THE WIT AND WISDOM OF PROGRESSIVE “ELITES:” Do you enjoy being played for fools? If so, let us give you a few more reasons to appreciate Barbara Ehrenreich. Last week, Ehrenreich warned you about Hillary Clinton’s “ever-shifting hairstyles” (and distant affiliation with Hitler) in a deeply unfortunate piece at The Huffington Post. (See THE DAILY HOWLER, 3/21/08.)
In our view, progressive, liberal and Democratic Party interests have long been harmed by the hapless ways of liberal and progressive “intellectual leaders.” Ehrenreich’s piece helped show us again: Until our movement is cleaned of certain corrosive elements, liberal and progressive interests will be at a disadvantage in our electoral politics.
Back to that unfortunate, but revealing, piece at The Huffington Post:
In her piece, Ehrenreich was helpfully letting readers know that Clinton is a right-wing tool—that she’s been drawn “into the sinister heart of the international right.” Her evidence for such a remarkable statement? For starters, Clinton attends the Senate Prayer Breakfast, thereby allying herself with Hitler—and then, there’s all the right-wing legislation which the solon has pimped. In the following passage (we’ll quote at some length), Ehrenreich turns readers into a play-toy. In substantial part, this is how Democrats lose elections—and conservative interests prosper:
EHRENREICH (3/19/08): Clinton fell in with the Family in 1993, when she joined a Bible study group composed of wives of conservative leaders like Jack Kemp and James Baker. When she ascended to the senate, she was promoted to what Sharlet calls the Family's "most elite cell," the weekly Senate Prayer Breakfast, which included, until his downfall, Virginia's notoriously racist Senator George Allen.
This has not been a casual connection for Clinton. She has written of Doug Coe, the Family's publicity-averse leader, that he is "a unique presence in Washington: a genuinely loving spiritual mentor and guide to anyone, regardless of party or faith, who wants to deepen his or her relationship with God."
Furthermore, the Family takes credit for some of Clinton's rightward legislative tendencies, including her support for a law guaranteeing "religious freedom" in the workplace, such as for pharmacists who refuse to fill birth control prescriptions and police officers who refuse to guard abortion clinics.
What drew Clinton into the sinister heart of the international right? Maybe it was just a phase in her tormented search for identity, marked by ever-changing hairstyles and names...
It should be appalling to see someone like Ehrenreich typing that crap about Clinton’s hair-styles—but, as we will see below, Ehrenreich has been pushing political porn of this familiar type for a very long time. And sadly, Ehrenreich wasn’t kidding when she said that Clinton has been drawn into “the sinister heart of the international right.” The example she gave? That troubling “law guaranteeing ‘religious freedom’ in the workplace.”
Let’s understand the extent to which “progressive intellectual leaders” are willing to play you for fools.
The (proposed) law at issue is fairly complex. But let’s keep things fairly simple:
The (proposed) law to which Ehrenreich refers is the Workplace Religious Freedom Act (WRFA). Variants of the bill have been presented in Congress for years; it may be a bit of a Potemkin measure, repeatedly offered as a way of pandering to certain groups. But the WRFA is a bipartisan bill, with somewhat unusual blends of sponsors and opponents. In 2005, for example, the bill was introduced in the Senate by Rick Santorum—and by John Kerry, a Democrat from Massachusetts. (In 2004, Kerry was the Democratic Party’s nominee for president.) In the House, the bill was introduced by Rick Souder, the Indiana Republican—and by Carolyn McCarthy and Anthony Weiner, two Democrats from New York.
Has Clinton been drawn “into the sinister heart of the international right?” If so, Kerry (and McCarthy) seem to be there too—a point Ehrenreich absent-mindedly forgot to mention in her unfortunate rant. For the record, Kerry has introduced some variant of this bill every year since 1999, after two of his constituents got fired for refusing to work on Christmas Day. Ehrenreich omitted that too.
Our question: Will liberals and progressives (and Democrats) ever tell “intellectual leaders” like Ehrenreich that they can’t play the game in this manner?