On that ‘patriotism’ thing

Front Page Magazine has been analyzing the argument to try to illustrate its fundamental nature. In an exchange between Ethan Porter, Associate Editor of Democracy: A Journal of Ideas, and the authors of Party of Defeat, they illustrate the difference if methods by comparison and contrast. How an argument is made is often a significant clue as to the quality of the argument. The topic here is related to the banter about patriotism that has occurred over the last several years.

Like every other critic of the war who has responded to this indictment, Ethan Porter responds not by refuting our argument or defending Democrats on the merits of their performance, but by inventing a different argument than the one we made and refuting that. Thus Porter charges us with confusing the Democratic leadership with fringe radicals in and outside the Party and arguing that “the Democratic Party and the left are all but interchangeable entities, and as such, they work in concert.” He says this conflation is characteristic of our book, whose “core presuppositions,” according to him, “are fundamentally and factually inaccurate.” To refute the argument he puts into our mouth, Porter explains that, “the hard left has sent a few members to Congress, just as the hard right has, but left wing Democrats are plainly not in control of their Party, no matter what Horowitz and Johnson believe.”

The problem is that those hard left radicals quoted in The Party of Defeat are not randomly selected wacko radicals but rather leaders of the political party in question. The techniques used to ameliorate a guilt and denigrate a debate opponent are visible separate from the points at issue in the debate. Some are flavored by perception and weighed by differing value systems but those contributions should only go so far. In a dialog as presented at Front Page, look for who is casting judgment and who is offing opinion, who has assertions departed from fact and who anchors assertions in citation and observable phenomena.

Reality is close at hand yet, it seems, out of reach for all too many.

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