As much as the imploding impeachment trial may have demoralized cultural conservatives, it's important to consider that demoralization is also evident on the cultural left. It's also very different, as The Nation's recent issue focusing on Hollywood politics demonstrates.
The magazine's designated editor for this issue, Peter Biskind, interviewed prominent Hollywood liberals and found lots of dismay with where politics is going in the late Clinton era. Alec Baldwin, just a few months after chanting for Henry Hyde to be stoned by an angry mob, is still willing to demonize his opponents in the impeachment collapse: "They were on their knees praying to God at night for some kind of situation that would create an ethical parity between their two parties that would enable them finally to put Nixon to rest, where they could say, 'We're not the only party of rich white guys who keep women down.'"
And hadn't you heard that conservatives get up every day vowing to destroy the poor? Baldwin elaborated: "The extremist Republican leadership are destroyers, they're not builders. How can you come in and say that a welfare system, with as many warts as there were on that system, wasn't a valid attempt by a very intelligent and well-meaning group of people several decades ago to address a serious moral problem...The extremist Republicans would rather shut it down and have nothing, rather than repair it. And if we consign a generation of people to abject poverty and ignorance and poor health and illiteracy and so forth, then that's just too bad."
Does Mr. Baldwin really believe this nonsense? Does he not realize he has no idea what he's talking about? Doesn't he realize it's this kind of mindless rhetoric that has relegated liberalism to the trash dump of serious conversation?
But Alec Baldwin isn't alone.
This evil impeaching conservatism couldn't have evolved without what Hollywood sees as archaic forms of hatred. "It's got to have something to do with this radical Christianity," reasoned actor Tim Robbins. "It's got to have something to with not only morality, but white supremacy and the role of women in the world. It must really bug some of these people that he's appointed so many women, people of color, to his Administration." Oh, that.
Hollywood prefers to lecture the world about morality without any troublesome and antiquated (not to mention "radical") concepts of God. James Schamus told how he sold Todd Solondz's art-film "Happiness" to movie studios: "Each year America spends about one-third of its gross national product on advertising and marketing, in a frantic attempt to create and sustain enough desire in people so that they'll want to buy all the crap we and the Chinese and everyone else is producing so that we can continue to despoil the environment and hasten our demise through global warming." Schamus argued that the "enormous industrial effort to produce that much desire" is destroying the social structure of suburbia, see, thus producing the pedophilic psychotherapist at the center of the film. So how do the suburbs resist the temptations of entertainment and advertising without a transcendent vision of the hollowness of worldly materialism, without God? You won't find a rebuke in Hollywood's self-centered, follow-your-bliss mysticism.
The Nation also features an article from Marc Cooper's the Hollywood Left "Under the Cloud of Clintonism." A series of leftist actors and producers reminisced about the days of Reagan's Evil Empire, when people would celebrate causes like communists in El Salvador and kiss Daniel Ortega's ring at California mansions. With the collapse of the Cold War and the rise of Bill Clinton, the appeal of Blame-America-First rallies wilted. "The ideological heat of the eighties evaporated overnight," proclaimed Democratic consultant Bill Carrick.
That ideological heat has clearly evaporated on the feminist ramparts. Look at Hollywood's utter silence on Juanita Broaddrick's charge that Bill Clinton raped her. In 1991, three sitcoms - "Designing Women," "Dinosaurs," and "Murphy Brown" - celebrated Anita Hill and denigrated her adversaries. In 1992, "Designing Women" guru Linda Bloodworth-Thomason said "comparing Anita Hill with Gennifer Flowers is like comparing Thomas Jefferson to Jeffrey Dahmer." Now all Hollywood can do is sit in silence to protest Elia Kazan's unflinching anti-communism, not daring to speak out about a potential rapist in the White House.
As a conservative who has been dismayed about recent developments in the cultural conversation, I've looked for signs - any sign - of encouragement. Now I've found it in the realization that things could be far, far worse. If I were a liberal.