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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.

 

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Nicholas Kristof Admits Illiberal Leftist Overreach In Purging Conservatism And Dissenting Views From Academia

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“I say unto you that likewise more joy shall be in Heaven over one sinner that repenteth, than over ninety and nine just persons who need no repentance” – Luke 15:7

In the email introduction to his Sunday column in the New York Times, Nicholas Kristof writes:

My Sunday column will probably provoke a number of you to roll your eyes or curse me under your breath. I’m sure many will disagree with it, but here goes.

[..] I’ll get a torrent of angry emails and indignant comments, but as you read this I’m actually in southern Africa reporting a story. If the criticisms get too bad, I’ll seek asylum.

Such are the delicate eggshells that commentators on which the American Left must tread whenever they even think about holding up a mirror to the behaviour of their own side and calling out flawed thinking or bad behaviour.

What is the subject of Kristof’s column? You can probably guess. With great trepidation, Nicholas Kristof is asking his readers to consider the possibility – just the possibility – that the atmosphere of seething intolerance for conservative voices or opinions on the university campus may be a negative thing with potentially harmful consequences.

Kristof writes:

After Donald Trump’s election, some universities echoed with primal howls. Faculty members cancelled classes for weeping, terrified students who asked: How could this possibly be happening?

I share apprehensions about President-elect Trump, but I also fear the reaction was evidence of how insular universities have become. When students inhabit liberal bubbles, they’re not learning much about their own country. To be fully educated, students should encounter not only Plato, but also Republicans.

We liberals are adept at pointing out the hypocrisies of Trump, but we should also address our own hypocrisy in terrain we govern, such as most universities: Too often, we embrace diversity of all kinds except for ideological. Repeated studies have found that about 10 percent of professors in the social sciences or the humanities are Republicans.

We champion tolerance, except for conservatives and evangelical Christians. We want to be inclusive of people who don’t look like us — so long as they think like us.

I fear that liberal outrage at Trump’s presidency will exacerbate the problem of liberal echo chambers, by creating a more hostile environment for conservatives and evangelicals. Already, the lack of ideological diversity on campuses is a disservice to the students and to liberalism itself, with liberalism collapsing on some campuses into self-parody.

One can already imagine thousands of triggered New York Times readers spitting out their morning coffee and clicking away from Kristof’s column in disgust at having their worldview and prejudices challenged instead of flattered.

And Kristof continues in a similar vein:

Whatever our politics, inhabiting a bubble makes us more shrill. Cass Sunstein, a Harvard professor, conducted a fascinating study of how groupthink shapes federal judges when they are randomly assigned to three-judge panels.

When liberal judges happened to be temporarily put on a panel with other liberals, they usually swung leftward. Conversely, conservative judges usually moved rightward when randomly grouped with other conservatives.

It’s the judicial equivalent of a mob mentality. And if this happens to judges, imagine what happens to you and me.

Kristof goes on to recommend to his readers a number of prominent American conservative personalities to follow on social media, so as to get a taste of arguments and perspectives which may otherwise have been long ago purged from Facebook timelines and Twitter streams. Again, this is a good thing – other publications have preferred to ensconce their readers deeper in the bubble by publishing hysterical lists of “fake news” publications which cannot be trusted because they do not reflect the Democratic Party’s view of the world.

And he concludes:

I fear the damage a Trump administration will do, from health care to foreign policy. But this election also underscores that we were out of touch with much of America, and we will fight back more effectively if we are less isolated.

When universities are echo chambers, they become conservative punch lines, and liberal hand-wringing may be one reason Trump’s popularity has jumped since his election.

It’s ineffably sad that today “that’s academic” often means “that’s irrelevant.” One step to correcting that is for us liberals to embrace the diversity we supposedly champion.

This blog has not always been a fan of Nicholas Kristof, having only recently taken him to task for comparing the American Left’s coming endurance of Donald Trump to the agonies of somebody suffering from addiction and receiving treatment through a 12-step programme.

But as a reader pointed out at the time, the people who need to hear this message are not likely to accept it from people like me and blogs such as this, with a proud tradition of beating up on “liberal” intolerance and the Cult of Social Justice and Identity Politics.

Nicholas Kristof is clearly one of their own, however, as evidenced by the fact that he thought it was appropriate to compare surviving the Trump administration to attending AA. When somebody with otherwise impeccable social justice credentials like Nicholas Kristof questions the culture and dynamic on the American university campus, people might actually listen, and so one cannot entirely dismiss his work.

