The same is true of the Left’s demands for public funding of abortion and for using government power to compel elderly Catholic nuns to add contraception to their health-insurance plans. None of those controversies is about any material benefit. (Planned Parenthood claims that abortion constitutes only 3 percent of its business; surely they could absorb that minuscule cost, perhaps with a little help from Tom Steyer.) The message is clear: “Not only will you tolerate what we want, you will participate in it.” It’s more convenient to make the case for abortion if the blood is on every taxpayer’s hands.
Liberalism has always struggled to balance the protection of minority rights against majoritarian institutions and — less often appreciated — the protection of individual rights. The American Left has liberated itself from such considerations by abandoning liberalism for identity politics and a might-makes-right ethic. Why compel Jack Phillips to knuckle under? Because you can, and because you hate him. Hate is an inescapable part of tribalism, and hate is now the single most important organizing principle of the American Left.
T. H. White understood this ethic, which he described as the constitution of an ant colony: “Everything which is not forbidden is compulsory.” To the cranky dissidents such as Jack Phillips, and to the likewise unassimilated nonconformists of our time, we owe a debt of gratitude. If the human ethic survives the ant ethic, it will be in no small part because of them.