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The Republican God That Failed

After losing the Republican primary, and thus her US House seat, Liz Cheney announced the formation of a new political action committee and suggested that she might run for president, all part of her effort to keep Donald Trump out of the White House. She is channeling the oppositional zeal that political disillusion often fuels.

MOSCOW – In 1949, five of the world’s greatest living writers – André Gide, Richard Wright, Ignazio Silone, Stephen Spender, and Arthur Koestler – and the American foreign correspondent Louis Fischer contributed essays to a collection called The God That Failed, in which they reflected on their embrace, rejection, and disavowal of communism. Liz Cheney – one of Donald Trump’s most prominent Republican critics, who was just routed in a party primary, denying her the chance to defend her seat in the US House of Representatives in November – might be able to relate.

The twentieth century was the heyday of ideological commitment and political disillusion. The communist cause seemed to many people, particularly literary intellectuals, to offer a path toward personal fulfillment and social justice, even a kind of salvation. By the time Gide, Koestler, and the others put their disillusionment down on paper, this belief was well and truly behind them. But they understood that for many – particularly their intellectual peers – communism’s spell had yet to be broken.

In fact, it would take the Soviet repression of the Hungarian Revolution of 1956 to get the too-clever-by-half Jean-Paul Sartre to question his conviction that the Soviet Union was leading the way to humankind’s future. George Bernard Shaw, with his predilection for shocking statements, never voiced any doubt about the Soviet experiment, no matter the body count.

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