American Tyrants

Daniel Greenfield, a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the Freedom Center, is a New York writer focusing on radical Islam. He is completing a book on the international challenges America faces in the 21st century.


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When Elizabeth Warren went on MSNBC to deny that she was a member of the 1 percent despite her nearly 15 million dollar net worth, the denial had a cultural element to it. Despite being a millionaire, Warren did not see herself as “wealthy.”

The current debate over the 1 percent and the 99 percent is notable mainly for the shifting boundaries that are not based on economics, but on identity. For all its ‘Power to the People’ antics, American liberalism is not a movement of struggling people; there is a reason why the word limousine so often comes before liberal. Its roots lie in an upper class New England strata that relentlessly fought against Southern Baptists and working class Catholic immigrants. Those roots define modern day liberals much more so than the Jacksonian populism that they occasionally try to imitate.

The American liberal is not a populist, he is still a New England preacher, but without a religion to preach. He has a great faith in the virtues of an ordered moral society, even if that ordered moral society would have been completely incomprehensible and unacceptable to his forebears. It is a society based on the virtues of tolerance and the rule of the enlightened.

The inflow of the European left has brought in a strain of power to the people populism, but that has not made the American liberal take seriously the notion that the people whose rights he defends are his intellectual or social equals, no more than the 19th century New York Republicans patting African-Americans on the head while stomping on the Irish viewed either group as equals.

American liberalism has traveled a slightly altered road to get to the same place. But its place is still at the top and everyone else’s place is still at the bottom. Its persistent denial of this basic truth leads to the perennial absurdity of millionaires like Elizabeth Warren playing class warrior when the only class they represent is the class of people who work for the government.

The oligarchy which is busy bleeding the country dry does not represent any group of working people anywhere in the country. Not Protestant or Catholic, black or white, or of any other creed or identity. Like every ideology incarnated in a system, it represents its own interests. The Democratic Party is the government party. It exists to create jobs in government, to dispense government subsidies and to expand the power and scope of its organization. It is not fundamentally any different than Putin’s United Russia or Israel’s Kadima or similar political creatures around the world.

The strange intermarriage of New England moralists, New York merchants and European radicals eventually led to a system of pushing immigrants into government service, mandating tolerance and running every aspect of human life through Washington D.C. It took a while to get there, but the system is a decade or two away from being complete. When it is complete then all our lives will be run in every possible way by the Elizabeth Warrens who will smile condescendingly at us, nudge us in the direction we are supposed to go, and when we don’t go there, then the fines and the tasers come out.

No matter how far back you go, the roots of American liberalism lie in a fear of the people, a distrust of the great unwashed. American liberals have championed voting rights, so long as they were confident that those voting were their inferiors and could be herded into voting the right way. They have always distrusted the instincts of the public, no matter how much pious ink they spilled fighting on their behalf.

That view of man’s sinful nature still informs their deepest thinkers, and the sins are still the same, the failure of fellowship, the refusal to consider the welfare of others and march in lockstep to create that ideal society. The New Jerusalem of universal brotherhood. Those ideas have been dressed up in modern clothing, transmitted as denunciations of racism and bigotry, immigration advocacy and hate crime laws, but underneath is the same notion that a society of good will to all can be forced through rigorous regimentation by the truly enlightened.

The populism of the American liberal is a cynical dumbshow where representatives of the oppressed gather in conclaves to demand more oppression by their liberal oppressors. This spectacle is at the heart of a political oligarchy, which like every oligarchy is built on government subsidies and special access to power for the privileged. And like all oligarchies it must disguise its nature by playing the protector of the people. Unlike them it must also disguise its true nature from itself.

The convergence of the ideal society and the government society was inevitable from the start. It took a while to overcome the technological and cultural barriers to running an entire country from a central point. Those barriers have never been truly overcome, but the technocratic mirage makes it seem as if they have been. And the ongoing faith in a perfectible society run by the saints makes it seem as if it must be.

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  • LibertyLover

    This article is an excellent summary description of the modern American Progressive; self righteous, condescending and without scruples.

  • Amused

    ha,ha , yea it is , just like the right . "do as I say ,not as I do " , YOU and the author are all wet .

    • mrbean

      I was right, You really are intellectually challenged. Nahhhh,, you're stupid!

      • pagegl

        Well, that and a mindless prole consuming the spoon fed pap of his leaders.

    • wsk

      mucking foron!

  • Amused

    Good exercise in "turnabout " and hypocrisy though , Dave . BTW Dave , Reagan an "alleged conservative " and republican , expanded big government by 18 % .
    Who did you say was
    " the govmint paty " ?

    • truckwork

      I doubt that Reagan did so on his own, despite sources that you would have to support that figure.

      Expansion of government under any prior administration (with the exception of illegal actions taken by Obama) had to be agreed upon by both the House and Senate as part of a budget proposal (which the present Democrat controlled Senate has to do yet for the past 1000 or so days).

      Any expansion was caused by critics of Ronald Reagan who expanded entitlement programs to secure votes from those who continue to use these programs in lieu of gainful employement.

  • miscellany

    I respect Mr. Greenfield's thoughtfulness and agree with much of it, but he appears to lump Christianity in with the 'New England preachers' who want to control every aspect of one's life. This is the same mistake the liberals have made about conservatives, calling us Bible-thumping, gun-toting rednecks.
    It is easy to do if you do not understand that religion, secular or otherwise, is not the same as the Christianity that liberates and has us respect and sacrifice for one another because we do not live to lord it over others as progressives (the American brand of fascists) do.
    It is easy to say 'I am a Christian,' but that doesn't make you one. And if Mr. Greenfield is trying to paint the Great Awakenings of the 17 and 1800's as a bunch of busybodies, he's broad-brushing the whole movement with the tar of the hypocrites.
    Rather, it is self-righteousness that he's decrying, and rightfully so. Real Christianity also condemns this. And this self-centeredness is a built-in facet of the nature of human beings–it is why the secular governments of Europe and the liberals of the U.S. are kindred spirits.
    Mr. Greenfield is right about the desire of people to rule in others' lives. And that is what made the Christian early United States so special and different.

