And what’s true of gay rights is true in other areas. Equality and civil rights have advanced a great deal in recent decades on liberal grounds, not radical ones. The public came to view segregation, marriage inequality and so forth as contrary to the freedom and individual dignity at the heart of the American national ideology. The “Cultural Marxists” would have us believe something quite different, that only the destruction of that ideology could have allowed such progress. For them, this widespread “live and let live” idea is anathema, for it lets “privilege” live, and privilege must die for society to advance. Radical critiques of liberalism have long followed a similar line: that freedom is merely the latest idea that the powerful have cooked up to justify their status. That is at odds with American history, but more crucially it’s at odds with the views of Americans on both sides of the culture wars.
And that highlights the fundamental truth that the radicals have yet to confront: they remain a minority. They are unlikely to win a sustained victory in “our majoritarian country.” Solid majorities will continue to reject their excesses. The recent radical ascent has indeed met with a backlash. Prominent gay-rights advocates denounced the firing of that tech executive. The liberal New Republic has decried the spread of “check your privilege,” saying it “is so often used ungenerously, as a weapon,” and of “trigger warnings,” another social-justice hobbyhorse. You can take our peanut-butter sandwiches when you pry them from our cold, dead hands!