Nick Cohen on the dangers of right-wing vs. left-wing extremism

September 7, 2020 • 12:00 pm

One of the comments I get a lot—both on this site and in private emails—is that I spend too much time bashing the Left rather than going after Trump and his minions. I’ve tried to respond repeatedly, but somehow my message doesn’t get through.

So let me say this again. I am a liberal, a Democrat, and I despise Trump and what the Republican party has become—and has been for a long time. Trump is a serious danger to the American republic, and getting rid of him in November should be the highest priority of anyone who cares about America.  He is a bully, a narcissist, and deeply unhinged; in fact, I suspect he’s got some neurodegenerative condition, though it may only be fulminating and acute narcissism.

Okay, got that?

Now I could spend a lot of time, as many Left-wing writers do on their websites, excoriating Trump and calling out his follies (in fact, I do that a fair amount). But then there would be nothing to set me apart from the gazillions of Leftists who write nearly identical can-you-believe-this-man articles about the horrors of Trump and Trumpism. I don’t want to just say “me too” in post after post about Trump. It’s terribly boring for me.

Instead, I have found a comfortable niche calling out the excesses of the Left. I do this for several reasons: to try keeping my side of the spectrum fairly pure, sane, and non-hypocritical, because I fear that these excesses may help Trump gain a second term, and because I don’t think people see these excesses reported in the mainstream media (“MSM”, as it’s now called). Sure, you can see them reported by the gloating right-wing media: Fox News, Breitbart, and college sites like Campus Reform. But most readers here don’t read those sites, and a lot of what they write about is exaggerated, and certainly biased toward the Right. Readers here are definitely left of center, and so perhaps I can inform them a bit. It’s not that I set out to cater to the political tastes of a known group of readers (that’s what the New York Times does), but that readers have gravitated here because, I guess, they want to read what I have to say, and to chime in with other people who are largely (but not completely) like minded.

So I write about what interests me, and what interests me more than just getting rid of Trump, about which I can do little save vote (and call him out from time to time), is staving off the fulminating wokeness of the Left. Andrew Sullivan does that, too, though he’s more to the right than I, and there are others in the Left-wing niche, like Jesse Singal.  That niche is comfortably spacious, and I enjoy occupying it more than I would adding one more Trump-bashing post to those that fill the Internet.

But it behooves us from time to time to remember that our main goal has to be the expulsion of Trump from the White House. And rather than say it myself, let me quote another Leftie, the estimable Nick Cohen. In his latest piece in the Guardian, Cohen, who’s done his share of Left-bashing, reminds us that the Right is worse than the Left (though perhaps not a lot worse than the most extreme members of the Left). But the Right has power, and the radical Left doesn’t.

Click on the screenshot to read it:

Here are a few quotes from Cohen’s piece:

. . . in this terrible year, it is worth saying that moral equivalence is not the same as practical equivalence. As the world stands, the fight against the radical right is a fight for the preservation of liberal democracy. The fight against the far left is a fight for justice for the individual denied the freedom to express his or, and more frequently today, her opinions without post-Stalinist inquisitors demanding she confesses her ideological crimes or lose her job.

Both fights are essential but the difference in scale is so enormous it barely makes sense to put them in the same category. The best way I can explain why is to imagine an American announcing they were voting for Donald Trump because they were repelled by how the New York Times and US universities had removed journalists and academics who would not bow their heads and bite their tongues. You would, I think, tell them that their sense of proportion was so out of balance it was a wonder they did not topple over. Trump has the power to threaten the American constitution. He has stuffed his administration with cronies and relatives, and damned thousands of Americans to needless deaths from Covid-19. He is hoping to retain power by encouraging far-right terrorism and ballot rigging. Given the anarchic glee that Trump and the Republicans display when they block defensive measures against global warming, his defeat is a necessity not just for the United States but for humanity.

I don’t deny that leftish cultural influence is a form of power. If you are forced out of your job in a university or publisher, or told what you can and cannot teach, think and write, it is a power that can crush you. But political power with the ability to crush tens of millions of people is in the hands of the radical right. And not just in the United States. Britain, Hungary, Poland, Russia, India, Turkey, Brazil and the Philippines are democracies that have been taken over by governments that to varying degrees despise independent checks and are determined to humble any institution that might curb them.

