Bari Weiss: Identity politics is a refutation of the American ethos

NY Times writer Bari Weiss has become one of the left’s prime targets on Twitter for her columns which often call into question the conventional wisdom of the left. Last week Weiss gave a speech last week at the Chautauqua Institute in western New York titled “The New Seven Dirty Words.” Using George Carlin’s famous comedy bit as a jumping off point, Weiss makes an indictment of the far-left and the far-right, which she says are united in their embrace of identity politics.

There’s plenty of Trump bashing and some Obama praising in this speech, so it’s far from being a clean hit on the left, but the bulk of what Weiss is saying here really undermines some of the left’s favorite ideas. From the Chautauquan Daily:

Weiss presented an address by Abraham Lincoln as a powerful rebuke of identity politics. In his July 1858 address, Lincoln said that, despite lineage, there is a common throughline in all Americans. Weiss read:

“… When they look through that old Declaration of Independence they find that those old men say that ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal,’ … That is the electric cord in that Declaration that links the hearts of patriotic and liberty-loving men together …”

Weiss argued that identity politics insists on “the opposite of Lincoln’s vision.” “In this view of the world it is the randomness of the circumstances of your birth that define you and your path,” she said. And from this idea that identity is more important than ideas, we get the follow-on idea of cultural appropriation. Weiss referenced a few instances of that which have made news recently, including this one about the teen who wore a Chinese cheongsam to prom and this one about Scarlett Johansson.

Weiss also connects identity politics to white supremacists who chanted “Jews will not replace us” in Charlottesville. She adds that identity politics of any kind leads to “self-obsession,” to “division,” and “ultimately undermines the American ethos.”

“Identity politics is a refutation of the most foundational and beautiful American idea, which is that there is something that binds every one of us together, which transcends our genders, our sexual orientations, our races and our religions,” Weiss said.

This is just one segment of the speech. She goes on to criticize the left’s lack of proportion (calling everyone a fascist and a racist) and it’s refusal to admit some cultures are clearly better than others.

Again, the right and Trump, in particular, do go unscathed in this speech but it’s pretty remarkable to see someone who works at the NY Times offer a perspective that hits the left this hard on areas of there core beliefs: abortion, identity politics, etc. She makes some solid points which I suspect will make her even less popular with the left on Twitter.

Here’s the full speech minus the introduction: