No Remorse: Reflections on Radical “Purism”

Photo Source Chairman of the Joint Chief | CC BY 2.0

John McCain’s legacy represents an unparalleled example of human decency and American service.

— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, August 27, 2018

I have this recurrent experience as an “iconoclastic” Left critic of what gets sold as progressive and Left. It starts with me getting a radical truth-telling rush discovering and showing how some political figure, organization or “movement” is nowhere near as progressive, portside, revolutionary, and transformative as widely advertised and perceived.  That’s stage one.

Then comes stage two: momentary guilt over having burst people’s hopeful leftish bubbles (or having tried to, anyway) and a related fear of seeming excessively alienated and overly “purist” – the standard charge from my target’s “left” and progressive defenders. (Do I hate cute little puppies and small children too? Why must I be like the leftist Grinch Who Stole Christmas?)

The guilt fades in stage three.  That’s when I learn that I was actually too mild about the rightward faults of the politico and/or political phenomenon I critiqued. It dawns on me that “hey, I’m not a doctrinaire purist after all.  If anything, I was too polite!

The Empire’s New Clothes, or How I Got My Book Title

I had some of this experience with the rise of Barack Obama.  Between the summers of 2004 and 2008, I wrote a large number of essays and even (during 2007) an entire book warning liberals,…

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