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When American Liberals Lose The Faith

Doesn’t this testimonial from a disaffected California liberal really speak volumes about just how far the American Left is going to lose friends and alienate people?

Rod Dreher shares an email from a reader:

So I was raised a secular liberal. My college professors were secular liberals. During my journalism phase, my newspaper colleagues were secular liberals. My law school professors and peers were – in the vast majority – secular liberals. Almost everyone at my corporate law firm was a secular liberal. My California neighbors and friends are secular liberals, as are my colleagues. My mother, siblings, and their spouses are all secular liberals.

By all rights, I should be a member in good standing of their tribe, “liking” their Facebook posts and joining their candlelight vigils against the evil Trump Administration. But November 8 and its aftermath revealed to me that I am just so tired of these people. I can’t be like them, and I don’t want my kids turning into them.

I am tired of their undisguised contempt for tens of millions of Americans, with no effort to temper their response to the election with humility or empathy.

I am tired of their unexamined snobbery and condescension.

I am tired of their name-calling and virtue-signaling as signs of supposedly high intelligence.

I am tired of their trendiness, jumping on every left-liberal bandwagon that comes along (transgender activism, anyone?) and then acting like anyone not on board is an idiot/hater.

I am tired of their shallowness. It’s hard to have a deep conversation with people who are obsessed with moving their kids’ pawns across the board (grades, sports, college, grad school, career) and, in their spare time, entertaining themselves and taking great vacations.

I am tired of their acceptance of vulgarity and sarcastic irreverence as the cultural ocean in which their kids swim. I like pop culture as much as the next person, but people who would never raise their kids on junk food seem to think nothing of letting then wallow in cultural junk, exposed to nothing ennobling, aspirational, or even earnest.

I am tired of watching them raise clueless kids (see above) who go off to college and within months are convinced they live in a rapey, racist patriarchy; “Make America Great Again” is hate speech; and Black Lives Matter agitators are their brothers-in-arms against White Privilege. If my kids are like that at nineteen, I’ll feel I’ve seriously failed them as a parent. Yet the general sentiment seems to be these are good, liberal kids who may have gotten a bit carried away.

I am tired of their lack of interest in any form of serious morality or self-betterment. These are decent, responsible people, many compassionate by temperament. Yet they seem two-dimensional, as if they believe that being a nice, well-socialized person who holds the correct political views is all there is, and there is nothing else to talk about. Isn’t there, though?

I am tired of being bored and exasperated by everybody. I feel like I have read this book a thousand times, and there are no surprises in it. Down with Trump! Trans Lives Matter! Climate deniers are destroying the planet! No cake, we’re gluten-free!

These are good people in a lot of ways. But there has got to be a better tribe.

It must be disturbing to “wake up” like this and realise that you are no longer fully in communion with your tribe, so kudos to Rod Dreher’s reader for putting into words something that cannot be easy to admit. With the wounds of the 2016 presidential election still raw, many on the American Left have little time for doubters, and admitting a heresy such as this would likely be met not with understanding (let alone introspection) but rather with intolerance and fury.

The scene that comes to my mind is from the film American History X, where protagonist Derek Vinyard, serving a jail sentence for the racist-motivated murder of a black car thief, realises the flaws of his white supremacist worldview while in prison and is then utterly unable to engage with that community – his only source of friendship and support – after his release. Eventually, Vinyard confronts the group’s leader and explicitly rejects their racist ideology, at which point they chase him out of their camp.

Increasingly, one has to either buy the whole regressive leftist agenda or none of it at all. Because it is couched in such explicitly moral terms, with any departure from orthodoxy seen as a moral failure, to question just one aspect of the worldview – the identity politics, the environmentalism, the statist paternalism – is to make oneself persona non grata within that community. Imagine the pain of realising that you no longer believe every article in the leftist gospel, and then being faced either with the prospect of admitting your heresy and being actively shunned by family, friends and colleagues, or else keeping your opposition quiet and living a lie.

The American Left has, with too few exceptions, given up on trying to win by persuasion, seeking instead to achieve victory by shaming and bullying dissenters into a sullen, resentful silence. That approach is no longer working and delivering benefits, to the extent that it ever did. When people like Rod Dreher’s reader are leaving the tribe in disgust at the sanctimonious echo chamber of questionable values then clearly something has gone wrong.

None of this is to say that American conservatism is in fine fettle – clearly not, as this blog has repeatedly warned. The fact that Republicans have closed ranks behind a profoundly authoritarian and un-conservative President-elect Donald Trump is evidence of the challenge faced by small-C conservatives in trying to maintain their influence and steer the Trump presidency away from endless pitfalls.

But it is the slow-burning revolution on the Left (particularly the growing elitism and the lethal embrace of identity politics) which fed the populist Right to the extent that Donald Trump won the White House. And until the American Left learns to moderate its many excesses and accept ideological diversity together with all the other kinds of diversity they champion, they will continue to alienate crucial allies and accelerate their march into irrelevance.