. . . However vicious it may be, the far left has not overrun the western centre-left as the radical right has overrun mainstream conservatism. Labour MPs were willing to give up their careers to fight against antisemitism and the toleration of totalitarian ideas and regimes. Compare that with the US, where only Mitt Romney and a handful of Republican politicians have risked losing office by fighting to stop their party becoming Trump’s personality cult. British Conservatives who were prepared to oppose the national catastrophe of a no-deal Brexit were either purged by Johnson, in an example of the Stalinism on the right, or walked away from the party in despair at the last election. They showed a courage their successors lack. With only months to go before we could crash out of the single market and customs union, no prominent Conservative politician is prepared to speak for the national interest or even debate it.


Conservatives have written with accuracy about how cancel culture and political correctness have moved disgusted voters rightwards. They always forget to mention that the converse also applies. Trump has destroyed America as an example for the world to follow and authorised every reaction against it. Extremism begets extremism. When you have an unapologetic racist as American president, all opposition is legitimate and the most zealous opposition can feel the most legitimate of all. As I say, you should not have to choose. But if you must, fight the power that presents the greatest threat, because once the far right is defeated, it will be easier to fight the far left.

I agree with all of this, so let this stand as the way I feel about the Right versus the Left— in America, the UK, and the other countries Cohen mentions above.

And while I’m at it, you won’t often see criticisms of Islam, or the theocratic perfidies of Islamic countries, in the Left-wing media. But you’ll find those critiques here.

h/t: Jez

125 thoughts on “Nick Cohen on the dangers of right-wing vs. left-wing extremism

  1. I pretty much agree with everything that Jerry and Nick Cohen have said. However, one of my concerns on the left, that does not get much MSM attention, are the threads of virulent antisemitism and antizionism that flows through many of the far left organizations and liberal college campuses as well. These threads tend to be minimized if not totally ignored by NYTimes among other publications within the main stream media. You will see commentary on JTA and Tablet (kind of right wingish)and some other publications that are more centered on the Jewish community. Maybe I am too sensitive to it, but I does concern me quite a bit.

    1. I, too, am repulsed by Far Left anti-Semitism. But in the USA at least about the worst we can generally expect from Far Left anti-Semites is that they will pick up a placard and march in support of a feckless boycott.

      Far rightwing anti-Semites, on the other hand, have been known to grab an AR-15 and shoot up a schul.

      1. The MSM has done a poor job of informing you of the many physical assaults on Orthodox Jews in Brooklyn in the year, the stabbing of five Jews at a Rabbi’s home during a Hanukkah celebration last December, and the shooting at a NJ Jewish deli in 2019 (the people involved planned to kill many more Jews and had multiple targets mapped out, but were stopped before they could cause more mayhem). None of these were carried out by far-Right extremists.

        I guess arson doesn’t rank as highly on the list of violent acts, but multiple Jewish centers of gathering have been burned down just in the last couple of weeks in progressive areas of the country, including on a college campus.

        My biggest problem is that, if these things happened to people from a different group that often suffers from hate crimes (though Jews suffer from the highest amount of hate crimes per capita by far), the MSM would be reporting on it breathlessly as a spree of racist attacks, a growing wave of antisemitism, but it instead goes largely unnoticed.

        1. Simply asserting that anti-Semitic attacks are “not carried out by far-Right extremists” doesn’t cut it. Provide the evidence, please, because to my knowledge they have been. The Tree of Life shooter was a right wing nut. The Poway synagogue shooter was a right wing nut.

          Anti Semitism exists on the left and the right. But the ones on the right seem to be the ones most likely to shoot and bomb.

          1. I don’t know how you classify people associated with the Black Hebrew Israelites or Nation of Islam, but they’re not part of what we call the far-Right.

            The 2019 shooting:

            The stabbings:

            We can’t know what ideology exactly is spurring the attacks in Brooklyn, but, from the reports I’ve read, they’ve largely been carried out by members of the black community there. There are very few far-Right people in Williamsburg.

