David Horowitz's Long March
In the wake of Betty Van Patter's death, Horowitz's life came apart. Surrounded by "personal darkness," he began a series of affairs, which led to the collapse of his marriage. He launched a new career, with Collier, as a dynastic biographer; eventually they would produce thick histories of the Rockefeller, Ford and Kennedy families. "Without question, David Horowitz was extremely traumatized by what happened with Betty Van Patter, as I think anyone would be," says Hugh Pearson, author of The Shadow of the Panther: Huey Newton and the Price of Black Power in America. "As a result, David just totally went berserk with regard to the left-liberal community."
In 1979 Horowitz published an article in The Nation ["A Radical's Disenchantment," December 8] lashing radicals for their supposed moral indifference to repression and genocide in Vietnam and Cambodia. Old friends from the New Left began to fall away. In 1984 he cast a ballot for Ronald Reagan. In 1986 he informed a Berkeley audience: "You are in fact in league with the darkest and most reactionary forces of the modern world, whose legacies--as the record attests--are atrocities and oppression on a scale unknown in the human past." By 1989 Horowitz was comparing himself to Gifford Maxim, the Whittaker Chambers character in Lionel Trilling's novel The Middle of the Journey, an ex-Communist who confronted the radical tendencies of his time "with what he knew, from his experience, of the reality which lay behind the luminous words of the great promise." Horowitz had arrived at the final destination of his journey. Now, he ridicules the idea of utopia: "Every leftist should watch the Jerry Springer show," he says today. "How are you going to make a new world out of that material?"
Horowitz spent the nineties securing funding for the Center for the Study of Popular Culture, coming to grips with his family history, writing his memoirs and consolidating his status as a conservative pundit. That was accomplished with freewheeling attacks on homosexual promiscuity, multiculturalism, the ACLU, Angela Davis, the Russian Revolution, John Kenneth Galbraith, postmodernism and Winnie Mandela, to name but a few targets.
By the end of the decade, however, Horowitz had more or less exhausted his arsenal, and the political world beckoned. He was not a complete stranger to the corridors of power: In 1988 he and Collier wrote speeches for Bob Dole and had the pleasure of dining with Ronald Reagan, William Bennett and Newt Gingrich. Later, Horowitz was part of the brain trust that launched anti-affirmative action Proposition 209 in California. Last summer, he released The Art of Political War, printing 80,000 copies. It argues that the Republicans have been utterly vanquished by a President who has mastered the art of triangulation. In the public's mind, Horowitz writes, "the Clinton Democrat Party is now the party of economic vibrancy, anti-crime laws, welfare reform laws, budget surpluses and free trade. That's what the American people want."
To regain the political initiative, says Horowitz, Republicans must overturn the public perception that they are coldhearted and beholden to the rich: "'Tax breaks for the wealthy on the backs of the poor.' This is the Democrat sound-bite that defines Republicans as mean-spirited fat cats and enemies of the poor. What is the Republican chant? There is none." He proposes his own mantra: taxes for bureaucrats out of the pockets of the people. Republicans, in his view, must aggressively depict their opponents in starkly different terms: "Democrats label Republicans right-wing. But Republicans have no label to pin on Democrats to fight back." Horowitz to the rescue: "Here, then, is a label for Democrats: Leftists. The Democrat Party is a party of the Left."