Overall, this is a positive development. Nicholas Kristof is a prominent and celebrated left-wing columnist and commentator, as well connected to the establishment as a writer can be. If he is now expressing reservations about the oppressive climate for academic freedom on campus, then there must truly be disquiet growing about the takeover of academia by the Cult of Social Justice and Identity Politics.

The Right cannot hope to win this fight on their own, but finally it looks as though we may be gaining a few unexpected allies. May many more follow in Kristof’s footsteps.

 

Postscript: At present, there are 93 comments to Kristof’s column, the majority expressing angry incredulity that anybody might think that hostility toward conservatism on American university campuses is in any way a bad thing. However, there are exceptions. One reader, a professor at a university I happen to know very well, writes:

An example: I am a professor at a university (Washington University in St. Louis) that brandishes “prestige” it doesn’t quite have—an Ivy League wanna-be. My web page contained some semi-controversial essays—arguing that science is a terrible career choice, that perhaps Summers’s ideas are worth consideration, “diversity”, “political correctness”, that some moral responsibility attaches to the movements that gave us the AIDS epidemic.

My essays, clearly marked as personal opinion, were censored—kicked off my university web page. As expressions of personal opinion, they didn’t belong in the classroom, and were never mentioned there. As thought-pieces on current issues, they are part of being a public intellectual, part of a professor’s job. Academic freedom? Not here.

As Yale University proved with the whole Halloween costume saga of 2015, Ivy League universities are often the worst offenders, so from that perspective Washington University in St. Louis is absolutely heading in the right direction.

Back in the real world, however, they are hurtling off a cliff, and threatening to take what is left of academic freedom down with them.

 

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Top Image: World Economic Forum / Wikimedia Commons

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Oh, So Now You’re A Liberal? Part 2 – Maajid Nawaz Calls Out The Illiberal British Left

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Maajid Nawaz warns about the rise of the “Control Left”, an authoritarian tendency which has left liberalism and liberal values far behind

Recently, this blog took to task those on the authoritarian Left who have reacted to Brexit and the election of Donald Trump by falsely draping themselves in the clothes of liberalism and hysterically mourning an idealised liberal past which they did as much as anybody else to knife in the back.

In that piece, I made the point that people who only weeks ago could be found arguing for greater censorship, the expansion of “hate crime” legislation, trigger warnings, safe spaces, higher taxes on alcohol and tobacco, national ID cards, longer pre-trial detention periods and even more intrusive government surveillance have absolutely no business calling themselves “liberal”.

Though the authoritarian Right are by no means innocent in this regard, it must be acknowledged that most of the recent assaults on liberty and liberalism have come from the Left, in America as well as Britain.

Picking up on this thread, Maajid Nawaz hits the nail on the head on his LBC talk radio show yesterday:

I suspect that the most vocal elements of the Left – and I don’t mean every single person who sympathises with left-wing views, let me make that very clear, I’m talking about the organised left, the most vocal elements of our Left, and the Left in the form of Momentum who have taken over the Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn – my view is that that Left, today’s Left, today’s active, organised Left is no longer liberal.

What do I mean by that? Well let’s look at a few things that I don’t consider to be liberal. Let’s look at censorship, let’s look at being “post-factual”, let’s look at violence being seen as an option, let’s look at prioritising group identity over individual rights. None of these four traits are liberal.

Censorship is not liberal, so when today’s organised Left begins organising in campuses and across colleges across the nation, across the world, and says things like “you cannot say that here, this is a safe space, we will exclude you from speaking because your views offend us”, when they choose to take offence, when they become more sensitive, and so sensitive in fact that they want to shut debate down simply because they don’t like what somebody is saying, that’s not a liberal approach. A liberal will always prioritise free speech over offence.

What about being post-factual? Well I remember – and I hope many of you remember – at the beginning of this year, the way in which mass sex attacks were reported in the German city of Cologne. And what was known then as the liberal press actively conspired to cover up that news. Facts were known and they were not reported because they didn’t want to be accused of being racist. The German state television station had to come out and openly apologise, days later, when they realised that this story was not one that they could cover up. So being post-factual is also not being liberal.

What about considering violence as an option? When you have the Shadow Chancellor of the UK Labour Party, John McDonnell, being caught on video saying that it’s okay to riot, it’s okay to destroy property and to ruin people’s lives and their private property, that’s not liberal. That may be anarchist, it may be revolutionary hard-left socialist, as John McTernan suggested, but it isn’t liberal.

When people are prioritising group identity over individual rights, saying things like “kill all white men”, saying things like “black people can’t be racist because racism is about power and only white men have power” – Diane Abbott says that. Well I’m sorry Diane Abbott MP, go and walk into any council estate and speak to a white working class lad and try and have a rational, reasonable conversation with that young white working class lad and tell him that he has more power than you, and that’s why you can’t be racist towards him. Complete and utter rubbish. But when group identity is prioritised over individual rights in that way, when leftist activists think it’s okay to say “kill all white men” and that that’s somehow an empowering statement, when they think it’s okay to be racist to all white people as a group, and think somehow that’s what it means to be progressive, erasing the individual, stereotyping entire groups, that is not liberal.

So I have taken the view that this behaviour – censorship on the organised Left, post-factual behaviour, violence being seen as an option and prioritising group identity over individual rights, that isn’t liberal. And like the alt-right has emerged, we’ve now got this new group – it’s called the Control Left. They want to control our lives, control what we think, control how we behave, control how we even feel. And control what we think. That is not liberal. That is the Control Left.

So my message to you, Control Left, is stop telling us you are liberal. My message to the press: stop describing them as the liberal Left, they are no longer liberal. Call them for what they are – Control Left.

A devastating excoriation of the modern Left. And while I’m not sure that Nawaz’s preferred phrase “the Control Left” will catch on, it does describe quite plainly their new strategy of bringing about change not through persuasion but by coercion and force.

Maajid Nawaz has cause to be particularly aware of the new illiberalism gripping the Left, having recently been singled out by the fabled Southern Poverty Law Center in America for supposedly promoting anti-Islamic extremism, a ludicrous accusation given that Nawaz is himself a Muslim. (Nawaz’s real sin was to call for moderate Islam to take more responsibility for its violent, fundamentalist offshoots at a time when much of the Left is furiously pretending that “there is nothing Islamic about ISIS”).

We now need many more people to summon the courage and willingness to tell truth to power exhibited by Maajid Nawaz. It’s all very well having dyed-in-the-wool conservative, libertarian or conservatarian journalists and bloggers such as myself ranting on about the many ways that the modern Left has left liberalism behind. But we can only carry the message so far – since it is we who are most often the targets of this censorship and identity politics, it is too easy for the Control Left to accuse us of acting in our own self-interest rather than the national interest.

Therefore it is vital that more left-wing liberals like Maajid Nawaz stand up and call out these authoritarian tendencies, declaring “not in my name” to the censorship, bullying and control freakery of the modern Left. This is in their interest as much as anyone else’s – with the election of Donald Trump in America, we have seen that peddling a constant diet of authoritarian identity politics eventually provokes a similar identity politics backlash among those groups not marked out for special favour by the Left.

So for the country’s sake as much as their own, those on the Left must learn to renounce authoritarianism and seek to achieve their political agenda through persuasion rather than coercion. To continue on their present course is to plant the seeds of their own destruction, as well as ours.

 

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Oh, So Now You’re A Liberal?

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The vote for Brexit and Donald Trump’s presidential election victory seems to have wrongly convinced an entire army of snarling, leftist authoritarians that they are actually the virtuous defenders of liberalism

Is anybody else getting mighty sick of the constant parade of left-wing, Big Government-supporting authoritarians suddenly rushing to cloak themselves in the veil of “liberalism” as they struggle to process what they see as successive defeats in the EU referendum and the US presidential election?

I can’t think of a word that has been more overused by pundits since everybody got together a couple of years ago and decided that the related N-word (neoliberalism) was this season’s hottest fashion statement, and started accusing everybody whose views they dislike of being an Evil Neoliberal, as though it were some devastatingly intellectual insult.

Here’s the FT, weeping into their cornflakes about the supposed death-throes of liberalism:

Mr Trump’s victory, coming after the Brexit referendum vote in Britain, looks like another grievous blow to the liberal international order. Mr Trump must decide, by his actions and words, whether he intends to contribute to the great unravelling, at incalculable cost to the west.

And the Independent:

Democracy is changing, and not for the better, but those who believe in liberal values, tolerance and protecting the environment can learn from this setback and fight back.

The Independent, of course, promotes liberal tolerance through its courteous and magnanimous treatment of those who dare to dissent from its positions on social issues, climate change and global governance.