            The links you provided only link back to this post of Jerry’s and are not the attacks to which I referred.

          2. I would not classify classify these examples as representing people “of the left”. They are religiously motivated nut jobs, not politically motivated ones. The right wing has been far more successful at, and reliant on, blending politics and religion.

          3. Would you deny that the far-Left seems to accommodate people from these groups, tends not to be uncomfortable with denouncing them, and often doesn’t purge them when they’re within their ranks? How did the original leaders of the Women’s March get their positions and manage to keep them for so long. How many people from the far-Left did you see condemning the many antisemitic remarks made a few weeks ago by NFL and NBA players who follow Farrakhan? Were there even any Democrat politicians who did so? As far as I can tell, the remarks and posts — many of them deeply hateful and conspiratorial — went unreported and unremarked upon.

            Meanwhile, a definitely-not-Right group at San Francisco State University has invited a Palestinian who attempted to hijack an El-Al flight and was only released from jail in a prisoner exchange to speak at their school:

            My point is not that far-Left groups are somehow the greatest antisemitic threat; it’s just that a lot of Left-leaning people (including myself, until a few years ago) have a big blind spot when it comes to antisemitism in their ranks, and the antisemitism seems to be growing at a rate that is extremely disturbing, as is the tolerance for it.

          4. Sorry, BJ, you’re just trying to move the goalposts. There are two types of folk who commit anti-Semitic violence. Purely religious nut, like those you mention, and politically motivated nut jobs, who mix religion with their politics. The latter are almost entirely right wing folk. There simply are not a lot of gun-toting leftists, although you might find one here or there.

          5. I was responding to Ken’s attempt to make it seem like the only real physical threat to Jews comes from Right-coded antisemitism and antisemites. I think I’ve made my point, but, if you disagree, that’s fine.

          6. Also, I think saying that these are just “religious” groups is extremely misleading. Many of these groups are part of or support the Left, or even supported by the Left (like the group in the link I provided about SFSU). Furthermore, many Right-wing attackers are part of religious organizations, but neither you nor Ken would simply dismiss them as religiously motivated.

          7. Stop, BJ. Calling the Nation of Islam a “leftist” group is just silly. And, really, pretending that the blending of religion with politics is evenly distributed “left to right” is similarly silly.

          8. Many Leftists sympathize with the plight of Muslim immigrants in the West and with Palestinians in Israel. That hardly makes Muslims themselves Leftists, Beej.

            Religious anti-Semitism in no way depends for its existence upon the recently minted authoritarian Left; it is as old as Caiaphas.

        2. I’m aware of the incidents you’ve been specific about, BJ, regarding both the stabbings at the rabbi’s house in Rockland County and the shooting at the New Jersey deli. The others you allude to are too vague to say.

          What I’m unaware of is that any of these incidents was motivated by left-wing ideology. If you have evidence that they were, please feel free to provided it. If it’s persuasive, I’ll gladly revisit my views on the matter.

        3. If there is one thing I’ve come to understand over the last decade – everyone hates the Jews. The Right outwardly hate the Jews and the Left secretly hates the Jews. Oh sure, I’m not saying everyone is an antisemite, but if you are an antisemite, you can’t exactly predict which way you lean politically.

          1. But if you’re an anti-Semite with a gun or a bomb, the chances are much greater that you’re over in Christian-Nationionalist-Land.

          2. Perhaps. However, the ideas supported by people like the former leaders of the Women’s March have a way of leading back to that or if they don’t, of threatening Jews in other ways.

          3. Well I don’t know that everyone with a left leaning Jew hate doesn’t have a gun or a bomb….this is the US we are talking about.

          4. Those with gun fetishes are almost exclusively a right wing thing here. (Leaving aside the common criminal type whose gun use is not politically motivated.)

          5. But everyone is armed almost. Every time I’m talking with random Americans they have at least one hand gun. I was on a car forum and everyone got into a big discussion about what gun to get their wife. It was shocking to me. They acted like it was nothing to get the little woman a gun for her purse to shoot men she felt threatened by. So, I just don’t buy that all the right wingers are the ones with gun fetishes. They are probably just the ones that are more brazen about it.

