Letters

Winter 2004
Enter Stage Right

To the editor:
We’re Not Losing the Culture Wars Anymore” [Autumn 2003] was great. Thanks for tying all the loose ends together.

Grady Thompson
Via e-mail

To the editor:
I could not put down Brian C. Anderson’s article. He has the outline of a wonderful book here.

Scott Parker
Via e-mail

To the editor:
Wow! I’m in China, where we’ve had significant Internet blockage lately; but I was lucky enough to come across Brian Anderson’s article on a site that wasn’t blocked. I stood up and cheered.

Name withheld

To the editor:
Anderson’s article does a great job showing how the Right is winning the culture war—but only in the media. We’re losing it in the universities, and we must find a way to counteract the America-haters who pose as scholars in our best schools.

Paul Klenk
Via e-mail

To the editor:
If it’s true that conservative voices are finally being heard—even dominating—who are the Limbaughs and the Hannitys and the Coulters going to use as straw men? What will happen when they can no longer portray themselves as isolated voices of truth struggling to break through the dominant liberal media? How long can conservatives play the honest victim?

Ben Spiker
Via e-mail

To the editor:
If Anderson thinks the crimes of Jenin can be dismissed because they don’t meet his standard for a “massacre,” he is either a fool or a hired screamer for the racist Israeli right wing.

David Ballingrud
Via e-mail

To the editor:
It is amazing how American conservatives misuse and misunderstand the term “liberal.” Anyone with any understanding of political theory knows that liberalism—as espoused by John Stuart Mill—is at the heart of the open democracy America supposedly champions: a free media, free assembly, open markets, and the right to dissent.

That you see the quixotic, rabid, jingoistic, and partisan Fox News as an exemplar of good journalism shows how pathetic and uneducated your society has become.

When you say “elite,” you really mean educated and open and universal—as opposed to the ignorant, racist, warmongering, Old Testament path America is embracing.

Heaven save us from you Bush-generation reactionaries.

Jim Parker
Australian Financial Review

To the editor:
I am a lifelong liberal Democrat who has been abandoned by the Democratic party’s embrace of identity politics and left-wing America-bashing and anti-Semitism. (I may, for the first time in my life, vote Republican in the next election.) I do not think there is a war of ideas, because the Left has no ideas—only received wisdom.

Perry R. Branson
Via e-mail

To the editor:
Anderson’s essay seems to assume implicitly that all commentary from the Right is free of cant. Thoughtful conservatives and liberals could agree that Michael Moore and Bill O’Reilly are similarly crude. But instead Anderson describes the apparently value-neutral “Bill O’Reilly books pile[d] up right next to Michael Moore’s latest loony-left rant.” David Horowitz is presented as an honest interlocutor, but Al Franken as an asshole (I think they’re both assholes, but at least I’m honest enough to admit that I enjoy having Franken as an asshole on my side).

The antidote to liberal sanctimony is not conservative sanctimony; it’s honesty.

Dan Oppenheimer
Via e-mail

Brian C. Anderson responds:
My piece on the breakup of the Left’s monopoly on opinion and information generated enormous feedback—most of it favorable. My thanks to all for writing.

Some letters, though—from angry liberals like Mssrs. Ballingrud and Parker—relied entirely on insult instead of argument, confirming one of my main points: the Left has been so used to a liberal monoculture that it has forgotten how to make arguments—hence the spluttering rage of many on the Left as they confront today’s new media universe, in which conservative views are increasingly heard. Mr. Spiker says it’s time for conservatives to stop playing victim, and I don’t entirely disagree—though as Mr. Klenk rightly notes, the universities and elite culture in general (including the mainstream media) still remain far to the left of most Americans.

Mr. Oppenheimer’s contention that I assume all argument from the Right is free of cant is untrue, and of course honesty is preferable to sanctimony. But he undermines his point by saying that he supports (the sanctimonious and dishonest) Al Franken, because the comedian is of the Left. Moreover, to say that David Horowitz, a serious public intellectual, and Al Franken are comparable is absurd.

Gotham Likes Parties

To the editor:
I agree fully with Steven Malanga’s diagnosis in “Who Runs New York?” [Autumn 2003]—that “powerful public-employee unions and community nonprofit groups living off government money . . . control the political agenda.” And yes, the Working Families Party [WFP] has become the power behind the throne at the City Council. But he’s wrong to suggest that WFP chief Daniel Cantor “isn’t worried about the impact of nonpartisan elections.” In a recent WFP e-mail, quoted in the New York Observer, Cantor called nonpartisan elections “a Scud missile [aimed] at us.”

During three months of hearings on nonpartisan elections that I attended as a charter commissioner, the WFP was a constant presence organizing opposition. The WFP lives off two things: cross-endorsements and low turnout. Nonpartisan elections would eliminate the first and endanger the second.

You can plausibly argue that nonpartisan elections will hurt the GOP’s chances of becoming an effective opposition (though there is little chance of a Republican revival: after eight years of Giuliani, the GOP couldn’t even field candidates for comptroller and public advocate in 2001). But it’s not plausible to suggest that the WFP will do just as well under the reformed system.

Fred Siegel
The Cooper Union

Steven Malanga responds:
While the WFP helped defeat the nonpartisan election referendum in New York City’s November election, WFP executive director Daniel Cantor made clear in private conversations and public pronouncements that the WFP opposed the referendum out of solidarity with its political allies, not out of fear for its own future. Days before the election, Cantor told one local radio station, “[W]e’ll be fine. We’re against it on principle.”

Mr. Siegel thinks it implausible to suggest that the WFP would do just as well in nonpartisan elections. The literature disagrees: those who study municipal-election patterns observe that, when nonpartisan elections dilute the power of the major parties, other groups already well organized within a municipality gain power.

I agree with Mr. Siegel that a GOP revival in New York is a long shot. But one reason why is that Republican mayors have spent more time in office lobbying for charter revisions than trying to rebuild their party.

Terminated

To the editor:
Governor Schwarzenegger has eliminated state funding for the Institute for Labor and Employment at the University of California. I believe Steven Malanga’s article “’Scholarship’ as Advocacy” [Autumn 2003] was read by key people in the capital, and helped make the case to cut the ILE. Based on what I saw on union websites fighting the cut, they definitely saw the piece, too. So the Manhattan Institute has played a role in making better public policy here in California. Thanks.

Kevin Dayton
Associated Builders and Contractors