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Liberal Crackup?
Tolerance is not boundless.

December 1, 2001


A recent poll taken in San Francisco – America’s most liberal and diverse city – surprised local democrat leaders.  The poll revealed that 56 percent of San Franciscans believed that President Bush is doing an excellent or good job.  This is the same city where only 16 percent voted for the president, three points above Republican registration.  These are the same voters who have voted “progressive” on long list ballot measures that hardly represent President Bush’s policy positions.  For example, the city has demanded bilingual education programs, in defiance of a popular ban on bilingual education passed overwhelmingly by California voters in 1998.  The city has ordered its police to not report illegal entrants to the INS, even if they’ve committed felonious crimes.  Prior to the attack, rainbow coalition flags flew over many San Francisco homes.  They’re rare now.

The September 11 attack pushed many liberals to moral bedrock: The need to survive and the right to self-defend.  For others, the attack on America may have swept away, if only temporarily, the ethical muddiness of political correctness, moral ambivalence, and cultural relativism.  The loosely based liberal community has been broken into three groups – the  “Sympathizers,” the “Loyalists” and the “Second Thoughters.”

First, there remain Taliban sympathizers on the left, those who share the Taliban’s contempt for America.  So it's not surprising, that in the same poll, 17 percent of San Franciscans thought President Bush was doing a poor job.  For them America is an imperial, immoral state terrorist organization.  They object to our right of self-defense with empty rationalizations.  The sympathizers see the attack as punishment for past American foreign policy actions.

Then there are the “loyalists” – loyal to the Sixties anti-war spirit.  They are in a virtual state of denial.  They’ve turned away from reality of the mass murder of the September attack.  They ignore the likelihood of more deadly attacks and the right to defend against them overseas.  They share a milder form of Taliban contempt for America’s foreign policies.  Many in the local media are Loyalists.  For example one post attack edition of the San Francisco Chronicle painted a picture of mayhem and protest in Moslem countries, civilian casualties in Kabul, an article comparing bin Laden to the leader of the Ottoman Empire, and a negative portrayal of America’s special forces.

But it is the last group that is most mired in moral disarray.  They make up a majority of those who now support the President, but who voted against him last November.  These are the new “second thoughters” (borrowing from David Horowitz).  They’ve avoided judging cultural or religious moral behavior.  For them tolerance means being “cool” or “in” much like the Hollywood crowd – the unconditional acceptance of all cultures and behavior.  So, they overwhelmingly vote for school board candidates who boldly called for diversity and multiculturalism in our schools, even if educational performance falls.  Prior to the attack, they ignored the Taliban’s treatment of women or lack of basic freedoms in Afghanistan.  They advocated open borders, and opposed all forms of racial or ethnic profiling.  But now many in this group are having second thoughts.  In the most grotesque way, on September 11 they were mugged.  They’ve begun to question the unconditional acceptance and tolerance of all cultures, subcultures and religions.  Ironically most of the victims of the Trade Center bombings were young professionals, those who most strongly hold this view of political tolerance.

Multiculturalism and diversity have dominated urban politics.  The war on terrorism has caused many liberals to realize tolerance is not boundless.  You must make distinctions.  You must judge.  As a moral being you must evaluate cultural values and beliefs based on higher, more basic, universal moral principles.  Most important, that there is such a thing as evil, and it can be found buried under the flag of religion and culture.  The recognition of evil leads necessarily to the acceptance of universal moral principles and judgments – the very antithesis of the inherent cultural relativity of multiculturalism.

Those liberals in San Francisco and other urban centers, who despise their country’s economic system and culture will become increasingly isolated – especially if and when the next deadly attack occurs.  But for the others, those who still have doubts, the next Al Qaeda attack will end any hope of absolute tolerance for all cultures and all radical religious sects.  The country has rediscovered moral bedrock.


Award-winning TV producer, talk show host, and Republican leader Arthur Bruzzone has written over 150 political articles for national and regional media, and has commented on political issues for American and European television and radio networks.  His articles and columns have appeared in the Wall Street Journal, San Francisco Chronicle, San Francisco Examiner, Campaign & Elections Magazine, among other publications.

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