          6. Down a bit but doesn’t mean it still isn’t a whole lot. More than most of the developed world.

          7. Come on, Diana. You said “everyone is armed almost”. In 1989 it was less than half the households: 46%. In 2014 it was down to 22%. That’s a significant change, not just “a bit”.

            Sure, it is way higher than the rest of the developed world. (I want most guns completely banned.) But less than a quarter of households own guns, not “almost everyone”.

          8. Let’s get back to why I mentioned that everyone was armed….because you said that people on the right were more likely to have a gun or a bomb. Don’t come on Diana me….I’ll come on Greg you.

          9. Anti-Semitism is built into the fabric of the Far Right, and has been for as long as the Far Right has existed (which predates the right-wing/left-wing nomenclature, which was a product of the late 18th century French National Assembly).

            Anti-Semitism on the Far Left is of much more recent vintage, and stems almost entirely from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

          10. I dunno. There was a lot of it in the medieval period and I think a ton of it in Russia under communism.

          11. I don’t think the left-right spectrum applies well to medieval times. It does, of course, in 20th Century Russia.

          12. There was widespread anti-Semitism in the Soviet Union under Joseph Stalin, a Georgian who once studied for the Catholic priesthood.

            But many of the original Bolsheviks, including famously Leon Trotsky, were Jewish (as, of course, was Karl Marx himself. Vladimir Lenin’s mother was half-Jewish, too, though the extent to which he was aware of this is unclear.)

  2. I am very glad to see this post and frankly, there is not much more to say. I must admit that sometimes I wondered but then note, everyone has their priorities and interests. Mine are different from nearly everyone else. However, when we say, why write so much about Trump, I think it is because many do not hear it or they also don’t get it. They do not see the same danger this country is in. In the end, you are correct, the only thing you can do is vote. But based on the priority of removing this mental retard, this psychopath, from the building we all must work at it.

  3. Makes sense to me. Fighting the excesses of the Left is best done by people on the Left and you do an excellent job of it. My only regret is that there’s not much more we can do but talk about it. It is clear that we must vote out Trump in the upcoming election, and we can also donate to Biden and all the other candidates on our side. I wish there was more we could do to fight Critical Race Theory and such.

    Ironically, Trump’s executive order to stop racial sensitivity training based on CRT may be the most important action in the battle. He’ll probably find some way to screw it up and his motivation is suspect to say the least.

    I also hope Biden can stay away from supporting CRT while not pissing off too many of his voters. It is important not to give wavering Trump supporters a reason to vote Trump again.

  4. Many of us who esteem this site also valued Nick Cohen’s admirable 2007 book “What’s Left: How the Left Lost Its Way”. In one despairing column at the depth of the Jeremy Corbyn period, Mr. Cohen wrote that he was finished with the Labour Party. Perhaps his current, arguably more balanced outlook has something to do with Sir Keir Starmer’s restoration of sanity in the Labour Party. Although I doubt that sleepy Joe Biden measures up to Sir Keir intellectually, we can hope that he and the Democratic Party leadership manages to keep their party sane.

    So far, this hope is apparently being fulfilled, by and large. It could be argued that maintaining sanity in the Democratic Party—which means keeping the cancel-culture/MaoCarthy zealots at bay
    — is an urgent task for the medium term. By the 2022 mid-term elections and the 2024
    election, conservatives may have found a new champion less repulsive than Donald Trump.

    1. I know it descends into pantomime and farce, but the UK’s Prime Minister’s Questions at least gives the Leader of the Opposition a weekly chance to question the leader face to face in a national forum.

      Keir Starmer has regularly shown up Boris Johnson for the ill-prepared windbag he is. Indeed, Johnson and his team appear not to have noticed the change in leadership of the Labour Party – last week’s barbs about Irish terrorism are a prime example. (For those who don’t follow British politics, Johnson basically accused Starmer of being soft on Irish republican terrorism. It might have landed a feeble blow on Jeremy Corbyn, but as Director of Public Prosecutions Starmer brought them to court to face justice. Which is a great deal more than Johnson has ever done.)