  • Guest

    Hey, we make pretty good maple up here in New England!

  • Guestg

    Syrup, that is.

    • mrbean

      He could have meant maple cabinets? Duhhhh….

      • klem

        They make good maple cabinets too.

    • tagalog

      The maples are pretty nice, too, especially when their leaves change color in the fall.

  • mrbean

    Liberals are control freaks who want to even control your life. The Obama administration has one overriding objective—tying together health care “reform,” non-stop meddling in the economy, and hard-Left Supreme Court appointments—it is that big government should make all the decisions for you. When it comes to how you live your life and soend your money, only liberal Washington bureaucrats know best.

  • george a. way jr.

    and satan can appear as a "angel of light " on both sides of the coin!!!!!!!!!!!! , mankind as a whole is sick and debased!!! , so keep slinging the mud boys and girls while we continue to slide into "sodom and gomorrah the sequel !!!!!!!!!!!

  • rightkindofred

    I agree with much of the article; the current American left is certainly not populist, and is largely a foreign import, Anti-American to the core.

    However, it's not true that the American left was not in the past populist. Read about William Jennings Bryan: Democrat. Christian Fundamentalist. Populist liberal. Certainly such a combination is impossible today, but such was not always so.

  • Robert Pinkerton

    Despite being "politically 'incorrect'" in two different ways, http://www.lewrockwell.com/wilson/wilson12.html is very much in point of this article.

    From Isaac Asimov we get something else, that looks like a reiteration of Aesop, in point: A man and a horse both were menaced by the same wolf. For the sake of closer cooperation against the common foe, the man asked the horse to consent to saddle and bridle. Directly they had slain the wolf together, the horse asked the man to remove the saddle and bridle. The man's repsy? "The hell you say: Gidd'yap, Dobbin!"

    In this, the "man" is the Left. The "horse" stands for us commons.

    I would very much like to see "Liberal"/Left/Socialist anti-working-class class-bigotry spread all ofer this and other sites in the Right, with full documentation.

  • Sage on the Stage

    And Theodore Roosevelt was the Republican reformer; who had help sometimes,
    from Grover Cleveland. But let's not forget, that even then, the lefty progressives had a nasty, kooky fringe element. "Big Bill" Haywood, labor organizer responsible for the Haymarket riot; Harry Orchard, assassin of Idaho Gov. Frank Steunenberg; and who was that guy who shot Henry Clay Frick? But in those times, an entrepreneur could found a company and succeed. Now, many entrepreneurs are choked by regulations, before they even get started.

    • tagalog

      Don't forget the McNamara brothers and the bombing of the L.A. Times building, the leftist Oklahoma City bombing of its day.

  • Isherwood

    And yet Timothy McVeigh, a war-damaged vet, was anti-government. And he killed working citizens who were utilizing a government building, in other words a building that belonged to them. Entrepreneurs like Gates, Jobs, and Zuckerberg – are they choked by government, or benficiaries of government investment that provided the foundation for the internet? Or were they enabled by government invest to build businesses that have flourished? I am thankful for the progressive contributions good government can and has made. The regulations that have helped provide me with a safe food supply and scientific medical practices would not and could not exist in the fantastical "free" market world imagined by today's so-called conservatives, and which the mega-corporations are so busily trying to destroy. I never see the so-called "conservatives" on this site advocate the conservation of anything. Profligate military spending, blind defense of Israeli crimes, and the anti-American hatred of the many accomplishments that the majority, through government, have achieved since the time of Teddy Roosevelt, seem to be the key themes here. Democratic government is us working together to do the things the market cannot do. If you want a free market, move to Somalia, you'll love it! Meanwhile those of us who want the state to balance the market, provide for the least of these, and prevent the greedheads at Goldman Sachs from stealing everything from us will keep our shoulders to the wheel to make our country better, despite your oppostion. I fear too much power in concentrated government, but I fear unregulated, out of control corporations even more!

    • LibertyLover

      You're wrong about McVeigh. Right or wrong, he was angry over the Fed's attack on Waco. He was angry about ATF, DOJ and Janet Reno killing a bunch of folks because they didn't like their religion. McVeigh was wrong and paid with his life, but it was not about anti-government sentiments.

      • Robert Pinkerton

        Sir, does not the Constitution subsume "levying War upon the United States" under the rubric of treason?

        I acknowledge that separating State from People is difficult — to say the least — in a democratic republic.

        • LibertyLover

          McVeigh was a criminal who struck-out because he had a wrongheaded idea of justice. Nothing more, nothing less. He was not accused of treason, nor should he have been, any more than Bill Ayers, Obama's old Chicago buddy.

          • Isherwood

            McVeigh was a victim of the war machine who turned violent. How many more ticking timebombs have been planted by Bush and Obama's wars? They hate the state that used them to enrich the one percent who profit from death and destruction. End the wars, heal the nation!

          • Maxie

            Liberals such as you are the enablers of the radical (Marxist) left which is responsible for the deaths of some ninety-four million people in a dozen countries (Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, Guevara et al.) Read "The Black Book of Communism", "Last Exit to Utopia" by Jean-Francois Revel and, especially, "The Politics of Bad Faith" by David Horowitz. btw: Goldman Sachs should have a (D) after its name.