Wednesday, January 14, 2004

The Sheen and Dean Show Plays Iowa,


The Left's Tenuous Grip On Reality

I don't, as I've written before, normally do much "political" commentary. But with election season imminent, more and more things crop up which provide an opportunity to look at underlying issues. Besides which, they're just too rich to pass up.

I consider myself a conservative of the Edmund Burke - Russell Kirk school. I think the State should be limited; not, as Libertarians hold, so as to allow the individual the most unfettered exercise of his sovereign will, but because true liberty is the best breeding ground for virtue and civilization. I think that family, Church, and neighborhood or village are the fundamental units of society, and that most of the panaceas which infringe upon the health and prerogatives of those institutions do far more harm than any good they are imagined.

I think that Leftism is false, like any other ideology, because it is an a priori approach to the world. As such, it fails to acknowledge or account for reality. It fails in economics because it fails to account for the principle of scarcity, the reality of the market, and how human beings actually behave economically. It fails in social policy because it fails to acknowledge the reality of human nature, most often by denying that there is such a thing at all, or by holding, usually implicitly, that human nature can somehow be changed. It fails morally also because it fails to account for human nature (usually by ignoring the Fall and its consequences), and because it denies, most often implicitly, but sometimes explicitly, the reality of the created order and its Author.

So what does all of this have to do with Martin Sheen? Well, I like him, and I respect his genuine faith. But I have always just sort of dismissed his politics. His politics are so far off into leftist-looney-land that I looked at it as a sort of idiosyncrasy, like a beloved uncle who harbors a goofy conspiracy theory. And he is such a fine actor that I just don't think of him in primarily political terms.

But I have never been able to watch and enjoy The West Wing. Sheen, as always, does a good job acting in the show. But otherwise, I have found the show to be preachy and self-important. The show constantly exudes an air of preening itself on the fact that it is "serious" and deals with important "issues". I think it is the most pretentious show on network television today. And I have often wondered whether Sheen had lost touch with the distinction between acting and real life, and had begun to imagine that he really was the President.

Well, yesterday, Sheen made an appearance in Iowa (predictably enough) on behalf of Howard Dean. He began his remarks by announcing:
I did want to begin, as the acting president of the U.S. by designating next Monday, Jan. 19, as Howard Dean Day.

Now, clearly, Sheen was being "tongue in cheek," and his remarks were meant to be funny. And I'm sure, in context, that they were. But when I heard the remarks, I had one of those flashes of insight where something drops into place.

I have always wondered at the popularity of West Wing. As I mentioned, it is preachy, self-important, and pretentious, all things that critics usually love to castigate. But, of course, "West Wing" is an unabashed exponent of leftist priorities. In it, the leftist President Bartlett and his oh-so-smart and dedicated band of loyal followers fight the good fight to stop school choice, to promote international family planning, and, of course, protect and expand Abortion Rights. And, because they're so obviously the Good Guys, they usually win. So, of course, most of the dominant media culture are just in transports of ecstasy over the show.

I have noticed, from time to time, cars sporting bumper stickers reading "My President is Jeb Bartlett" or the like. These cars usually have other bumper stickers, promoting saving the whales, telling me that "Hate is Not a Family Value", and usually something like "I'm Pro-Choice And I Vote!". The bumper stickers, the TV show, and Sheen's Iowa appearance all came together.

Leftism is, fundamentally, the attempt to deny reality. Thus Leftists must live, to a certain extent, in an unreal world. "The West Wing", then, provides them with a soothing alternative universe, one in which all of their pet fantasies come to pass, or will eventually, because that's how the writers will script it. So yesterday, the unreal world of Leftist fantasy, the world in which President Bartlett leads their cohorts to triumph against the revanchist forces of reaction, met with the world of Howard Dean's campaign to make the Leftist project come to pass in this country. So, of course, the result was an almost orgiastic outpouring of emotion and enthusiasm. "This time," they're undoubtedly thinking, "we're really going to make it happen."

Will they? Well, I don't think Dean will win. But even if he does, the Leftist project is doomed to fail. Because, as I've written before, Reality's a bitch: she always collects.