Here’s the Spectator:

In her concession speech, Clinton said her goal had been ‘breaking down all the barriers that hold any American back from achieving their dreams‘. This is the dream of liberalism, which seeks freedom from any social or economic constraint. Elites like Clinton feel confident that they can navigate a deregulated society in which class, gender, and race are all fluid. They support deregulated markets as well, confident that free trade and open borders will serve their own interests in the near term and the whole country’s in the longer term.

Freedom from any social constraint? Only if one happens to agree with the elite.

And the Spectator again, covering itself in even more glory:

The challenge to liberalism is still seen as an argument to be won rather than an irreversible sea-change. But, if anything, the scale of the problem has been understated. The core tenets of liberalism are freedom and equality, ideas that are under siege.

Oh, and let’s not forget the prime minister herself, Theresa May, speaking at the Lord Mayor’s banquet on Monday evening:

Change is in the air. And when people demand change, it is the job of politicians to respond.

But it’s also the job of all those in positions of influence and power – politicians, business leaders and others – to understand the drivers of that demand too.

And I think that if we take a step back and look at the world around us, one of the most important drivers becomes clear – the forces of liberalism and globalisation which have held sway in Britain, America and across the Western world for years have left too many people behind.

Let’s be clear: those forces have had – and continue to have – an overwhelmingly positive impact on our world.

It really has come to something quite strange when Theresa May – a flinty eyed authoritarian who gives me pause any time I check a book out of the library, lest her government use my borrowing history as a pretext for throwing me in jail next week – seeks to wrap herself in the mantle of small-L liberalism.

But now everyone seems to be at it, suddenly claiming that they are terribly “liberal” while the people they dislike are not. Politicians and pundits who only months ago could be found calling for people to be banned from entering the country due to their political beliefs are now rending their garments at the election of a man who suggested that people should be banned because of their religious ones. And in so doing, they declare themselves to be the defenders of liberalism, while utterly oblivious to the irony of it all.

People who wanted to usher in national ID cards, strengthen the surveillance state, extend pre-charge detention, ban UKIP voters from fostering or adopting children, throw people in jail for their Facebook and Twitter posts, arrest people for singing the wrong songs at a football match, ban advertisements for being offensive, hike taxes even higher on cigarettes or alcohol or ban them altogether, levy regressive taxes on soft drinks, erect safe spaces on university campuses, slap trigger warnings on academic syllabuses, shame or punish people for the Halloween costumes that they choose to wear, get people fired from their jobs for holding or expressing the wrong opinion, strangle religious freedom and force people to violate their faiths by positively affirming the actions and lifestyle choices of others – these people are suddenly all over the airwaves, lamenting that it is actually those Evil Brexiteers and Donald Trump supporters who have supposedly brought our previously-idyllic liberal age crashing down in flames.

Well sorry, but this pious, self-aggrandising argument is complete baloney. I can’t speak for Donald Trump supporters, not being one myself, but I am very adamant that my vote for Brexit was a liberal vote for strong, globally-engaged nation state democracy. I and millions of others voted to leave the European Union because it sought to impose a degree of supranational government upon us which far outweighs the limited extent to which most Britons consider themselves European and consent to such governance. I did so because I judged that my inalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are to this day best defended by a strong nation state with a reinvigorated national democracy, and not a remote supranational union with some of the superficial trappings – but none of the spirit – of democratic accountability. Voting for Brexit was perhaps the most profoundly liberal thing I have done on my thirty-three years on this good Earth.

And yet now I am supposed to sit back while every two-bit authoritarian with a newspaper column publishes tedious identikit dirges alleging that I, a staunch libertarian conservative, am supposedly at the vanguard of a dystopian new illiberal movement sweeping across the world and shrouding humanity in darkness and uncertainty? Hell no.

If liberalism is so great – and by and large, it is – then it would be nice if some of liberalism’s new fair-weather friends tried to remember the ideology’s core principles once they have finished weeping about Trump and Brexit and turned their attention back to more mundane political events. Perhaps they might care to remember the term they so glibly appropriated next time they call for something they disagree with to be banned, or for somebody who offends them to be punished by the criminal justice system. What do you think are the chances that this will happen?

