Wanted: One Honest Liberal
I can't think of any. Perhaps you can. But in order to qualify for the role, one must not only be able to put forth rational and factually supported arguments for one's own positions, but just as important, make the best possible arguments for the opposing position. If one can't do that, then one is not being intellectually honest, but simply engaging in a logical fallacy, i.e., the straw man.
For example, Nordlinger mentions Richard Cohen -- who is a fairly innocuous middlebrow hack, and not even close to being one of the worst offenders -- and yet, he "imagines conservatives who do not exist. He seems unwilling to debate, or consider, conservatives as we truly are. He is a caricaturist..."
As are nearly all of them. MSNBC is really a cartoon network, not a news operation.
One exception who comes to mind is Lanny Davis. I've actually heard him be fair, honest, and self-critical. Still way wrong, but that's okay. Wrong is educable. And he seems to have a conscience, i.e., a capacity for shame which is totally missing in a Clinton, Obama, Pelosi, Reid, and all the rest. The problem is (for I remember it well), snobbery, projection, smearing, superiority, intellectual dishonesty -- these are addictive, and not susceptible to correction, since the person who wants to correct you is an evil racist, or homophobe, or one-percenter, etc.
I am quite sure I can make the pro-abortion case in a dispassionate manner -- well, not the constitutional case, which is impossible -- but simply the argument that abortion should be available to a woman in the early stages of pregnancy. The problem is, they even lie about that, for example, by suggesting that abortion is only legal during the first trimester, when the fact of the matter is that there is no such practical or enforceable limit. There is a huge difference between what liberals say they believe vs. what they actually believe. They only discuss the latter amongst themselves, since they know the average person would be offended if not disgusted.
At any rate, you never hear a liberal abortion advocate acknowledge the unassailable principle that animates the pro-life position -- that it is unjust to take the life of an innocent human being. Instead, they will accuse the person of wanting to "control women's bodies," or some other nonsense.
Back to the OUTSTANDING book under review, The Betrayal of the Masses. I'm thinking Siegel must be an ex-liberal, because he is so thoroughly familiar with their literature of the past 100 years. No way would I want to voluntarily enter that swamp, for which reason alone we should thank him for his yeoman sewer service.
Another reason is that the left is deeply ahistorical about itself. If we treat the left as a "collective patient," so to speak, it is very much like a neurotic person in denial about his own past, and thus compelled to make the same mistakes over and over (the "repetition compulsion"), without in-sight. But in all honesty, "neurotic" is too mild a term.
Without getting too pedantic, a neurotic person has intrapsychic conflicts of which he is at least dimly aware, and which cause him pain. At the other extreme of psychopathology are psychotic individuals, who are frankly out of touch with reality, subject to delusions, hallucinations, and the like.
In between are borderline personalities -- not necessarily Borderline Personality Disorder per se -- but rather, people who rely upon more primitive defense mechanisms because of structural deficits in the psyche (generally rooted in early attachment).
Where is Dr. Sanity when you need her? Oh. Here she is. I forgot about the google machine. At any rate, she used to write a lot of good stuff on this very subject.
To simplify, there are neurotic and relatively healthy defense mechanisms such as repression, sublimation, and intellectualization; and intrinsically unhealthy ones such as denial, splitting, and projective identification.
One of the problems with the latter is that, instead of being intrapsychic, they tend to be intersubjective, meaning that they are acted out with other people or with the wider culture. They always induct others into their psychodramas, and cast other people as either villain (e.g., Koch Brothers), or savior (Obama), or some other primitive archetype yoinked from their intrapsychic swamp.
Siegel touches on this in the book, quoting Edmund Wilson, who wrote of how the liberal/progressive has "evolved a psychological mechanism which enables him to turn moral judgments against himself into moral judgments against society."
The liberal converts personal problems into collective ones -- conveniently located outside himself -- so the real problem can never be addressed, which leads to the cycle of repetition compulsion, in which we see the same discredited arguments time and again. For the left, it's always the same old whining in new battles.
Thus, "Liberal social programs to combat poverty and reform the schools, their failures long institutionalized, have produced a government whose grasp far exceeds its competence and whose costs are carried by the private-sector middle class" (Siegel). Nevertheless, "Liberalism, as a search for status, is sufficiently adaptable that even in failure, self-satisfaction trumps self-examination."
That is a perfect example of a primitive defense mechanism analogous to addiction: deny the reality, project the problem into others, and generate dopey good feelings via a dopamine rush -- e.g., sanctimony, self-righteousness, and intellectual superiority, not to mention the high from acquiring and wielding power over the contemptible citizenry -- so we're really dealing with a dual-diagnosis involving addiction and structural (i.e., borderline) deficits in the psyche.
No wonder they hate us.