"I was stunned by the claim that voters chose George Bush because they cared about moral values. Either they had been bamboozled or the left had dramatically failed,"
Neiman analyses how the Right has seemingly managed to lay claim to traditional moral values. "Western secular culture has no clear place for moral language, and its use makes many profoundly uncomfortable." In the process "...concepts have been abandoned to the right: good and evil, hero and dignity and nobility."
While the post-60s Left abandoned high ideals and became preoccupied with identity politics they lost ground to an increasingly impassioned and intellectual Right that has gained the moral high ground: "Through organizations like the Olin Foundation, Midwestern businessmen who made their fortunes producing chemicals and telephones were sponsoring seminars in the mountains of Hungary on the nature of evil, or flying scholars to Chicago to discuss law and virtue... As the right was completing its study of the classics, the left was facing conceptual collapse."
Neiman offers a way forward - or at least a part - by calling upon Liberals to reread the classic texts. She gives retellings of the The Book of Job and The Odyssey (which are worth buying the book for in themselves - certainly for someone like me who never read them in the first place!) and shows how these classic moral tales demonstrate that alongside the Left's virtues of tolerance, ecumenism, universalism, justice as equality, and the rights of individuals we should include resoluteness, stoicism, loyalty, dignity, nobility and heroism, and not just yield these to the Right (and to the increasingly worrying NeoCons).
An excellent and very readable book (if a bit long) that wins top marks from me for its original approach to a traditionally dry subject. She's someone to watch. Here she paraphrases Kant: "Not pleasure but justice can move human beings to deeds that overcome the strongest of animal desires, the love of life itself. And contemplating this is as dizzying as contemplating the heavens above us: with this kind of power, we are as infinite as they are."