After the Revolution, the Left Always Needs A Zamboni

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The unrelenting speed and undiminished fervor with which liberals are killing the careers of their former comrades in politics, the media, and the arts may appear unseemly and contradictory at first glance. Yet based on historical precedent, it’s also remarkably predictable, perhaps even axiomatic. It’s what often happens when the Left tastes power.

The Left exhibits a compulsion for executing its own, once some are no longer regarded pure enough, ideological enough, or radical enough. This pattern of behavior dates back to the original left-wing triumph, the French Revolution.

After the monarchs, the aristocrats, and the clergy had been mercilessly led to the guillotine, the revolutionaries ruthlessly turned on each other. Whether through blood lust, revolutionary fervor, or ambition for ultimate power, succeeding cabals of radicals sent their predecessors to bloody ends. In Paris, extremist leader Maximilien Robespierre condemned Jacques Danton, and then Robespierre paid the deadly price which he had unflinchingly enacted upon others.

In 1793 Jacques Mallet du Pan, a French journalist with monarchist sympathies, described the waves of bloodletting succinctly:  “Like Saturn, the Revolution devours its children.”

Since then, radical or violent leftist revolutions have often followed similar patterns, most lethally when Joseph Stalin ordered the Moscow show trials and Mao Tse-Tung unleashed the Cultural Revolution. In nonviolent fashion, the Left has maintained and extended its control of social manners in America since instigating the Sexual Revolution during the post-World War II era. In textbook absolutist fashion, powerful leftist political, economic, and social forces insist on unconditional surrender in the Culture War by those whose standards they denigrate as old-fashioned, prudish, Puritanical, or religiously motivated. It marks the height of hypocrisy for these same liberal taste makers now to claim that they are cleaning up the messy, vulgar, ill-mannered, sometimes illegal personal relations that they green-lighted from the start.

The current cleansing of liberal ranks of those accused or suspected of harassment and worse presents but a pale reflection of past examples of summary “revolutionary justice.”  The consequences of losing a cushy media job, being passed over for an overpaid acting role, or surrendering political power are markedly less draconian than punishments meted out during times of genuine revolutionary zeal. Still, liberals stand at risk of losing their generously-compensated assignments in the public spotlight. Just ask condescending taxpayer-funded Minnesota Public Radio star Garrison Keillor. For decades, he exemplified the liberal elitist understanding of what heartland America should look like, shorn of its deplorable clingers to outdated Second Amendment rights and moralistic Biblical values. Not long ago, they were making movies reverencing him and A Prairie Home Companion; now he’s reduced to a Public Radio non-person more speedily than Stalin erased Leon Trotsky from Soviet history. 

The ideological intensity reached a momentary fever pitch in the first week of December with the political executions of Senator Al Franken of Minnesota and Representative John Conyers of Michigan. They were neither shown mercy nor offered amnesty despite their unbroken records of support for any-and-all leftist causes. Even their consistent and vocal support for the most extreme policies regarding abortion, taxpayer-funded contraception, and Planned Parenthood proved insufficient to save them. Robespierre would have empathized.

Conyers had set himself in the vanguard of radical political change all the way back to the 1960s. So long has been his career, that, according to liberal website Politico, he is the only politician endorsed by both Martin Luther King Jr. and Barack Obama. That could not save him anymore than his status as the longest serving African-American in Congress.

The same liberal voices that for decades praised Senator Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts and President Bill Clinton abandoned Conyers. Former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi had a momentary ideological lapse, when she seemed to be protecting her longtime colleague, praising him as an “icon” who had done “a great deal to protect women,” liberal-speak for “he was pro-abortion.” The Democrat House minority leader immediately was set upon by younger, more radical Democrats led by Massachusetts Congressman Seth Moulton, who was born two decades after Conyers had started advocating for civil rights and other progressive causes. Pelosi quickly backed down, sacrificing former supporter Conyers in order to preserve her own power base. The Michigan Democrat had to go; the liberal icon had become an embarrassment to the Party.

