Monday at South High in Denver, a big crowd came out to see the noted conservative writer and radio host Dennis Prager debate Denver-based "progressive" writer David Sirota. The debate centered on a fundamental question that should be of interest to everyone in this election season: Whether liberal or conservatives ideas and ideals are better for our country. It covered a host of issues, including foreign policy, race, media, economics, and domestic social policy. I went into the evening knowing pretty much what Dennis would say, because I am a fan and avid listener of his show. But I was curious as to what the liberal Sirota would say -- how strong his arguments would be about what the left believes about America and how if views the major issues that face us. It was hardly a fair fight. Sirota seems like a bright fellow, but he's 33 years old and typical of the "children's wing" of the Democrat Party -- the one which can follow a script, but has little practical life experience. After listening to the talking points he gave last night I have one overriding question: Does David Sirota actually know any conservatives? From his answers last night I find it hard to believe that he does.
Against Prager he was clearly overmatched. For a well-known progressive writer and "thinker", Sirota sure didn't offer much insight that you can't find at the HuffingtonPost or at MoveOn.org. Sirota trotted out all the well-worn canards about Republicans in painting a very simplistic view of what conservatives think. He accused conservatives of not recognizing race in this country, of not wanting to help the poor and the needy, and of living in a "fantasy" world that ignores the cold hard realities of life in America.
In making his arguments, Sirota cherry-picked points of data from various polls and studies which he claimed made his views "irrefutable fact" -- but that were clearly taken either out of context or were spun in such a way as to be maximally damaging to conservative positions. It came off transparent and was in no way convincing. He repeated the claims of the Bush tax cuts being "for the rich", that America under a Republican administration has been "stomping around the world" with "hubris", that we were lied into a war in Iraq (that he claims was really about oil), and that we would do well to care about the fact that the rest of the world dislikes us. "It's a national security issue" that we aren't popular -- as if it were any less dangerous when Bill Clinton was traveling around the world feeling everyone's pain.
For Prager it was a little like shooting fish in a barrel. In his typically clear style, he offered a powerful counter punch to Sirota's liberal doom-and-gloom. He unapologetically told the audience -- a largely pro-Prager crowd -- that America is the greatest force for good in the world. He said that the problem for blacks in America is largely one of their own making, and that he doesn't care whether the rest of the world loves us, only that they respect us. He painted a picture of an opposite world view from that of Sirota: where America is a principled force for good in the world. It was standing ovation material.
Perhaps the most interesting part of the evening was being able to see into the narrative that the "progressive" movement is pushing about America. It represents a window into the socialist-driven policies that Barack Obama will pursue as president -- and it isn't pretty. Sirota painted a picture of what he calls "corporate socialism" -- which he argues already exists in this country. It comes in the form of the $700 billion bailout for the "fat cats on Wall Street". Or the $120/barrel price of oil that represents a windfall profit to "big oil". Or the tax breaks for corporations that then "ship jobs overseas". In Sirota's mind, America is run by a cabal of corporate chieftans who pull the levers for government -- all at the expense of the "little guy".
Prager last night called this for what it is -- the kind of Marxian materialism that underscores how the left looks at the world. I couldn't agree more. I studied Marx under some very accomplished socialists at the London School of Economics and I can tell you that socialists live in a secular world that views things purely in terms of material gains and losses. In this paradigm, the only motivation for anything is the material world -- whether it be land, money or oil. It is impossible that the United States would enter Iraq to make the world more secure and free the Iraqi people from tyranny. It just has to be about Halliburton and oil.
This, then, is the world view that the progressives hold. And it explains some of the more outlandish claims against corporate America, which must be structured to exploit the world in an evil search of more material gains. That's why Sirota and progressives like him believe that collectivist solutions are the answer; only government can ensure that society's goods are distributed fairly. It starts out by raising taxes and then leads to the redistribution of wealth -- all on a model that will engineer society down to the lowest common denominator.
If Sirota represents what America will be like with an Obama presidency, we should all be afraid. Be very afraid.