August 13, 2017

THE LIBERAL CRACKUP: It’s a shame that Mark Lilla’s brilliant article, adopted from his book, The Once and Future Liberal: After Identity Politics, (scheduled for release this Tuesday) is behind the Wall Street Journal’s subscriber login, because the left-leaning professor of the humanities at Columbia University makes some extremely timely points. Not least of which is this:

There is a mystery at the core of every suicide, and the story of how a once-successful liberal politics of solidarity became a failed liberal politics of “difference” is not a simple one. Perhaps the best place to begin it is with a slogan: The personal is the political.

This phrase was coined by feminists in the 1960s and captured perfectly the mind-set of the New Left at the time. Originally, it was interpreted to mean that everything that seems strictly private—sexuality, the family, the workplace—is in fact political and that there are no spheres of life exempt from the struggle for power. That is what made it so radical, electrifying sympathizers and disturbing everyone else.

But the phrase could also be taken in a more romantic sense: that what we think of as political action is in fact nothing but personal activity, an expression of me and how I define myself. As we would put it today, my political life is a reflection of my identity.

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As a teacher, I am increasingly struck by a difference between my conservative and progressive students. Contrary to the stereotype, the conservatives are far more likely to connect their engagements to a set of political ideas and principles. Young people on the left are much more inclined to say that they are engaged in politics as an X, concerned about other Xs and those issues touching on X-ness. And they are less and less comfortable with debate.

Over the past decade a new, and very revealing, locution has drifted from our universities into the media mainstream: Speaking as an X…This is not an anodyne phrase. It sets up a wall against any questions that come from a non-X perspective. Classroom conversations that once might have begun, I think A, and here is my argument, now take the form, Speaking as an X, I am offended that you claim B. What replaces argument, then, are taboos against unfamiliar ideas and contrary opinions.

Which is how you get Brendan Eich shoved out of Firefox, James Damore crucified by Google, and conservative cake bakers and pizzeria owners threatened by the left. And it’s also how you get this pair of incidents at the left’s Netroots Nation convention this weekend. First up, Jazz Shaw of Hot Air has a “Video [of] Democrats shouting down the “wrong sort” of Democrats at NN17,” to which he adds:

One of the incidents this week deserves at least a brief look however, since it speaks volumes about the current state of the Democratic Party and the schism currently taking place there. One of the scheduled speakers at the event was Stacey Evans, a member of the Georgia House of Representatives and a candidate in the Democratic primary race for Governor of that state. It’s important to say that Ms. Evans was a scheduled speaker, because she didn’t get the chance to do very much actual speaking.

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Nobody was saying a thing about Evans’ policies, voting record or insufficiently progressive positions. The chants were all about “Support Black Women.” In case you haven’t picked up on this yet, Evans is white and one of her opponents in the primary, Stacey Abrams (who is described in the article as having been “treated like royalty”) is black. That’s the entire difference. In fact, when one of the AJ-C reporters caught up with the protesters to ask about their opposition to Evans, they couldn’t come up with a thing. (Emphasis added)

And that’s just how the man who is the deputy chairman of the Democratic Party likes it. “Keith Ellison demands Democrats defend ‘intersectionality,’” Emily Jashinsky writes at the Washington Examiner:

Ellison, a Democratic congressman from Minnesota, implored progressives gathered at Netroots Nation on Friday to embrace the philosophy of intersectionality. “All of us in this room have got to defend intersectionality as a concept,” he said from the stage, drawing cheers from the crowd.

“That applause ain’t quite loud enough!” Ellison went on, riling up the crowd.

Seated to his left was Kimberlé Crenshaw, the feminist scholar credited with introducing the philosophy of intersectionality in the 1980’s. Crenshaw said she’s been “astonished” by the attacks on her work, which even prompted her to go back and read it herself, wondering if perhaps she said something wrong. From that, Crenshaw explained she came away “with an even greater feeling that the distortion isn’t accidental.”

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To sum up intersectionality in brief, it means that once you’ve accepted that everything is racist, consistency demands that you also accept everything is sexist, everything is transphobic, everything is Islamophobic, and so on and so forth. Think of it as the grand unified theory of victimhood.

Crenshaw herself has explained it “came from the idea that if you’re standing in the path of multiple forms of exclusion, you are likely to get hit by both.”

The doctrine is characteristic of the brand of progressive radicalism from which many centrist Democrats believe the party must disassociate in order to broaden its appeal and recapture working class voters between the coasts. With Ellison perched in power at the DNC, those pleas probably won’t be persuasive.

All of which is a reminder that the goons carrying tiki torches and pretending to be cast members in a revival of Triumph of the Will in Charlottesville aren’t the only group in America utterly obsessed with skin color. But they’re a powerless fringe group compared to the intersection of the Democratic party, academia, the media, and Silicon Valley. As someone whose worldview intersects at the crossroads of moderate to conservative to libertarian politics, I’m happy that such ideas have been an enormous anchor dragging down the left (err, aside from its aforementioned control of one of America’s two major political parties, academia, the media, and the computer industry). But as an American, I find racism repulsive on both sides of the aisle.

And of course, creating an army of angry SJWs has another downside for the left as well: “Creating Monsters Is The Easy Part,” David Thompson writes. “Enabling and excusing all that leftist psychodrama sure is expensive.”