Top Priority for the Midterm Elections: Make Them Pay!

In the early 1990s, the Left did something truly despicable . . . and got away with it. Now they are prepared to do something even worse. Will they get away with it again?

Let me explain.

When the Soviet empire dissolved in 1990-1991, Americans breathed a sigh of astonished relief, celebrated, and—eager to put the economic and psychic costs behind them—promptly forgot everything they should have learned. Above all, Americans (and Republicans and conservatives in particular) failed to impose an urgently needed moral and political reckoning. The consequences of that failure are still with us.

For almost half a century, the entire American Left, along with many moderate Democrats, were wrong about the Cold War—terribly, inexcusably, shamefully wrong. Yet the Left got away with it because Republicans and conservatives didn’t bother to claim the fruits of victory. From the New York Times suppressing the evidence of Stalin’s mass starvations to Jimmy Carter’s pathetic weakness in the face of Soviet aggression, the whole liberal Democratic establishment was missing in action during one of the greatest struggles between freedom and tyranny in human history. In fact, most liberals, with a very few notable exceptions, not only avoided the fight, they were often on the wrong side—excusing, covering up, and even defending Soviet Communism. 

Yet when the time came for the American Right to cash in on its hard-won victory—to reap the political reward of having been absolutely and totally right—they walked away. With predictable fecklessness, they refused to give the Democrats a proper thrashing that would have sent the party into political oblivion for generations. Instead Republicans dropped the whole subject in the spirit of, “Let bygones be bygones.”

The Left, of course, immediately seized the opportunity to slither away from any blame and set about tweaking the history books to ignore or gloss over their indefensible conduct.

Fast-forward to 2022 and see if you can spot the parallel.

If we replace Cold War with COVID, we can see that the Left is planning the same gambit. Except this time they are not waiting for the Republicans to let them off the hook. They are already working to shift responsibility, even before the ink is dry on the new script: “We’ve never been at war with Europa; we’ve always been at war with East Asia.” (Whoops, that’s Orwell, not real life. It’s hard to tell the difference sometimes.) “We’ve never been in favor of lockdowns, mask mandates, school closures, and mandatory vaccinations. We’ve always been in favor of freedom and prosperity.”

Oh sure, when the spin begins in earnest they will abuse the English language, taking refuge in sly qualifications and quasi-dishonest modifiers. The Democrats, we will be told, did not actually favor “severe” lockdowns, they only supported “reasonable” and “limited” classroom restrictions, they gave mixed messages on masks (Anthony Fauci’s inconsistency will be turned into a virtue!), and they changed their position on vaccines as soon as the Ouija board of establishment science felt the subtle but unmistakable pressure of the midterm polling numbers. 

The question now is whether the jellyfish in charge of the GOP will go along with it. I’d say the chances are 50-50, unless the rank-and-file decide to replace their gelatinous leadership with some vertebrates who can actually stand, so to speak, on principles. 

Even more than at the end of the Cold War, this should be a slam dunk. In the 1990s, the Left could say they merely misunderstood the Soviet menace. After all, it was Stalin and Brezhnev—not the Democratic Party—who oppressed Eastern Europe and maintained the gulags. In this case, however, the Democrats really have no one else to blame. Although they might shamelessly reverse course on China and the United Nations, even their own base won’t really buy that. 

Plus, their behavior with this pandemic was, amazingly, even more disgusting than their useful idiocy in the Cold War. A generation of children has had their lives turned upside down, with schools transformed into virtual prisons. Grandparents on their deathbeds were denied the comfort of seeing their families because “health” required social distancing; and to add grotesquery to grief, even funerals were curtailed. Vast numbers of small businesses were ruined, and whole industries crippled. The overall damage to the economy won’t be fully calculated for some time. The final costs to our physical, civic, and mental health may never be fully known.

Even more alarming is the mounting evidence that the vaccines are more harmful than we were led to believe. It may yet turn out that COVID represents the most frightening example in human history of various “cures” rammed through by our elites—both the vaccines and the lockdowns—being colossally worse than the disease itself. 

While millions have suffered harm, hardship, and insult, our leftist ruling class laughs. Their weddings and funerals proceed without any noticeable inconvenience. They eat at pricey restaurants, hold lavish parties, go to beauty salons, and travel wherever and whenever they wish. Masks? Distancing? Har-har. They have flaunted their exemptions from the rules—their rules—and shoved the double standards in the faces of ordinary people like the degenerate courtiers of Versailles.

And now they want to slither away again.

Around 1991, my friend Hadley Arkes was talking with a liberal acquaintance about the need to hold the Left accountable for its indefensible appeasement of international communism. “Well,” Arkes’ acquaintance protested, “this is not the time for recriminations.” To this, the ever insightful and plucky Professor Arkes responded, “Now is precisely the time for recriminations!”

Will there be recriminations—righteous and necessary recriminations—this time? Republicans, don’t screw this up again.

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About Glenn Ellmers

Glenn Ellmers' new book, The Narrow Passage: Plato, Foucault, and the Possibility of Political Philosophy, will be published by Encounter this summer. He is the author of The Soul of Politics: Harry V. Jaffa and the Fight for America and the Salvatori Research Fellow of the American Founding at the Claremont Institute. He is also a fellow of the Center for American Greatnsss.

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