Mercifully, Conyers ultimately accepted his fate from his hospital bed with a one-sentence statement addressed to the House leadership. The Democrat Dean of the House, Conyers had been re-elected 25 consecutive times; he was first elected in 1964, only two years after Ted Kennedy won his Senate seat in Massachusetts. Both maintained voting records placing them among the most liberal members of Congress. Considering their parallel careers, the 88-year old Conyers must have wondered how he ended up being fed to the liberal lions, while Ted Kennedy would forever be feted by the same leftists as “the liberal lion of the Senate.”

A similar fate awaited Franken, a former comic writer and actor who brought some showbiz glitz and connections to the Democrats. In a concrete way, he was the embodiment of the Party goal of forcing Hollywood values upon the rest of America. As a Baby Boomer born in 1951, he was a “child of the revolution,” growing into adulthood during the Age of Aquarius and a time of New Left political radicalism. Not only that, but Franken had humbly accepted the role of the good soldier during his first six-year term on Capitol Hill, avoiding Saturday Night Live hi-jinks off the Senate floor, raising campaign funds prodigiously, and regularly deferring to more senior Democrats. After his re-election, he garnered headlines for relentlessly attacking his former Senate colleague, newly nominated Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Franken’s televised grilling of Sessions was catnip to the Left, and started to earn him consideration as a likely presidential contender. 

Just as he reached the top of his political game, his Democrat allies turned on him quicker than you can say “Uncle Joe Stalin’s show trials.” What was he guilty of? For lack of a better explanation, it seems like he was guilty of acting like a stereotypical Hollywood liberal while he was working in show business.

Were he less a dyed-in-the-wool ideological liberal, he might have asked his fellow liberals, “Isn’t that precisely what the Democrat Party wants? Aren’t we committed to imposing Hollywood values across the land, beginning right here in Washington D.C.?”

One wonders whether such questions crossed Franken’s mind as liberal colleagues like Bay State Senators Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey and Congressman Seth Moulton marched him to the political equivalent of the guillotine. In the final gasps of a promising political career, did Franken wonder why the Hollywood-philic Democrats deep-sixed him for being, well, a true-to-life Hollywood-style Democrat?

Judging from his Senate floor resignation speech, one would guess not. From the French Revolution to the Stalinist show trials, leftist revolutionaries have resigned themselves to far worse fates. No matter their innocence, they remained attached to the notion of “the revolution.” Still proclaiming revolutionary rhetoric, they stepped up the stairs to the guillotine or across a freezing continent to Siberia without repudiating the ideology that condemned them.

And following that ideological pattern, who did the Minnesota Democrat bash in his political-guillotine speech? Not Democrat Senate leader and erstwhile friend Chuck Schumer, who turned on Franken. Not Seth Moulton or Elizabeth Warren, who conveniently dispatched a future presidential rival, while garnering praise from the mainstream media types for such a calculated self-aggrandizing tactic. Not New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, who led the politically-motivated denunciations of Franken despite her prior history of support for Bill and Hillary Clinton; a former Hudson Valley Blue Dog Democrat, Gillibrand’s opportunistic shift to the hard left now receives the rave reviews in the liberal media that once promoted Franken himself. 

Instead, Franken attacked two Republicans who had absolutely nothing to do with his political demise, President Donald Trump and Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore. Rather oddly, the outgoing Minnesota Senator claimed “there is some irony in the fact that I am leaving” while they remain. The real irony exists in the fact that he fails to acknowledge that the Left devoured him. He was no longer useful to the ideology to which he committed himself; he had become the worst of all things, a political liability. 

In his farewell address, Franken regurgitated liberal themes without humor or apology. Among some liberals, there was fretting that he refused to confess and apologize for his misdeeds. Yet, ultimately he accepted his fate. Once again, the revolution devoured another of its children.


Joseph Tortelli is a freelancer writer. Read other articles by Mr. Tortelli here.