 

liberalism

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7 responses

  1. Sam,

    I sense that you are bringing into question the whole ideology/stance/strategy/tactics (call it what you will but I think you know what I mean) of the political LEFT (ie liberals and/ or socialists) in general in the West (USA, UK & Europe). And I would agree with this challenge.

    This is a theme that I picked up on a short while back after the implosion of Syriza in Greece.

    “Quo vadis” would probably sum up the situation succinctly.

  2. As an unbiased observer (I’m not American and did not vote), this is just a classic case of the pot calling the kettle black.

    America broke down discourse between the two sides a while back, and Trump burned the bridge. I find it hard to call liberals out for shaming, considering the things Trump and his supporters have said and done.

    At the end of the day, I would rather side with the educated liberals than the conservatives who signed off on xenophobia, racism, and sexism as okay.

    College campuses are a patriarchy and rapey virtually anywhere in the world. This isn’t news. How long has it been since men have been going to college? How many of those years were women allowed to attend?

    And there is a whiteness built into the American infrastructure that’s hard for everyone else to shake. To dismiss these as irrelevant or irreverent seems to me to be something only a White man would say because ultimately he’s not the one affected by it.

    Just my two cents, being not American and all, but living here and putting up with both sides of the fence.

    • Many thanks for reading and sharing your opinion. I agree that political discourse has been breaking down in America for some time, and that the fault is by no means on just one side. Many republicans were utterly unhinged during Barack Obama’s presidency, to the detriment of the country.

      That being said, I stand by everything I have written about the Democrats’ dangerous embrace of identity politics. You say that only a white male could write such things, and yet here I am, a mixed race (half black) man arguing against identity politics. I have experienced racial prejudice in my life, and I have zero time for identity politics and the culture of victimhood which has taken hold of the university campus and popular culture. I see it very much as part of the problem, not part of the solution.

      • Republicans were unhinged by a man who won with a 12/13 million lead? Ha! And I suppose Democrats should not be unhinged when they won the popular vote but still lost the election?

        I obviously cannot speak for every White male in America, and mixed kids almost always pick a side. I would know. I’m mixed myself, and I’m married to a White American and will likely have mixed children. I know full well how race works in America.

        Anyway, at the end of the day, your country, your rules, your opinion.

        Thanks to Trump and his supporters a lot of expats/immigrants do not feel welcome here. Even my German, Greek, and Hungarian friends have considered returning home after the xenophobia they face here.

        America is really divided, and I don’t think that’s going to be fixed any time soon. I came here with an open mind, and more and more I find myself sticking to immigrant/expat friends and communities. No one else seems to get it.

        All the best with Trump in 2017.

        • Stop being such a partisan and try to comprehend – I’m actually agreeing with you that some of the Republican extremism and hysteria was quite reprehensible. But two wrongs don’t make a right – just because Rep. Joe Wilson stood up and shouted “you lie!” At Obama during the State of the Union does not mean that Democrats should stoop to that level.

          I never felt the urge to “pick sides” as a mixed race man because I do not acknowledge that there are sides. I do not see colour, and I don’t give a damn about anyone’s lived experience as any oppressing majority or oppressed minority. I care about people based on our common humanity, not how many victimhood points they can bring to the table.

          Maybe “immigrants” in general are feeling nervous because the media has spent years conflating all kinds of immigration so that people no longer understand or recognise a difference between legal and illegal immigration, no? Perhaps that is why your Hungarian friends, who presumably came the correct route, are now so concerned? Of course, if they really do face such terrible oppression they are free to return to Hungary. The whole world saw what an open, welcome and tolerant place that country is this summer during the migrant crisis.

          I think the fact that you choose to increasingly stick with immigrant and expat friends in America of all countries, still the world’s greatest melting pot, is incredibly sad. Though of course it is your choice, it is an incredible wasted opportunity. I neither supported Trump
          nor voted for him, but the absolute worst thing I could do would be to hunker down into my own racial/ethnic subgroup. But it’s your life, and if you want to waste your time in America in that way then t is entirely your business.

          • “Stop being a partisan and try to comprehend?” LOL. And you talk about Democrats throwing hissy fits and trying to “shame” people or calling them stupid because they disagree?

            I didn’t read past that line. If you want an objective and constructive debate you don’t start with cheap jabs. For the record, my first degree is in the humanities so I “comprehend” just fine.

            Happy holidays sir.

  3. At least Dreher’s reader recognises that he/she has serious doubts about the secular liberal stance.
    It is not easy to re-examine your beliefs and then discover that you hadn’t go it entirely right. Once that process has started then everything gets examined again. Still, it takes courage to admit it to someone else. On balance, most of the American Left won’t “get it” at all. They’ll just carry on in their own little way looking down their noses at the plebs, because, you know, they are so educated, have been to all the right schools, finishing schools and universities. It’s just out and out condescension and snobbery.

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