A retrospective essay about David Horowitz’s life and works by Mark Bauerlein appears in the Summer 2018 issue of the Claremont Review of Books. Titled “Radical Prophet,” it follows Horowitz from a 1960s leftist radical through his 1980s transformation into a leading conservative voice.
There were times when other conservatives thought Horowitz was too upset by the left, too radical, or too outspoken. Observers today realize that all his warnings about what could happen that might have seemed alarmist at the time have come to pass and are now part of the culture. Bauerlein writes, “For many years, David Horowitz was deemed unseemly by establishment conservative intellectuals, editors, and journalists. He’s too blunt and confrontational, they worried.” Bauerlein continues, “In 2003 when he initiated his Academic Bill of Rights campaign … , Republicans held the presidency and both houses of Congress, and they might get three openings on the Supreme Court. Why stir up trouble on campus, where everyone despises us?”
Had we listened to Horowitz, academia might be less bad. An Academic Bill of Rights is desperately needed on college campuses where conservative thought is often deemed hate speech and conservative speakers are banned or protested. Conservative students on many campuses are afraid to admit their beliefs lest they be treated as crazy.
In his multi-volume series The Black Book of the American Left, Horowitz teaches readers what he knows from inside leftism, as a former believer of leftist doctrines, and what he realized once he saw the utopian lie for what it is.
Bauerlein says of Horowitz’s writings:
The aim is to de-romanticize the Left, to undercut idealized, softened versions of radical aims and deeds with Horowitz’s own eyewitness accounts. He was there, he was one of them, a member of Huey Newton’s circle, a community organizer in the Oakland ghetto, urging leftists to support Ronald Reagan for governor of California on the supposition that the election of a genuine fascist would help bring on the revolution. The tendency to lionize Communist ideas, that are sometimes thinly disguised as “Socialist,” beliefs that were once fringe ideas on college campuses among radical academics, have filtered into mainstream society, into corporate offices, and into the core values of the Democratic Party. In Volume Nine of the Black Book series, Ruling Ideas, published in 2018, Horowitz says, “When I began the project of describing this movement in the 1980s, the emergence of the left as a mainstream force in America’s political life was fairly recent and inadequately understood.”
Conservatives Aren’t Just Wrong. They Are Crazy.
Among Horowitz’s revelations of Communist procedures now normalized in American leftist culture, as explained by Bauerlein, is the tactic of declaring dissenters “psychologically disturbed” or “mentally unbalanced.” Horowitz describes it in Volume Eight of his series, The Left in the University. It is difficult, if not impossible and futile, to fight back against the tactic; who can prove their own “sanity”?
Many liberal columnists and hosts now take conservatism-as-pathology as a starting point, and establishment conservatives haven’t responded effectively. This is another instance in which the Right has failed to understand how the Left operates, Horowitz believes.
As university professors convince impressionable students that conservatives are crazy, they promote concepts such as it is acceptable to kill babies in the womb, it’s just love when a woman marries another woman, and it is perfectly normal for males to decide that they are female. Campuses that condone sex with no marital commitment serve to weaken society as a whole. Those influenced by bad ideas are now not only voting but being voted into office by others trained up to hold the same beliefs, or lack of any belief system beyond the tenets of the socialist progressive.
About radical leftism, Bauerlein says, “Its triumph in the 21st century was demonstrated perfectly by soon-to-be-president Barack Obama in 2008, when he spoke of ‘fundamentally transforming the United States of America.’” He continues:
President Obama didn’t look and sound like a ’60s radical — no bad behavior, a bourgeois family life — but he readily politicized the IRS and other agencies, inserted gender identity into regulations never intended for it, and was entirely comfortable with rappers in the White House. There you see the liberal accommodation of the Left, the same beliefs and goals but with a lighter touch. When CEOs of corporate America join the White House in pushing diversity initiatives and transgender policies that mirror forms of radical social engineering, we know that the Left didn’t die on Election Day 1980 or on November 9, 1989, when East Germans poured over the Berlin Wall and soldiers held their fire. The portion of the U.S. population
that resists radical leftist ideas is deemed crazy and deplorable. Imagine presidential candidate Dwight D. Eisenhower or John F. Kennedy calling Americans with whom they disagreed deplorable! Today it is common for traditional conservative thought or religious beliefs to be called not only crazy but even fascist.
Horowitz wrote that conservatives were mistaken when they “imprudently accepted the left’s deceptive claims to be ‘liberal’ and ‘progressive,’ ascribing to it idealistic intentions.” Bauerlein elaborates, writing:
To take the psychological query at face value is to miss how it alters the debate, insidiously so, and not in the way conservatives have come to expect. For a long time, conservatives have charged leftists with politicizing everything and everyone, but the diagnostic move does the opposite. It de-politicizes the conservative. Whatever political opinions he holds dissipate once we view him as a fragile, deluded ego. Conservatism, then, is no longer a political outlook which must be opposed by democratic means. It’s a psychosocial condition, and that’s not something you debate. Instead, you confine the sufferer. Taken in this context, it becomes clear that attempts to infuse psychological testing, treatment, and redirection into American schools are part of a wider plan to treat those who don’t agree with so- called progressive thought. The danger of doing this should be taken very seriously.
2018 Looks Much Different Than 2003
Bauerlein writes, “Horowitz struck people in 2003—including those on the Right—as an exaggerator and dramatizer. Oh, they acknowledged, a few wild leftists may be found in academic ‘studies’ departments and advocacy organizations such as BAMN (By Any Means Necessary) and ACT UP, a gay advocacy group popular in the ’90s, but they have no impact on the country at large.”
Fifteen years later, everything looks different. We hear more talk about white supremacy than we’ve heard since the passage of the Civil Rights Act, and it issues from the high rungs of the Democratic Party. Mainstream news outlets echo the contentions of the leftist hate monitor Southern Poverty Law Center, as if it were the nation’s racial conscience. The mayor of New York City wants to block Chick-fil-A from the boroughs because its CEO espouses a biblical conception of marriage, while the cast of the most popular Broadway show of our time steps out of character to chastise the vice president in the audience for his backward views. Corporate America trembles in fear of leftist boycotts and knows that a mob is ready to form should an incident take place that can be fitted to a victim narrative.
Most of all, a good portion of the population, goaded by the leftist views of media, academia, the arts and entertainment worlds, refuses to accept the results of the recent election. (Claremont Review of Books, Summer 2018)