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06-27-05, 10:21 AM
Seinfeld Liberals
Ed Lasky
June 27th, 2005

Seinfeld was a television marvel. Perhaps the most successful situation comedy series of all time, it ran from 1989 to 1998, and has become an omnipresent aspect of our lives as it continually runs in syndication and lives on in best-selling DVD box sets, making fortunes in the hundred millions for both of its co-creators.

But there is yet another facet of Seinfeld at which we can marvel: the cast of characters on the show weirdly foreshadowed the rise to prominence of a large component of the dominant urban liberal wing of the Democratic Party. With a nod to Brian Anderson’s South Park Conservatives and a quick glance backward at yesterday’s Matt Bai New York Times Magazine article King of the Hill Democrats, let us join the craze for television series politics, and call them Seinfeld Liberals.

Their emergence has not been beneficial for our nation.

Hollywood has long provided role models and templates for Americans – just as books and stories always have (Washington and the Cherry tree, Abe Lincoln studying by candle, the always-inventive Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Edison, the heroic obstinacy of U.S. Grant and George Patton).

In recent decades, a certain cynicism about the character of Americans seems to have taken hold, at least in the filmed and televised entertainment we see. We have gone from John Wayne and Jimmy Stewart patriotically defending America and standing up for the little guy to the egocentricism displayed by the likes of Robert DeNiro in Taxi Driver, Al Pacino in Dog Day Afternoon and The Godfather, and Tom Cruise in Risky Business and Mission Impossible. We have gone from a pantheon of heroes serving as symbols for everyone to a motley group of self-serving characters raised in the ethos of the endless Me Decade.

This process of erosion in character among those presented to us for emulation reached its apotheosis in Seinfeld. The characters on Seinfeld are a simulacrum, albeit exaggerated for comic purpose, of many of the liberals we find on the political landscape today.

For those who have been away on religious missions to the South Seas for the last 15 years or so, the series featured a core cast of 4 characters: Elaine, George, Kramer and the eponymous Jerry Seinfeld. All were single New Yorkers with checkered job histories, who seemed incapable of developing lasting and caring relationships with others, either in their careers or their romantic lives. While different on the margins, they all shared certain attributes around which much of the humor of the show pivoted.

They were, to use the term now in vogue, Metrosexuals. Their perspective as Manhattanite city dwellers was expressed by the famed New Yorker cartoon by Saul Steinberg, in which everything beyond the Hudson looks tiny and insignificant. They never evinced any desire to travel or live elsewhere. They all lived in rented apartments and never expressed any home-owning desires.

When they did take excursions outside of Manhattan, they often used these trips to belittle and alienate the rural or suburban people they met. George’s trips to the outer boroughs were usually to visit his parents, and what usually transpired was an argument. Other trips lead to the Bubble Boy episode, cabins being burned down, accusations of lobster stealing, and parking garage travails in a suburban shopping center.

Their aversion for small-town America was never made more manifest than in the concluding episode, where a run-in with the Main Street folks of a small New England town lead to their arrest, conviction and imprisonment, when non-urban America took its long-delayed revenge. Activities beyond urban centers were not to be respected or indulged in, but instead became stories to be mined for humor.

Their distaste for home-owning suburban life might have merely been a reflection of their seeming lack of desire to ever be married and have children. Indeed, family life was portrayed as filled with turmoil and was routinely satirized: George, Kramer, and Elaine had noticeable dysfunctional relationships with their parents. When babies were present they too were to become objects of humor (the ugly baby in the crib episode). Elaine refused to patronize a pizza parlor in one episode because the proprietor was pro-life and gave money to “fanatical” anti-abortion groups. While occasional feints towards marriage were made (noticeably George’s relationship with Susan – which ended in George killing her) there were never any doubts that the gang would remain unmarried, for marriage and family life were devalued during the series.

Marriage and children would certainly never have been considered a religious obligation, for the characters were resolutely irreligious.

Jerry was the only character who ever disclosed his religion: Jewish, revealed obliquely and late in the series. While religion is rarely touched upon in any television series or movie, a void much commented upon by critic Michael Medved, the rare times it was treated on Seinfeld clearly showed that the practice of religion was not to be respected, and its leaders were to become objects of mockery. Religious figures were to be mined for humor.

A rabbi who showed up in a few episodes was nasal and boring as he droned on in a monotone voice. Plus, he seemed to violate religious norms by being a gossip! George briefly attempted to fake an intent of converting to a fictitious branch of Eastern Orthodoxy, but that was merely to enable him to date a girl from a pious family. Of course, he could not endure the tedium.

Another episode involved Elaine’s boyfriend of the time, Puddy, dressed up for a New Jersey pro hockey game in devil-like regalia and makeup. He approached a car with a priest inside, who expressed paralyzing fear at the approach of an actual devil incarnate. Priests, you see, are gullible, dumb and paranoid!

The Seinfeld characters share many archetypal traits with liberal Democrats, especially single people living in cities with very little appreciation of family life or religion. The Seinfeld characters embody much of what passes for the values (not the virtues) of contemporary liberals. They seem to have provided the role models for many young people in the Democratic Party. They are the cultural polar opposite of many of the voters who elected George Bush: suburban or small-town denizens of America, who own homes, have families, and regularly attend religious services.

