I don’t imagine that Andrew Sullivan is reading anything I’ve written here at Hot Air but that said his piece today could easily be a follow up to this one that I wrote yesterday. If you missed mine, the basic point of it was that the media’s recounting of the culture war often frames conservatives as the aggressors. But in fact there’s pretty good evidence that it’s the left that has moved most dramatically away from the center. The right is most often just trying to reject some of the left’s more extreme plans and intentions. In short, the culture war is one where the right is playing defense.
Sullivan picks up the same theme but in a more personal way. He says he’s often asked by people “What happened to you?” What they mean is this: When did you become so critical of the left and so congenial to certain arguments on the right? And Sullivan’s answer is essentially the one I argued yesterday, i.e. it wasn’t me who moved.
Take a big step back. Observe what has happened in our discourse since around 2015. Forget CRT for a moment and ask yourself: is nothing going on here but Republican propaganda and guile? Can you not see that the Republicans may be acting, but they are also reacting — reacting against something that is right in front of our noses?
What is it? It is, I’d argue, the sudden, rapid, stunning shift in the belief system of the American elites. It has sent the whole society into a profound cultural dislocation. It is, in essence, an ongoing moral panic against the specter of “white supremacy,” which is now bizarrely regarded as an accurate description of the largest, freest, most successful multiracial democracy in human history.
We all know it’s happened. The elites, increasingly sequestered within one political party and one media monoculture, educated by colleges and private schools that have become hermetically sealed against any non-left dissent, have had a “social justice reckoning” these past few years. And they have been ideologically transformed, with countless cascading consequences.
So what is this new ideology that has transformed the elites and is currently transforming everything else (or at least trying to)? Sullivan admits that CRT isn’t the perfect moniker primarily because it’s far too narrow and limited in ambition. He says the best name for it he’s heard is one suggested by writer Wesley Yang who calls it “the successor ideology.” That name fits because it captures what it is that the ideology seeks to do: “to repeal and succeed a liberal society and democracy.” If you’re looking for a very brief explanation for why CRT and cancel culture come as a package, I think that’s it.
And that tells you about the will to power behind it. Liberalism leaves you alone. The successor ideology will never let go of you. Liberalism is only concerned with your actions. The successor ideology is concerned with your mind, your psyche, and the deepest recesses of your soul. Liberalism will let you do your job, and let you keep your politics private. S.I. will force you into a struggle session as a condition for employment.
And the desire to undermine and demolish the liberal order reaches into every part of society. Conservatives have been fighting 10 different battles to keep elements of it at bay over the last few years but it’s really all coming from one place.
Look how far the left’s war on liberalism has gone.
Due process? If you’re a male on campus, gone. Privacy? Stripped away — by anonymous rape accusations, exposure of private emails, violence against people’s private homes, screaming at folks in restaurants, sordid exposés of sexual encounters, eagerly published by woke mags. Non-violence? Exceptions are available if you want to “punch a fascist.” Free speech? Only if you don’t mind being fired and ostracized as a righteous consequence. Free association? You’ve got to be kidding. Religious freedom? Illegitimate bigotry. Equality? Only group equity counts now, and individuals of the wrong identity can and must be discriminated against. Color-blindness? Another word for racism. Mercy? Not for oppressors. Intent? Irrelevant. Objectivity? A racist lie. Science? A manifestation of white supremacy. Biological sex? Replaced by socially constructed gender so that women have penises and men have periods. The rule of law? Not for migrants or looters. Borders? Racist. Viewpoint diversity? A form of violence against the oppressed…
We are going through the greatest radicalization of the elites since the 1960s. This isn’t coming from the ground up. It’s being imposed ruthlessly from above, marshaled with a fusillade of constant MSM propaganda, and its victims are often the poor and the black and the brown. It nearly lost the Democrats the last election.
That’s extremely well put. As someone on the far-left might say, I feel seen. The left abandons civility, guardrails against political violence, Martin Luther King Jr.’s color-blind dream, the concept of biological sex, the existence of police and the border patrol, etc. and the media shows up to write stories about the right lumping things together under the rubric of CRT as if that’s where partisan extremism has finally appeared on the horizon.
The right really has moved to the right but it’s the left’s rapid lurch to the left, the revolution against liberalism, that is responsible for most of the current battles in the culture war. If the media weren’t a wholly-owned subsidiary of progressive elitism there wouldn’t even be much of an argument about this. As Kevin Drum said, “progressives have been bragging publicly about pushing the Democratic Party leftward since at least 2004—and they’ve succeeded.” We’re living through the outcome.