and Shelby Steele, and a host of conservative writers, and found that I agreed with them: a free-market understanding of the world meshes more perfectly with my experience than that idealistic vision I called liberalism.”
Predictably, some of Mamet’s former colleagues and devotees among the ever-tolerant and inclusive ranks of mindless tin men, were quick to condemn Mamet for his changing views: “How sad that an intelligent person like David would write such a simplistic, downright infantile article filled with stereotypes and lacking any substantive insight whatsoever.” “Does this mean that you’ve given up on democracy and thrown in with the authoritarians?” “I had no idea Mamet could be so shallow.” “Mr. Mamet is now simply brain dead.” “I’m saddened to learn David is either a liar or a fool or both.” “Mamet is a political ignoramus who hides his frustration by lashing out at an imagined ‘liberalism’.”
Notably, many of his Lefty critics mentioned Mamet’s faith: “Our old friend Mamet is perhaps too rich and too Jewish.” And more to the point: “It’s been apparent for quite some time that Mamet is a Zionist. This screed is just additional evidence.”
For his part, however, Mamet’s essay is courageous. He joins a long list of Leftists who have moved right, including such notables as David Horowitz, Chris Hitchens, Norm Podhoretz, Irving Kristol, Nat Hentoff, Marvin Olasky, Bernard Goldberg and Evan Sayet – all of whom are persona non grata among their old colleagues.
There are also many Democrats who courageously switched political allegiance and became outspoken conservatives, including Charlton Heston, Strom Thurmond, Jesse Helms, Jeane Kirkpatrick, Bill Bennett, Phil Gramm, Ben Nighthorse Campbell and Richard Shelby.
Of course, a onetime Democrat also became the 20th century’s greatest champion of conservative philosophy: Ronald Wilson Reagan.
President Reagan said, “I did not leave the Democratic Party, the Democratic Party left me.” To the millions of Americans who followed him to the Republican Party, he said, “I know what it’s like to pull the Republican lever for the first time, because I used to be a Democrat myself, and I can tell you it only hurts for a minute, and then it feels great.”
And a footnote: I can list countless Americans who have moved from the ideological Left to the Right, but I am hard pressed to name a single established conservative who has moved Left.