Why the Left Hates the Old

The latest left-wing tactic to discredit conservative views is to dismiss the age and race of conservatives. "Old white males" and "old white people" are the left’s latest favored negative epithets for those holding conservative views.

Chris Matthews of MSNBC, Thomas Friedman and Paul Krugman of the New York Times, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid ("angry old white men") are among the many on the left who have used this epithet.

Last week, on her nightly MSNBC show, Rachel Maddow showed a picture of an ad for Washington, D.C. talk radio station WRC that featured the station’s talk show hosts. You will notice, she said, that they are all "old white Republican males." It was brought to my attention because I am one of those talk show hosts (and, it should be noted, nearly all of my colleagues and I are younger than her colleague, Chris Matthews, an old white Democratic male.)

What is going on here?

The answer is: quite a bit. The left’s dismissal of old people is much more than another left-wing ad hominem attack. Therefore, to understand it is to understand much of what animates leftism.

As a rule, the left rejects the old.

The left’s attack on teaching the works of "Dead White European Males" was one such example. It infuriated the left that Shakespeare was studied so much more than, let us say, living Guatemalan playwrights. As a result, one can now obtain a college degree in English — let alone every other liberal arts department — without having taken a course in Shakespeare.

So, too, in art and music, the new is almost always favored over the old. New composers and artists — no matter how untalented — are studied as much as or more than the great masters of old. And the old standards of excellence are neglected in favor of the latest avant-garde experimentation.

Rejection of the old is a reason the left has contempt for the Bible. To progressives, the idea of having 2,000 and 3,000-year-old texts guide a person’s behavior today is ludicrous.

Low regard for the old is also a major factor in the left’s dismissal of the Founders and of the original intent of the Constitution. Talk about "old white males," the Founders are white males who are now over 200-years-old. What could they possibly have known or understood that a progressive living today does not know more about or understand better?

What, then, is at the core of the left’s contempt for the old, and its celebration of the new and of change?

There are two primary answers.

One is the yearning for utopia. Since Marx, the left has sought utopia in this world. And that means constantly transforming every aspect of society. As then-Senator Barack Obama said prior to the 2008 election: "We are five days away from fundamentally transforming the United States of America."

By definition, those who seek to transform consider the old essentially worthless.

The other answer is self-esteem. The left began the self-esteem movement in large measure because of its own high self-esteem. Those on the left are certain that they are smarter, kinder, more moral and more compassionate than — in every way superior to — their opponents.

That is a major reason for the left’s problem with the old: If the old is great, then they and their new ideas are probably not that great.

Just about everyone who is not on the cultural left knows that all the great masters were incomparably superior to Jackson Pollock and other 20th-centuries artists who produced meaningless and talentless art. And because there are so few artists at any time who measure up to the old standards (standards that are synonymous with standards of excellence), the old standards have simply been abandoned.

This applies equally to morality. The left doesn’t want to be bound or answerable to a higher moral authority. Rather, one’s heart and reason are the best moral guides. Here, too, the old codes, especially as embodied in traditional religion, must be overthrown.

Prior to the ascendance of the left, it was assumed that the old had more wisdom than the young. Indeed, even every leftist I have asked, "Are you wiser today than 20 years ago?" has answered in the affirmative.

Nevertheless the left has transformed "old" — a title that commanded respect in every civilization prior to the pre-1960s West — into a pejorative.

As a result we live in the age of new music, new art, new families, new morality, new education, and now new marriage. If you think all these are good, then "old white males," like almost everything else old, do indeed constitute a threat. If you think the left’s belief in "new" and "change" hurts society, "old" sounds good.

Dennis Prager’s latest book, "Still the Best Hope: Why the World Needs American Values to Triumph," was published April 24 by HarperCollins. He is a nationally syndicated radio show host and creator of PragerUniversity.Com.


  • sjangers

    Strangely enough, Dennis, the Left’s dismissal of old standards is actually very pragmatic. Doing away with traditional standards- whether art, behavior, morality, or law- allows you to have at least some role in determining the standards by which your own and future values and behaviors will be judged. The end result may be chaotic, but is no doubt preferable to them so long as they can do away with standards to which they can’t, or won’t, live up.

