Mounk’s description of the political relationship between his center-left colleagues and the illiberal Left undercuts his argument. Mounk’s new project, Persuasion, is grounded in an unshakeable commitment to liberal democracy and free speech. But the existence of an objectionable figure on the Right — in this case, Trump — just makes those commitments too difficult. For Mounk, Trumpian provocation “makes it much harder for establishment institutions, as well as moderate voices on the left, to hold their ground.”
So Mounk, thinking of No. 1, asks conservatives to give up all the priorities they don’t share with him, because “a Biden victory would make it easier, not harder, to push back against Antifa types who think engaging in violent tactics to resist the Trump administration is justifiable.”
But, again this misunderstands the challenge of the illiberal Left, which is not merely reducible to Antifa. In the real world, what we find is that it is never easy enough for the center-left to resist the hard Left’s demands. Look at the trouble James Bennet found at the New York Times. After running an op-ed by Arkansas Republican senator Tom Cotton, he could only be protected by the institutional liberals for a few hours. And, after enduring a day-long struggle session, he was still fired. Even in those liberal institutions that have absolutely thrived during the Trump era, liberal institutionalists can protect moderate dissenters from the new orthodoxy for about 24–48 hours before giving in to the illiberal Left within.