In quite possibly the best movie about movies, the 1941 classic Sullivan’s Travels, the title character, when asked how “the girl” fits “into the picture”, responds, “There’s always a girl in the picture. What’s the matter, don’t you go to the movies?”
Just as a movie’s gotta have a girl, some on the left just gotta have a villain. Whether it was Herbert Hoover from 1932 until the rise of Richard Nixon or that cantankerous Californian himself in the 1970s, Ronald Reagan in the 1980s, Newt Gingrich in the 1990s and then George W. Bush and Dick Cheney until Sarah Palin stole the show in 2008, members of the vast left-wing conspiracy have been looking to advance their cause by denigrating a Republican politician.
And now with the Koch brothers, they’ve found a new team to vilify. While these guys share Reagan conservatives’ commitment to free markets, the billionaires are more libertarian than conservative. But, no matter, as Matthew Continetti reports in his must-read article, The Paranoid Style in Liberal Politics, in the Weekly Standard:
During the fight over health care and cap and trade in 2009 and 2010, liberals went looking for baddies against whom to mobilize public opinion. The Kochs’ wealth and political involvement made them an obvious choice. Reflecting on the ferocity of the onslaught that ensued, Charles [Koch] told me, “I didn’t anticipate the hatred, the advocacy of violence.” He must not have been paying attention.
Back in 2005, when Republicans controlled the federal government, liberals had asked themselves, Where do we go from here? They’d long studied what they called the “counter-establishment,” the array of conservative foundations, think tanks, and media. These institutions, liberals concluded, had pushed America to the right. What the left required was the mirror image of the Olin and Bradley foundations, the Heritage Foundation and American Enterprise Institute, The Weekly Standard andNational Review, talk radio and Fox News Channel. The left needed to build a “counter-counter-establishment,” a “vast left-wing conspiracy” to combat the “vast right-wing conspiracy” that had impeached Bill Clinton and elected George W. Bush.
Jane Mayer’s August 2010 New Yorker article, “Covert Operations”, “became a sort of Rosetta Stone for Koch addicts. It was the template for any liberal wanting someone to blame for all the trouble in the world. Mayer had unlocked the secrets of the Kochtopus.” (Emphasis added.) And some liberals just have to have someone to blame.
These villains of the liberal imagination were using their millions to fund nefarious conservative organizations not because they shared their principles, but to line their own pockets. It seemed “impossible,” Continetti contends
. . . for the liberal activists to acknowledge that libertarians might actually operate from conviction. Charles and David believed in low taxes, less spending, and limited regulation not because those policies helped them but because they helped everybody. “If I wanted to enhance my riches,” said David, “why do I give away almost all my money?”
What is it about some on the left that they just can’t understand that conservatives and libertarians might just be operating from principle? Why is it they assume our support for the party that has not embraced the agenda of the various gay organizations is based on our own inner psychological turmoil rather than our real philosophical convictions? Does it even occur to these folks that we might agree with Republicans more often than we agree with Democrats (on issues unrelated to our sexuality), that we believe conservative ideas (as a whole) represent the best means to keep our nation strong and to effect its improvement?
To some on the left, the only principled actors, the only true idealists, are those on their side of the political aisle. Someone supporting an opposing principle must, by definition, be acting to advance his own interest — or that of the corporations for which he shills.
And since right-wingers are, by definition, such corporate shills, all too many on the left feel they need an appropriate poster boy to help expose their adversaries sinister machinations. In this template, liberals don’t need arguments to promote their cause, but a villain to demonize those who would thwart their own political agenda.
Just as Hollywood movies have their formula so too do left-wing pundits and activists.