A month later, and way too many of my leftist friends are still preening, tilting at windmills, digging in their heels, and fighting straw men.
I’m talking about headlines like this and this and this and this. And the articles as well, wherein the author proudly declares how anti-racist he/she is, without remotely addressing the arguments of any halfway intelligent conservative. No, those last three words are not a contradiction. Or as Nicholas Kristof wisely put it yesterday, “Of course, we shouldn’t empower racists and misogynists on campuses. But whatever some liberals think, ‘conservative’ and ‘bigot’ are not synonyms.”
I am also against prejudice. But the linked pieces (excepting Kristof’s), and the many, many, more like them, and the many tweets in the liberalsphere since November 9, show almost zero interest in making any contact with America’s right. Instead, it’s: half the country is racist or at least was willing to look past Trump’s racism, and I’m too morally pure to talk to them. Reading them, you would think that everyone on the right was Ann Coulter.
The true racists, the KKK types, could not have planned this better. They feed on liberals appearing to behave intolerantly in the name of “tolerance.” So keep it up, liberals.
I guess you know I really mean: Don’t do that. Stop. This is no way to run a railroad.
Many of my liberal friends were quick to repost an exchange between Trevor Noah and some woman I had previously never heard of. And I was heartened that Noah took advantage of his newfound liberal blessings (maybe his first since he began hosting The Daily Show) to remind us, in the New York Times, to talk to people with whom we disagree. He made an excellent and eloquent defense of the middle, based on personal experience.
He also mentioned that Jon Stewart didn’t exactly see himself as Noam Chomsky. Anyone remember the Rally to Restore Sanity? And Stewart, since the election, has been rebuking liberals who call all Trump voters racist.
Meeting in the middle isn’t just a cute catchphrase. It’s work. And weeks ago I suggested many, many practical ways to do that work.
But what I didn’t mention was just how many leftists were still going after straw-men. That is, in the articles I linked, there’s never any linking to actual paid right-wing writers. They’re responding to “Trump supporters.” Well duh, many of these people are reprobates. You could also write a righteous column denouncing YouTube commenters, but is that really saying anything?
Yes, very occasionally, someone like Ann Coulter says something nakedly prejudiced. Have you noticed that the Rachel Maddow-sphere freaks out and shames such a person immediately if not sooner? So it’s not like you miss such things when they occur.
That is absolutely no excuse to paint every conservative with the same brush. I’m fairly sure most of my liberal friends don’t want to be associated with someone on a paleo diet who eats nothing but orange food. We agree that different liberals have different diets, yes? And we don’t judge, right? So why do all conservatives seem like racists?
Let’s get specific. I want my liberal friends to actually engage David Brooks, George Will, and National Review writers when they inveigh against political correctness. Don’t just call them racist and act like Okay, Job Done Here.
These are all writers who opposed Trump, who fought against Trump throughout 2016. And yet, to engage their post-election arguments is called “collusion” or “appeasement”? A-please-ment!
I think what stops a lot of liberals is just laziness. Why engage these people? Why comment? Isn’t it easier to just say “I’m not racist, you are,” and move on?
Yes, it is easier. And I hope liberals don’t take the easy path, because that’s what got us here, where Republicans control all three branches of federal government and most of the states.
Last time I took readers through twenty different hot topics, from #blacklivesmatter to rape culture, and offered language to discuss these that doesn’t require liberals surrendering principles or calling people racist.
This time, I’ll spotlight just one piece, Victor Davis Hanson’s “A Party of Teeth-Gnashers.” Sub-header: The broken record of racism/sexism/homophobia plays on and on and on. Look at the bottom of the article first: hey, a comment section! That’s where liberals come in. Or could, if they weren’t so busy feeling superior.
What is left of Democratic ideology is identity politics and assorted dead-end green movements as conservation has become radical environmentalism and fairness under the law is now unapologetic redistributionism. The 2016 campaign and the frenzied reaction to the result are reminders that the Left is no longer serious about formulating and advancing a practical agenda. In sum, for now it is reduced to a party of teeth-gnashers.
A liberal might respond:
“Agreeing with 190 countries and 95% of scientists is hardly ‘radical environmentalism.’ Suggesting alternatives to the richest 1% getting 95% of the gains since 2009 is hardly ‘unapologetic redistributionism.’ And the term ‘identity politics’ is often misleading and prejudicial, but okay…”
Then Hanson attacks Clinton, some journalists, some Democratic operatives. The proper response is to engage by commenting about some good they each did.
At one point Hanson extends his attacks to Brandon Victor Dixon, the member of the cast of “Hamilton” who spoke up to Vice President-Elect Pence. He calls liberals hypocrites because they defend Dixon despite a previous tweet of the word “hos” and another tweet where he joked about St. Patrick’s Day being a good time for “black dudes who like white chicks.” Hanson claims that if Dixon were conservative he would be facing a “Cosby moment” for that St. Patrick’s Day comment. In the same breath he says the Hamilton production “was not at all diverse” because its casting call excluded whites.
See, the Hansons of the right – and they are legion – get away with this silliness precisely because my liberal friends call them racist for pointing out liberal race hypocrisy. A smarter liberal would engage this by saying something like:
“Are you the only one who went back to check Dixon’s years-old tweets? Who else did, that you know? Certainly few of his defenders did, but even if they had, so what? He hardly recommended rape. Why are you the only one obsessed with what Dixon said in the past who ignores completely what he said in the present? Can you directly quote part of his speech from the ‘Hamilton’ stage and say why any of THAT was inappropriate? And do you always defend power so personally and vociferously?”
“Also, Hamilton is written as a cross-color cast, period. How would you react to a notice for Porgy and Bess that excluded whites? (No, really?)”
There’s a lot more, but in this short blog post there’s a risk of me looking like I’m obsessed with Hanson. The larger point is that there are hundreds of Hansons, and liberals in their righteous bubbles only make these Hansons look correct.
Brothers and sisters, we can do better.
Ask questions. Do not bring up Hitler. Do not use ad hominems. Avoid pointing the finger of prejudice accusation. Use a person’s own arguments against them whenever possible.
Because, as Kristof concluded, it’s time for “liberals to embrace the diversity we supposedly champion.”