Consider two faces of contemporary left-liberalism: the ‘hot’ outrage culture and ‘cool’ political correctness. The two spring from the same ideology, which holds that racial, sexual and gender minorities require protection and therefore governments should take no action which might offend the most sensitive minority person imaginable. The callout culture has had only limited effects off-campus (though this is beginning to change in the Anglosphere countries as ‘woke’ staff begin to spread their mores within private and public-sector organisations and right-wing media circulate stories of campus excess). But what is far more important off-campus is political correctness.
This quieter, routinized form of left-liberalism commandeered social norms to limit the ability of mainstream political parties to address the concerns of citizens who wanted lower immigration and a defense of their version of national identity. The definition of racism underwent what Nick Haslam terms ‘concept creep,’ expanding beyond its normal meaning to encompass any discussion of immigration or a positive expression of white majority identity. While the share of the world composed of immigrants has risen only modestly, western openness – a result of both the cosmopolitanization of liberalism and cultural turn of the left – permitted south-north immigration to increase steadily from the 1960s.
As I discuss in my new book, Whiteshift: populism, immigration and the future of white majorities, the narrowing of the Overton Window of acceptable debate opened space for populists. When Soviet department stores stocked only one kind of pants, a black market sprang up to supply the blue jeans people desired. Likewise, when mainstream parties are aligned on immigration, political black marketeers will emerge to supply the lower levels of migration many seek.