I gave up predicting the weather the first time I didn’t do my homework in expectation of a snow day and was proven wrong. Nevertheless I recognize the political appeal of climate change, the rhetorical power of a threat to correlate forces, to direct their activity. Not to mention the aromatic whiff of potential economic rewards. Retrofitting an economy for a post-fossil fuel world is a business opportunity for well-connected entrepreneurs such as Elon Musk or the coal baron, radical environmentalist, billionaire, and Democratic mega-donor Tom Steyer, who is on record that the government-subsidized green energy bonanza is above all an opportunity “to make a lot of money.”
So much of contemporary liberalism reeks of a scheme by which already affluent and influential people increase their margins and extend their sway. Liberalism, mind you, in both parties: the Republican elite seems as devoted as their Democratic cousins to the shibboleths of diversity and immigration even as they bemoan the fate of the middle class and seek desperately the votes of white working families.
Just-so stories, extravagant assertions, heated denunciations, empty gestures, moral posturing that increases in intensity the further removed it is from the truth: If the mainstream narration of our ethnic, social, and cultural life is susceptible to error, it is because liberalism is the prevailing disposition of our institutions of higher education, of our media, of our nonprofit and public sectors, and it is therefore cocooned from skepticism and incredulity and independent thought. Sometimes the truth punctures the bubble. And when that happens—and lately it seems to be happening with increasing frequency—liberalism itself goes on trial.