After a week of this incessant, tedious refrain about the “death of liberalism” from the commentariat, I have just about had enough of my liberalism being culturally appropriated by the snarlingly authoritarian Regressive Left. It is only in the reflection of Donald Trump or Nigel Farage’s wildest rhetoric that their own paternalistic, control-freakish, coercive instincts can be even semi-plausibly pitched as being remotely liberal, and those of us with long memories and functioning brains know these pearl-clutchers for what they really are – persistent, deadly enemies to true liberalism.

 

Postscript: In this excellent piece, Pete North slaps down the idea that the West is somehow turning its back on liberalism, drawing a crucial distinction between genuine small-L liberalism which is as popular as ever and its decadent, identity politics and victimhood culture-infused cousin which has indeed been rejected by the electorate.

Money quote:

In a liberal society we appreciate that we all have our distinctions and limitations and we recognise that nobody should endure discrimination or punishment for those facets which cannot be changed. Gender, sexual preference, skin colour. But it goes further than that. We try to open doors for people os that people can break out of predetermined roles and destinies. That to me is social progress, where nobody is limited by class and physical attributes.

But when liberals begin to attack the very foundation of our morality and our values and seek to replace them with an ultra-permissive, anything goes morality we lose any kind of cohesion and moral authority. Moral relativism takes hold to such an extent that we can no longer defend those things we value.

What the left have done is to identify all social norms as inherently evil – which has given rise to the cult of the self which in turn has spawned the now toxic brand of feminism we see on the internet and the perverse social justice movement which processes everything through the prism of identity. It centres around a certain narcissism whereby individual rights become entitlements on the basis of one’s sense of victimhood. From this is born the right not to be offended or triggered – and with that goes the death of free speech. Opposition is inherently oppression it seems.

And this is why the culture war of the last decade goes so heavily with what is happening on a more visible level in politics. In what is now seen as a backlash against political correctness, there is something more seismic happening.

And North’s conclusion:

But then this tyranny of what is laughingly known as progressivism is on borrowed time. It always was a moral and intellectual perversion and it was always a minority view. How it came to be one of the most powerful ideas of a century is for the historians but now it seems the majority have finally lost patience and stood up to the left. In this we are not turning our backs on liberalism. We are merely putting an end to the gradual erosion of those, dare I say it, traditional values on which our modern and open society is built. I think this is what makes Theresa May, herself a church and shires Conservative, the right lady at the right time.

The sad part of this is that there will inevitably be a tiny minority who think we are going back to the old days where rampant and open homophobia is acceptable and we will no doubt see an unfortunate spike in racist incidents. But it is a typical left wing lie to say that mainstream society has suddenly become intolerant and racist. That trick might have worked for the last twenty years but the election of Trump tells you that the majority no longer care what you call them. The more offensive to the left the better.

And it is so telling that across the USA we now see the left spitting venom. We now see the true face of the “tolerant” left in all its bile. We can see that it was never about advancing a better society for all. It was about the minority wielding power over the majority – to impose a twisted morality on society without its consent – from the United Nations to the local primary school.

I repeat: genuine, small-L liberalism has not been rejected by the people, and is only under marginally more serious threat from ignorant authoritarians like Donald Trump than it has been over the past decades from highly learned progressives who sought to impose their “progressive” worldview on an uncertain population while actively criminalising dissent.

Those weeping most loudly today about the supposed death of liberalism have often themselves done as much as anyone to damage liberalism themselves through their decidedly illiberal and intolerant past behaviour.

 

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Blast From The Past: Jonah Goldberg Lashes Out At Political Centrists

A refreshing tirade against political centrism

Most regular readers will know that this blog has time for just about anyone on the political spectrum, save the out-and-proud centrists, those virtue-signalling, sanctimonious oiks who think that by eschewing strong opinions and continually fudging every issue they are somehow morally superior to us hot-headed partisan folk.

That’s why this blog has been a consistent supporter of Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership of the Labour Party. While I would never vote for him myself – and what’s with this trend of demanding that even the leaders of parties we would never vote for still agree with us on key issues? – far better that the Labour Party has at its head someone who stands for vaguely socialist principles than another rootless centrist in the mould of Tony Blair or David Cameron.

That’s one of many reasons why this blog campaigned tirelessly for Brexit and a vote to leave the European Union. Bland, woolly, resigned pro-Europeanism – the centrist belief that Britain is hopeless, the nation state is outdated and that security and prosperity can only come by surrendering sovereignty to an unaccountable supranational body – was the watchword among every single one of Britain’s main political parties, save UKIP. Brexit slapped that smug consensus off the face of Britain’s politicians, and their pampered cheeks will be smarting for years to come as a result.

