Does "Good Faith" Have Meaning on the Left?

Posted: Mar 22, 2010 6:45 AM
There were some reprehensible displays by Tea Party protesters on Capitol Hill this weekend. Along with some unfortunate signs, it was reported that a few members of Congress were assaulted with racist and homophobic slurs.*

It's a given that there will always be extremists in every protest. Despite claims of the Left, tea party protests have been peaceful and completely unrooted in racism. There's real anger at what is happening in Washington, and there's real anger about our fiscal future. The Tea Party movement is a surprising and encouraging sign that there still exists true grassroots movements that can advocate for real change.

Nonetheless, the Left has delighted in pointing out the few weirdos and crazies that make it to Tea Parties. Matt Yglesias writes:

As a member of the left I do, in fact, love to play up these incidents. I think they help expose the dark cancer at the heart of modern American conservatism.

His larger post is about Rep. Devin Nunes' failure to condemn slurs that may or may not have come out of the tea party protests. I'm not going to defend Nunes. His larger claim is that racism is at the heart of conservatism. [# More #]

Notwithstanding he admits to "playing up" (exaggerating) such rare instances, his attitude is a stretch. To credibly claim this, he has to argue that the values and premises that are held by conservatives and the conservative movement are inherently bound to racism. I doubt this is what he's truly trying to say. I won't deny that racism exists in America and is more prevalent on the Right than on the Left, but if racism can be wholly detached as a premise to a conservative's philosophy, Yglesias is wrong. Racism is not the "dark cancer" at the heart of conservatism. It's an unfortunate value that many people hold but is not inherent to conservatism.

To make an equally ridiculous and equivalent argument: Saturday's anti-war protests were marred by anti-semitism and offensive comparisons of Israel to Nazi Germany. Does this make anti-semitism the "dark cancer" of the Left? Does the increased prevalence of anti-semitism on the Left mean there's something inherently more "wrong" with the Left?

Of course not. To claim so would be silly. The modern Progressive movement is marred by its share of crazy people, but good faith demands that I and others on the Right engage with Progressivism's respectable advocates, not its darkest evils. We should be able to equally denounce the crazy people who happen to be politically aligned with our side.

*The Lewis incident was reported by Lewis himself and largely uncorroborated. But its purveyors have placed the burden of proof on skeptics. There's nothing more to say about this.