The two speakers who most impressed me at the Log Cabin Convention in Dallas in 1998 are two individuals whom commenters to this blog often link as one. Back then, Andrew Sullivan and Arianna Huffington struck me as independent voices on the right, bright individuals offering a unique perspective on politics. Today, both are better known for their obsessive hatred of President Bush.
In transforming herself from a thoughtful conservative to darling of the anti-Bush left, Huffington seemed more interested in pleasing the liberals in her Westside (LA) neighborhood than in making serious arguments.
It all begin during the 2000 campaign for the Republican presidential nomination when she was a staunch supporter of John McCain. Probably noticing how some of her neighbors, who had previously shunned her due to her conservative views, started to embrace her when she criticized McCain’s rival, George W. Bush, she realized that attacking the eventual Republican nominee improved her social standing with her West LA peers.
She thus became a Bush critic for social reasons and so defined a condition which I have defined as Huffingtonitis, when one defines his political views and makes public statements in order to win social approval and/or acceptance. Over a year ago, Roger Simon, without naming it, wrote about this phenomenon:
people’s politics, like beauty, is only skin deep (a scary thought, actually). Many people have no real politics at all other than social “self-description.” They hypnotize themselves into sets of beliefs they feel are in keeping with club or team membership.
And so Arianna hypnotized herself to keep up with the attitudes of her wealthy neighbors. It’s not just liberals who are can be so hypnotized. Roger wrote that “All sides are ever open to this kind of emotionally stunted behavior.“
Katherine Harris, once a respected Florida politician elected to statewide office in 1998, seems to have become intoxicated by the praise she won in conservative circles over “her role overseeing the 2000 presidential recount as Florida’s secretary of state.” While she faced withering criticism from the Left, conservatives, notably Sean Hannity, fawned all over her. Delighted in such attention, she seemed to become increasingly detached from reality and starting making outlandish statements (and engaged in increasingly odd behavior) believing it might keep her in the limelight and draw accolades from her admirers on the right.
But, while Huffington’s statements (combined with her media savvy) helped her cement her position on the Left, Harris’s statements cost her the favor of her one-time conservative supporters. The Florida GOP can’t support her Senate bid against incumbent Democrat Bill Nelson. According to Friday’s OpinionJournal Political Diary (available by subscription):
Ed Rollins, a former Harris consultant who resigned earlier this year, says: “It’s the saddest thing I’ve even seen — a candidate whose ego and inability to recognize reality is hurting everything around her.”
Roger’s right. Individuals and both sides of the political aisle are open to being hypnotized into a political attitude which, they believe, will win them acceptanace, affection or accolades. That many on the left continue to embrace Huffington while most conservatives shun Harris suggests that contemporary conservatives are more skeptical of the self-serving zealots in our midst.
Still, it’s sad to see someone position him (or her) self politically not out of conviction, but out of desire for social acceptance. Not merely because it’s a sign of an individual’s hollowness, but also because, as we learn from the example of Katherine Harris, it doesn’t always work.
In the end, she’s left alone in the public square, a laughingstock to some, an embarrassment to others. And probably feeling empty inside, realizing that in losing touch with what first brought her into politics, she no longer has any cause to justify her presence in a public forum.
-Dan (AKA GayPatriotWest): GayPatriotWest@aol.com
UPDATE: Writing about Ned Lamont, Roger Simon relates the Connecticut Democrat’s political conversion to Arianna’s:
We could call this kind of convenient political conversion a “Huffington,” but he is far less skilled than Arianna, who knows how to feign approval of the other side, when necessary, at the drop of the hat, as she did while complimenting Charles Johnson today on the Reliable Sources show.
Read the whole thing!