All of this is an unnecessarily long way of labouring the point – again – that I really, really, don’t like centrists. I may have written about this already, once or twice before:

Bring up the subject of taxation, to pick a random example, and you’ll get a group of people who strongly feel that taxes should be cut in order to stimulate the economy and allow taxpayers to keep more of what they earn, and you’ll get another group of people who think that it’s morally obscene that some people are enjoying themselves, so we should make the tax code more punitively progressive to help bring about social ‘equality’. But you’ll also get a third group of rather bovine people who look up from Britain’s Strictly Come Bake-Off On Ice, wipe the pizza grease from their mouths and just say “what?”

At present, we tend to think of this last group of people as “centrists” or “swing voters”, simply because they do not quote direct from either the Labour or Conservative Party manifesto when asked to offer a political opinion. But are they really centrists? There’s a world of difference between someone who carefully studies the competing policies of different parties to arrive at a considered position half way between two extremes, and someone who mutters something about politicians being “all the same” before their eyes glaze back over.

[..] And can we also please disenthrall ourselves of the unsupported and misleading notion that these “centrist” voters will immediately startle like shy fauns if they encounter a strong political opinion once in awhile, when most of them probably could not run for the bus in the morning, let alone into the arms of another political party?

Which seems as good a time as any to revisit this Jonah Goldberg video taken from an interview with Glenn Reynolds, in which Goldberg is promoting his (then) new book, “The Tyranny of Cliches”.

Here is Goldberg on how centrists are overrated:

We all see the centre as this incredibly privileged and wonderful place, right? The mainstream media constantly talks about the centre as if it’s just the greatest place in the world, and centrists are somehow wiser and more noble than the rest of us — “Shh! David Gergen’s about to talk!” And it’s all nonsense.

First of all, the whole idea of the centre as being this privileged place is actually one of these enlightenment myths. There’s this whole slew of argumentation about how Galileo and Copernicus “dethroned mankind” by getting rid of geocentrism, that the theory of heliocentrism, that we revolve around the sun rather than the Earth being the centre of the world [sic] was an elevation or promotion for mankind, and in our arrogance we couldn’t handle it and the Catholic church beat up on it. And it’s not a real left-right thing, except in the regard that it explains how we understand the whole geographic political landscape.

The reason why the Catholic church and pretty much everybody else opposed geocentrism was one, they weren’t sure the science was right because it was a novel theory at the time, but two, because they considered it a promotion. In medieval understanding, in ancient Greek understanding, Jewish medieval understanding and Catholic, Thomas Aquinas understanding, the centre of the world, the centre of the universe is literally the asshole of the universe. The centre of the universe is considered the lowest and most disgusting and turgid place in the whole cosmos. In Dante’s Inferno, the lowest pit of hell is the centre of the universe. Maimonides talks about this, Aquinas talks about this and it is this myth of the modern mind that somehow geocentrism, getting rid of geocentrism somehow elevated mankind. It completely misunderstands where the medieval mind was, and we carry it forward to today.

There are a lot of huge arguments we have with the Left, or are between the Left and the Right. The Left says we have to build this bridge over a canyon, it’s a stimulus thing, it’s infrastructure, we need this bridge. The Right says are you frigging crazy? We can’t afford it, we don’t need the bridge, it’s a bridge to nowhere, it makes no sense, blah blah blah. That’s an honest argument – one side says let’s build the bridge, the other side says let’s not build the bridge. The friggin’ pinky-extending centrists parachute in and says no no, let there be peace among you. We’ll compromise – we’ll build half a bridge that goes halfway across the canyon.

It is these difference splitters who drive me absolutely batty, and we treat them as if they hold this privileged place when we don’t even understand that the centre is a geographic metaphor, it’s not an actual place in politics. All the serious ideas in politics have always come from where they were considered to be the extreme at one point or another.

Brexit and the reclaiming of our nation state democracy from the failing euro-federalist experiment in Brussels was considered a niche and even extremist idea for most of the past 40 years. And look at us now – with the only remaining resistance consisting of Owen Smith’s pitiful, petulant bleating and a few pathetic europhiles with the EU flag painted on their faces, Brexit is happening.

All the serious ideas in politics have once been described as extreme and unmentionable, says Jonah Goldberg. Darn straight.

And nobody has ever built a monument to a centrist.

 

Political centrism

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