    • Wheels55

      That’s all fine if the left didn’t want such fairy tale things. How do we get from where we are now to these fairy tale expectations without bankrupting our country? Some of it can be done if people acted with personal responsibility and did not depend on government to handle so many things. Politicians, in general, are not really interested in using our money for good – they use our money for their power.

      • sjangers

        I don’t disagree with anything you said, Wheels. The intent of my original post was to be a bit cynical about the motivation for the Left’s attack on traditional values. Nothing I said yesterday came out very clearly. I blame my liberal education.

        • Wheels55

          No problem here. Most all had a liberal education and have had to deal with it.

  • Brian Fr Langley

    It’s true that I’m white and quite old,
    and carry still the great stories we’re told,
    about a Nation whose right,
    rested less on it’s might,
    and more on the morals we hold.

  • Brian Fr Langley

    Don’t you find it extraordinarily ironic that America fought a war over “No taxation without representation”. Yet if Mitt Romney is right about the 47% collecting some Government money, and the Stats revealing some 50% of Americans paying no taxes at all. You now have a situation with “Full representation WITHOUT taxation??? A recipe for disaster if ever there was one.

    • D Parri

      Brian, I agree with what you said, and I think about that quite often. I truly believe that if the country continues on its current path there will be an uprising from the grass roots level that will be akin to the American Revolution and the causes which precipitated ‘anarchy’ so long ago.

      How long will there continue to be hard-working, honest taxpayers willing to contribute their proscribed portion of the cost of running our government while entitlements and welfare programs waste more and more of the revenues committed to these essentially worthwhile programs through fraud, waste, and abuse?

  • Brian Fr Langley

    While I agree with all that’s written here, I think there’s more to Marxist disgust at our society than just being controlled (in days gone by) by old white men. The true target is religion. (you know those who cling to their religion and their guns). And not just any religion. In particular the Protestant Christian religion that was so fundemental to America’s founding. So why the hate for Protestantism. Everything it taught (particularly in days gone by, thus the hate for “old white folks, who were it’s likliest adherents) is anethema to Marxism. Private property rights, thrift, hard work, duty to God and community, and self reliance, all philosophical ideals that LEAD to disparate outcomes. The harder you work, and the thriftier you are, the wealthier you’ll be. Modern economists call this behavior delayed gratification. Socialists call it a horrible injustice? How dare one member of a society get ahead of another? At the core of this foundational ethic (still widley embraced by the so called “Religious right”) are the Bible and the most ancient of it’s Commandments. “Thou shalt not steal” and “thou shall not covet what is they Neighbors”. There is absolutely NO WAY you can read this (foundation stone of the Judeo-Christian ethic), other than, there is an inherent Biblical right to own property, further meaning, property rights derive from the highest authority. An authority enshrined by the framers in the U.S. constitution, undergirded by the Declaration of Independance. If this in any way informs your own belief systems, Marxist’s will hate you and attack you. (along with their liberal dupes)

  • Wheels55

    Tip for the young on the left: be careful what you wish for. One day, you and your kids will lead a tax revolt and be opposed to so much government spending. Look at Detroit and decide if that is what you want for our country.

    • sjangers

      Or at least a tip for young, while males, Wheels: some day you will be an old white male. It may be trendy to dismiss those folks now, but do you want to live the rest of your life that way?

      • Wheels55

        Not sure what you mean.
        I’m 58 and dislike that we have so much government spending and intrusion in our lives. Many of our youth, from what I have seen, like big government. My comment was based on these things.

        • sjangers

          I guess I was having a bad day, Wheels. I didn’t make myself very clear. I was taking one element from Dennis’ column, about the left marginalizing old white men, and combining it with a concept in your original post, about young people needing to look a little further ahead than just what looks like their self-interest today, to suggest that young white guys who are supporting liberal ideas today, and helping to pile on and dismiss the ideas and concerns of old white men, might find themselves being tossed aside and dismissed in just a few short years. I just didn’t express the idea very clearly. Hopefully this post makes my intent a bit clearer.

          • Wheels55

            Very clear. No problem. Thanks.
            Amazing what a little communication can clear up. It would be great if Washington would try it.

          • D Parri

            Amen, you guys.

    • D Parri

      Tax revolt. That is what I have been predicting for several years now. It is brewing.