A few weeks ago, I listened to a podcast featuring a 90-minute discussion between Glenn Beck and Eric Weinstein. All people of good faith should listen to this discussion between a conservative icon and a declared progressive. It is a model our culture could learn from. As far as foundational American principles, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and Western culture are concerned, the two men were in almost unanimous agreement.
Near the conclusion of the interview, Weinstein said this:
“Right now, the problem is we have no adults. I’m pretending to be an adult on Glenn’s show. Maybe Glenn is pretending to be an adult. But those of us pretending to be adults are at least trying. Because we’ve had a 75-year nap since the end of World War II. And it’s coming to an end, no matter what — whether that descends into bloodshed or violence or authoritarianism. Whether we lose the right to speak to each other on social media because they take a power grab given what things happened in the Capitol. We’ve gotta come back to reality.”
Weinstein continued to talk about failures of leadership on both sides. He asserted that President Donald Trump had given dual messages in his “Stop the Steal” narrative. He also said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was not qualified to bring impeachment because she has never criticized Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler or Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan for allowing lawlessness and destruction in their cities for months on end in the summer of 2020. He was calling out hypocrisy on both sides. This is refreshing in an age of increasing tribalism.
Listening to the entire interview, I could tell that both men see the world as it is. They have pierced the echo chambers enough to have a deep and meaningful conversation about how we go forward. This isn’t happening anywhere in the public domain other than among a select group of public intellectuals who all understand the rules of the road. They share a core set of principles rooted in our guaranteed freedoms and rights, mixed with a healthy dose of civility.
Let’s start with the rules of the road. Republicans, along with good faith liberals and progressives who share fundamental American principles, like Tulsi Gabbard and Glenn Greenwald, should immediately and forever stop calling out hypocrisy from institutional Democrats and the far left-wing in power. The institutional Democrats do not care about hypocrisy. They are not stupid. They simply operate under a different worldview.
In 1965, Herbert Marcuse wrote an essay called “Repressive Tolerance.” It is a foundational work in the field of critical theory. As James Lindsey, co-author of Cynical Theories, has often noted, constant cynical criticism is a solvent for liberal democracy. It dissolves systems that are open to criticism so they can strive to improve. It short-circuits noble intentions by overwhelming the capacity of the system.
If you need a genuine example, look at how constant cynical criticism of law enforcement officers has eroded their willingness to address high-stakes situations. After the riots this summer, this “Ferguson effect” impacts departments nationwide. The call to increase accountability and better identify officers who engage in questionable behavior can be dealt with. When political leaders, including the new president, tell police departments that they are systemically racist, however, that creates a barrier to action in service of self-preservation.
Marcuse’s theory of approaching the world limits an individual’s ability to hold two competing ideas in their head at once and reconcile them into a vision of reality that is messy, nuanced, and often conflicted. For example, Breonna Taylor’s death is tragic and may bring an opportunity to change police procedures. That does not mean any of the officers involved are guilty of a crime according to current statutes and procedures. Justice is served under the system we have, not the system as we wish it to be.
This inability to hold two competing ideas and understand the nuance involved explains why the center-left media can’t or won’t understand that you may have supported President Trump because you preferred his policies even if you cringed at his tweets or disapproved of his behavior following the election. And you may prefer him still to the empty vessel in the Oval Office that is simply a tool of the kleptocracy. Weinstein and many other good-faith liberals can see this point of view, and while they might disagree, they understand the nuance.
They also share the concern about an erosion of our fundamental liberties. The problem is these good fellow Americans who believe in our foundational principles never appear in the mainstream media. You most often see them on Tucker Carlson or on YouTube with hosts like Dave Rubin. Weinstein explains this is because the center-left corporate media cannot tolerate criticism from its own side. Because, for the liberal arts majors who internalize Marcuse even if they never read him, there is a singular point of view.
Any behavior, including violence from the political left, must be tolerated because the Left defines truth and tolerance. And any violence in the service of opposing right-wing and moderate views is excused because those views result from indoctrination. You saw this all summer from the Squad, other leading Democrats, and CNN. It can be heard in calls for “deprogramming” Trump supporters and characterizing 74 million Americans as members of a cult. You see it in Democrats’ excuses for the anti-Semitism of Representative Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) while they relentlessly pursue Representative Marjorie Taylor Green (R-Ga.).
This one-sided thinking persisted right through this evening when a Democrat majority in the House removed Greene from her assigned committees. This vote is unprecedented in modern politics, where the House majority does not interfere with the minority leader’s committee appointments or management of his or her caucus. Speaker Pelosi will not ever acknowledge this breach or be aware of the hypocrisy of removing Greene when she has at least two open anti-Semites and a member compromised by a Chinese spy all sitting on critical committees. Only the political Right can be extreme, in her worldview.
Understanding this, Republicans, good-faith liberals, and civil progressives need to learn to identify cynical criticism and cut it off at the pass as the denial reality it is. Then we all need to articulate a position that acknowledges an understanding of both sides and make a case for the one we believe to be the best course of action. Here is a quick response to the executive actions on climate change:
” The predictions about what may happen in the next hundred years are startling and we must act. The U.S. has had an historic reduction in our carbon emissions with the transition to natural gas and clean energy production.”
“Even Climate Envoy John Kerry admits we could go down to zero emissions and not affect global climate. Rather than reentering the Paris Accords, which give a decades-long pass to China (which even Karry admitted is the real global polluter), we should concentrate on bringing as much industrial activity and energy production back to the United States. Our methods are cleaner, more efficient and will preserve American jobs.”
Holding two ideas at once. Could there be a threat? Sure. Is America better positioned to address that threat than our ideological enemy, China? Absolutely. The burden is then placed on the administration to explain why we should prop up China at the expense of American jobs in the energy sector. Nuance is the only solvent for cynical criticism. And while the person posing the question may not be moved, most persuadable Americans listening will be.
WATCH the full discussion between Glenn Beck and Eric Weinstein: