A reflection on ACORN and modern liberalism

One puzzling thing about the ACORN scandal is why so many ACORN offices were willing to involve themselves in such a preposterously flagrant criminal enterprise. A deep disregard for the law is part of it, obviously, but that’s not a sufficient explanation. Unlike voter fraud, child prostitution is not a core mission of ACORN (I hope!), so why did they involve themselves?

I think the answer goes to the nature of modern liberalism. Unlike conservatism or libertarianism, modern liberalism is not really an ideology. Rather, modern liberalism is an alliance of various interests, and it’s difficult to express any principle that those interests have in common. For example, the liberal umbrella contains both feminists (who favor women’s rights, ostensibly at least) and multiculturalists (who defend oppression of women throughout the world, particularly in the Muslim world).

In short, while the right sees the world in terms of right-and-wrong or free-and-unfree, the modern liberal generally sees the world in terms of us-and-them. As we have seen often this year, liberals will see the exact same policy promulgated by both Bush and Obama negatively in the former instance but positively in the latter.

How does this explain ACORN? An under-reported aspect of O’Keefe and Giles’s investigation is the manner in which O’Keefe introduced himself. He introduced himself as a law student who intended to use the profits from his side business (child prostitution) to finance his run for Congress. By presenting himself as an aspiring liberal politician, O’Keefe identified himself to ACORN as one of them. This, I suspect, made all the difference. In the absence of any moral standard or respect for the law, ACORN was willing to go the extra mile for anyone on its side.

The phenomenon is not limited to ACORN. We can see it in the response of Congressional Democrats to the scandal. Of course, most Democrats voted with the Republicans to cut off ACORN funding. But the most liberal Democrats, 75 of them, voted to continue ACORN funding despite everything. Harry Reid also blocked a Senate investigation. Why? To them, government is a matter of us-and-them. Whatever ACORN had done, ACORN was on their side.

We also see it in the response of the mainstream media. Despite the story being incredibly juicy, the liberal media did everything it could to avoid reporting it. (Of course, it would have been the top story for days had it been a conservative group.) Once they were forced to report the story, they tried to balance it with dirt on O’Keefe and Giles. There being no real dirt available, they tried to smear them as racists.

But the motives of O’Keefe and Giles aren’t actually relevant to what ACORN did, and even if the smears were true it still wouldn’t excuse ACORN’s conduct. So why report it that way? Because the modern liberal sees the world through the lens of us-and-them, not right-and-wrong. In an us-and-them world, the nature of the whistleblowers is relevant. If the other side can be shown to be bad, that amounts to a full exoneration.

(Previous post.)

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