Maybe the Seinfeld characters realized something about themselves and swore off marriage for a reason. Had they ever been married, their incessant nitpicking and fault-finding would not have helped to create a harmonious family life. Much of the humor from the show derived from the ruptured romantic lives of all the characters. They all seemed to be incapable of being happy with the way people were; the minor foibles and personality tics of others drove them to distraction and eventually repulsion.

This tendency annoy was true in their work lives, as well (George’s difficulties within the Steinbrenner organization, Elaine’s problems with her bizarre bosses, Jerry’s conflicts with other stand-up comedians. For Kramer this was not an issue, as he did not work – also a trait disproportionately found among Democrats).

The paramount source of the humor in the series was that every trivial idiosyncrasy of others became something to be loathed. This infantile quest for perfection would inevitably lead to an adult version of temper tantrums – the peremptory dismissal of the worth and value of other people. They were unable to find happiness or satisfaction with anyone else (and they seemingly recognized this trait in themselves during the famous “Master of My Domain” episode).


06-27-05, 10:21 AM
Not so coincidentally, we see the same demeaning treatment meted out by Seinfeld Liberals to George Bush and other Republicans. How many times have we seen him depicted as a “cowboy,” a “hillbilly,” a “country bumpkin” – all historically images of mockery in America. His Texas twang is satirized. Somehow, only the sanitized (and speech-coach derived) English of newscasters is found acceptable by Seinfeld Liberals.

Bush hatred, so often expressed as a dislike for his personal idiosyncrasies, is a manifestation of the same attitudes routinely expressed by the Seinfeld characters towards others. The disdain the Seinfeld characters came to feel for other people and their solution of dismissing them from their lives can serve as a comparison for the way many liberals treat George Bush and other Republicans. Banishment from the series is the sitcom equivalent of death. Ask any actor denied a continuing role.

While working to oppose his reelection or even calling for his impeachment are legitimate ways some people wish to express their disdain for George Bush, others have called openly for more extreme measures. Web sites are well-populated with calls for his death and the novel Checkpoint has been published with an alarming premise – a blueprint for his assassination. When you routinely demonize George Bush as a modern-day Hitler, such calls for action may have some resonance. As the Seinfeld crew routinely dismissed from their lives people who bothered them in any way, so some of the extremist Seinfeld Liberals seem to adhere to the dictum expressed by Joseph Stalin, "No Man, No Problem."

This seems very Seinfeldian to me.

The infantile quest for perfection by Seinfeld Liberals has been repeatedly displayed in the hyperbole directed against Bush and the Republicans. The wayward actions of a few people at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo gets blown up by Seinfeld Liberals as reason to indict all of the military and all members of the administration. Little mistakes and errors in judgment – inevitable in our complex society, saturated with probabilities not certainty – become cause for Seinfeld Liberals to disparage the President.

Conversely, there is as little self-examination by Seinfeld characters of their own mistakes or imperfections as there is among the liberal Democrats who harbor Ted Kennedy, Robert Byrd, and Al Sharpton within their ranks. Yet perfection is demanded of George Bush.

Throughout history there have been sadly too few examples of perfection - of things working out just so. Warfare has always been accompanied by mistakes (read any of Victor Davis Hanson's books on the subject for chapter and verse). Any great endeavors leave a trail of errors in judgment or execution. Even Bill Clinton’s singularly undistinguished presidency had them (Somalia, inaction in Rwanda and Bosnia, the Sudanese factory mistakenly bombed). But because Clinton avoided big issues (after crashing and burning with health care restructuring), so he avoided for the most part the risk of error, and the associated risk of criticism.

George W. Bush, in contrast, tackles the big issues and thereby runs the risk of being attacked by Seinfeld liberals eager to find fault with other people. Endlessly attacking Bush and America during this time of international tension only emboldens our enemies, a point whose mere mention causes screams of outrage and accusations of McCarthyism.

While real world examples of perfection are few and far between, what has been tragically in abundance have been failed utopian quests for perfection. We can see the horrors of the 20th century which have come from these quests: Fascism, Nazism, Communism, Maoism, Islamism. Absolutisms of any sort have rarely been a reliable guide towards progress.

It is telling that after Illinois Senator Dick Durbin foolishly compared the treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo to the behavior of the Nazis, Pol Pot and Stalin, the left's new moral guidepost, Markos Moulitsas, of the Dailykos website, argued that while Durbin's comparison might have been inappropriate, the important question is why our behavior was not more different from that of the Nazis. In the Seinfeld liberals' mindset, if the prisoners at Guantanamo do not receive that sensitive "Hyatt Gold" touch, then we are not different enough from the Nazis.* Such is the moral compass of people who have lost the ability to make distinctions, even large and obvious ones.

The Seinfeld creators proudly admitted their show was about “nothing.” Larry David, the co-creator of the Seinfeld show, as any proud parent would desire, has refused to let his progeny perish. From the Olympian heights of Hollywood, David (and his wife Laurie) have been in the forefront of fundraising for the Democratic Party. They have been promoting a very liberal agenda. With his creative and financial resources, he has begat many more Seinfeld Liberals.

This type of help is not necessarily going to bring glad tidings to the Democratic Party. As the Democrats continue to lack new ideas, engage in the ridicule of religious people, make a mockery of the concept of family life, obsess with endless fault-finding and nit-picking, they have become the natural heirs of the Seinfeld show: They have become Seinfeld Liberals: Democrats who stand for and are about nothing.

*The famous "Soup Nazi" episode had no compunction in comparing a bossy proprietor of a soup restaurant to a Nazi-while in some ways humorous, it also displays a lack of sensitivity.