Within the Magic Circle

Sunday, December 28th, 2014

Why were liberals so feckless in power?, Walter Russel Mead asks:

Why did they blow the historic opportunity that the Bush implosion gave them?

What liberals are struggling to come to grips with today is the enormous gap between the dominant ideas and discourse in the liberal worlds of journalism, the foundations, and the academy on the one hand, and the wider realities of American life on the other. Within the magic circle, liberal ideas have never been more firmly entrenched and less contested. Increasingly, liberals live in a world in which certain ideas are becoming ever more axiomatic and unquestioned even if, outside the walls, those same ideas often seem outlandish.

Modern American liberalism does its best to suppress dissent and critique (except from the left) at the institutions and milieus that it controls. Dissent is not only misguided; it is morally wrong. Bad thoughts create bad actions, and so the heretics must be silenced or expelled. “Hurtful” speech is not allowed, and so the eccentricities of conventional liberal piety pile up into ever more improbable, ever more unsustainable forms.


Meanwhile, many liberals are in a tough emotional spot. They live in liberal cocoons, read cocooning news sources, and work in professions and milieus where liberal ideas are as prevalent and as uncontroversial as oxygen. They are certain that these ideas are necessary, important and just — and they can’t imagine that people have solid reasons for disagreeing with them. Yet these ideas are much less well accepted outside the bubble — and the bubbles seem to be shrinking.


  1. Handle says:

    “… and the bubbles seem to be shrinking”

    Oh really? Hmm … count me as skeptical of that claim. Does that seem right to you?

  2. Bob Sykes says:

    Bubbles is not the right image. Think hardened silos. There is a deep and permanent separation going on in America, an ever growing segregation and isolation. America itself has failed even more so than the USSR, and its future is bleak. An actual political fragmentation is possible, and even desirable.

  3. Ross says:

    This topic is firmly in Charles Murray’s wheelhouse. What he started in his second (and wildly controversial) book, he explicated far more fully in his most recent book. The bubbles are indeed both (a) shrinking and (b) hardening simultaneously.

    Think “freedom isn’t free” is pricey? Wait until we start paying for the insidious and unique form of segregation which progressive thought and practice has built for us.

  4. Chris C. says:

    If one doesn’t flex one’s ideological muscles on a regular basis by wrestling with those espousing different views, those muscles atrophy. Both liberals and conservatives tend to group together, hearing the crazies on the other team only if they tune to the wrong cable news channel. Arguing with the television is fun (shooting fish in a barrel is hard by comparison), but has the exercise value of walking to the refrigerator for a snack.

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