Editor’s note: This commentary is by Deborah Bucknam, a St. Johnsbury-based attorney and the vice chair of the Vermont Republican Party.
Humanity is blessed with great religions where the faithful believe they are redeemed by God so they have been freed from the stain of sin to live a purer, more godly life, knowing that they, like the rest of humanity, are never without sin. Then there are pseudo religious cults whose believers are convinced they are redeemed so that they are free to live however they wish without consequences — and conversely, those who do not belong to their cult are irredeemably evil. The American political left has taken on the characteristics of the redeemed of pseudo religion, for they believe that they are beyond reproach, and those who are not members of their belief system are beyond redemption.
Events over the past several years highlight in stark detail the grip the doctrine of political redemption has on the left in this country. In 2016, presidential candidate Hillary Clinton tellingly spoke of Trump supporters in pseudo religious terms as “irredeemables.” Last summer, President Trump’s actions concerning Ukraine were declared by the left to be impeachable offenses, because they concluded, with no direct evidence, that his motives were evil, while at the same time presidential candidate Biden’s bragging about a direct threat he made to Ukrainian officials was dismissed because Biden is a member of the redeemed. Justice Kavanaugh, a man of impeccable character, was called a gang rapist by #metoo members of the left, based on zero credible evidence, while presidential candidate Biden has been given absolution by many of those same #metoo women after he was credibly accused by a former staffer of sexual assault. President Trump has been portrayed as a monster with no redeemable human qualities, intent on imposing dictatorial powers on our precious democracy.
This religious cult is not new. As Daniel Henninger wrote in the Wall Street Journal recently, it goes back to Franklin Roosevelt, who railed against evil capitalists whose sinful profit motives destroyed their hapless victims. This theme is a perennial one, but it is now coupled with additional sins of the irredeemables: they are racist, misogynists, xenophobes, homophobes and climate deniers.
The coronavirus pandemic has brought the cult’s dogma starkly to light. Instead of arguing the merits of the issues surrounding opening up the country, cult members accuse nonbelievers as being indifferent to Americans’ health and safety. The newest accusation hurled by Democrats concerning Republicans’ concern for mail-in balloting in November is that Republicans are willing to put people’s lives at risk if they advocate in-person voting by secret ballot. And, without irony or self-reflection, the left has portrayed President Trump’s disinclination during this time of crisis to grab dictatorial powers — something they earlier claimed motivated his Presidency — as a catastrophic failure of leadership.
This cult dogma has been spectacularly successful, in large part because it has been adopted by virtually all members of the American establishment: academia, Hollywood, the media, mainline churches, public sector unions, professional organizations and the vast majority of major non-profit organizations — all the Best People. The reasons are transparent: Being a member of a cult gives people a sense of superiority, and the comfort that their beliefs and their moral character will not be seriously challenged. After all, if they and their beliefs are challenged by nonbelievers, the challenges are inherently worthless.
Of course, political-religious cults are dangerous to a democracy. Totalitarian dictators from Lenin to Stalin to Mao and Pol Pot based their murderous regimes on the premise that people who did not believe in their version of socialism did not deserve any God-given rights, including the right to live. Unfortunately, some of that attitude permeates the American left. Justice Kavanaugh did not deserve a fair hearing. President Trump does not deserve to govern, even though duly elected. Taking him down by any means possible is considered acceptable, including spying, making up bogus criminal charges against his associates, and endlessly claiming he’s a traitor to his country knowing there is no evidence to support such a smear. It is acceptable to shout down and disinvite conservative speakers, to shun nonbelievers professionally, and to downplay violence and hate speech against nonbelievers. The Trump assassination fantasies by celebrities and the commentariat, the life threatening wounding of a U.S. Congressman by a Bernie Sanders supporter, and the politically motivated physical assault on a U.S. senator resulting in hospitalization have been met with a collective shrug by the establishment left.
The American left could be a viable and valuable political faction. Its ideas and policies deserve airing, consideration and scrutiny, just like the ideas and polices of the American right. That is how a democracy works. If the left believes its policies are worth considering, then its members should talk about those policies instead of, as it does now, denigrate and demonize anyone who disagrees with them.