Lefty scholar flees progressives' "real chilling effect" -- and joins free-market think tank instead

(AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

If you know the names Ruy Texeira and the American Enterprise Institute, you’d probably never put the two of them together. Surprise! Texeira, who has long been a fixture on the Left, has suddenly landed at the free-market AEI.


What gives? It turns out that Texeira is opting for diversity rather than “diversity,” as Politico explains this morning. It ends a nearly 20-year run at the Center for American Progress that Texeira help found, but where he now experiences a “real chilling effect” on debate and policy:

Teixeira, whose role in the Beltway scrum often involved arguing against calls to move right on economic issues, insists his own policy views haven’t changed — but says the current cultural milieu of progressive organizations “sends me running screaming from the left.” …

Teixeira’s bill of complaints will be a familiar one for many who have followed the internal battles of the left over the past half-decade, or spent an afternoon on left-wing Twitter. Politically, as a strategist, he thinks the Democrats need to win culturally moderate voters if they’re going to ever create the kind of coalition that can get their policies enacted. And personally, as an employee, he’s none too fond of the institutional dynamics that he says are driven by younger staff but embraced by higher-ups afraid of a public blow-up.

“I’d say they have been affected by the nature and inclination and preferences of their junior staff,” he says. “It’s just the case that at CAP, like almost any other left think tank you can think of, it’s become very hard to have a conversation about race and gender and trans issues, even crime and immigration. You know, ‘How should the left handle these?’ There’s a default assumption about how you’re supposed to talk about these things, even the language. There’s a real chilling effect on all of these organizations, and I think it’s had an effect on CAP as well.”

Like a lot of older and whiter veterans of liberal think-tanks and foundations, he also says he’s exhausted by the internal agita. “It’s just cloud cuckoo land,” he says. “The fact that nobody is willing to call bullshit, it just freaks me out.”


Consider this the latest salvo in the progressives’ civil war over wokeness. Five weeks ago, John wrote about an in-depth report by The Intercept, headlined “The Elephant in the Zoom.” Progressive organizations have become paralyzed with internal infighting over the practical applications of critical-race theory as stakeholders attempt to seize primacy for their own little corners of intersectionality. Chaos arises in which these progressive outfits end up eating their own and doing almost nothing else:

That the institute has spent the course of the Biden administration paralyzed makes it typical of not just the abortion rights community — Planned Parenthood, NARAL Pro-Choice America, and other reproductive health organizations had similarly been locked in knock-down, drag-out fights between competing factions of their organizations, most often breaking down along staff-versus-management lines. It’s also true of the progressive advocacy space across the board, which has, more or less, effectively ceased to function. The Sierra Club, Demos, the American Civil Liberties Union, Color of Change, the Movement for Black Lives, Human Rights Campaign, Time’s Up, the Sunrise Movement, and many other organizations have seen wrenching and debilitating turmoil in the past couple years.

In fact, it’s hard to find a Washington-based progressive organization that hasn’t been in tumult, or isn’t currently in tumult. It even reached the National Audubon Society, as Politico reported in August 2021:

Following a botched diversity meeting, a highly critical employee survey and the resignations of two top diversity and inclusion officials, the 600,000-member National Audubon Society is confronting allegations that it maintains a culture of retaliation, fear and antagonism toward women and people of color, according to interviews with 13 current and former staff members.

Twitter, as the saying goes, may not be real life, but in a world of remote work, Slack very much is. And Twitter, Slack, Zoom, and the office space, according to interviews with more than a dozen current and former executive directors of advocacy organizations, are now mixing in a way that is no longer able to be ignored by a progressive movement that wants organizations to be able to function. The executive directors largely spoke on the condition of anonymity, for fear of angering staff or donors.

“To be honest with you, this is the biggest problem on the left over the last six years,” one concluded. “This is so big. And it’s like abuse in the family — it’s the elephant in the room that no one wants to talk about. And you have to be super sensitive about who the messengers are.”


This is pretty easy to grasp when considering the incentives involved in wokery. It’s entirely based on immutable characteristics, and now to intersectionality between them, rather than on philosophy or proper ideology. If everything is race and sex/gender, what room is there for rational philosophy and policy debate on the merits?

As such, and since immutable characteristics exist in contrast to each other rather than in cooperation, this approach inevitably sets up all the incentives to claim primacy simply on the basis of ethnicity, gender, and the various combinations of those permutations. In fact, the more varieties one can establish within “immutable characteristics,” the better. It’s not for no reason that LGB grew to LGBT and then to LGBTQ and now to LGBTQIA+, for instance. Those definitional assignments leave no room for compromise or common ground — only tribalism.  That kind of power structure relies on recriminations to sustain itself, and the only defense against such recriminations is character assassination and attempts to shut down debate.

That’s precisely what The Intercept has reported at other progressive organizations. It’s no surprise to hear that it’s making the Center for American Progress into “cloud cuckoo land” as well. One can imagine how a class-focused progressive like Texeira, whose philosophy would apply across all demographics, would have tired of such an environment. The only surprise is that Texeira lasted as long as he did at CAP.


The good news for Texeira is that he’s joining an organization that understands incentives very well indeed, and prioritizes philosophy and policy well above immutable characteristics, to the extent that it considers the latter much at all. Properly regulated markets work for all participants, after all, a point that Texeira will likely dispute to some degree — but who has now landed in an environment where he can have the debate at all.

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