      1. There’s a new book on the Corbyn era that shows how he was completely out of his depth. He has shown antisemitic attitudes that made John McDonnell furious, so they did not speak for months. Corbyn was awful. McDonnell I really like. Johnson, aka Osman as he should really be called, his true family name in the male line, is a dreadful incompetent lazy creature.

        Lord what fools these mortals be…

        1. I’m not sure it should take a whole book. After all, there was a slim pamphlet issued by the Labour Party, and supplemented by new announcements every day (“free broadband for everyone!”), in the run-up to the general election in December 2019…

  5. Fantastic, and accurate in its every particular. There are evils on both sides, but both-sides-ism is an evil too. Some sense of proportion needs to be retained.

  6. I am worried by the next 57 days until the election and then the next 79 days until the inauguration when Trump loses. If things go well , then I will worry about the radical left.

    The radical right, including the terrorists and white supremacists should be worried about before and after these timelines.

    1. I’m more worried about the coming four years with Trump. While I would love to be proven wrong, I would be willing to bet a significant amount of money on Trump winning.

    1. I agree. Right now the looting and violence in several cities is what worries me the most. Although it is pretty small scale stuff, it gives Trump plenty of video that he can use to stoke fear. We even have to deal with those Left idiots who think looting and setting fire to stuff furthers their cause. They’re delusional, IMHO. They should be sat down in some random Kansas living room and, after watching the destruction on the evening news, make them ask the residents how they feel about it. I suspect it makes them feel like voting for Trump. It definitely doesn’t make them feel sorrow for hundreds of years of racism.

      1. This is particularly true given the importance of the Electoral College battleground states where these sorts of scenes can have significant impact. If the prez were elected by popular vote, I would not worry so much.

        1. Hear hear! to Paul Topping’s point. The most worrisome possibility is that the Dems might get themselves associated in the public mind with condoning the looting and disorder, or with the fashionable calls to
          abolish policing. Biden has wisely made a forceful statement to the contrary. But “Progressives” of a different kind, in some City Councils, respond to the asinine project of police abolition by the half-asinine measure of half adopting it. The more this
          happens, the more Trump’s successors can look forward with glee to 2022 and 2024.

          1. I think that has already happened. People think the Left is about abolishing the police and burning cities.

      2. I suppose Trump can scare the hell out of Ma and Pa that reside in a rural Kansas town. They may need to buy more guns in case rioters parade down the only street that has a stop light in their 2,000 population town. But, rioters or not, Kansas will vote for Trump. So, you should have picked another state. Virtually all polls show little movement in the presidential race. At least up to now, the rioting seems to have had minimal beneficial effects for Trump. Perhaps this will change in the future, but there are no indications of this at present.

        1. “At least up to now, the rioting seems to have had minimal beneficial effects for Trump. Perhaps this will change in the future, but there are no indications of this at present.”

          Maybe but the way fear tactics work is that they’re most potent as the voter prepares to cast their ballot. I fear some people will make a last-minute decision to vote Trump as the safe candidate. Most of us here would never think of Trump as safe. But that suburban housewife in Kansas who is disgusted by how Trump talks about women and the military might just consider him that way. After all, how he talks to women and the military will have no effect on whether the kids can safely walk to school. (Actually, an argument can be made that his ugly rhetoric does make everyone unsafe but not everyone will see it that way.)

          1. The way Donald Trump capriciously capitalizes “Suburban Housewives” in his tweets, I sometimes think he’s announcing that Everclear has dropped a follow-up to its tune “Volvo Driving Soccer Mom.” 🙂

          2. I’m completely baffled by the logic that would make Trump the “safe candidate”. He seems to be getting away with Jedi-mind-tricking people into thinking that he hasn’t been in charge for the last four sodding years. But all of this is happening on HIS watch.
            The Dems should be hammering him for the chaos that has overcome the country, not shying away from it. They should be pointing out the cosmic levels of chutzpah it takes to effectively run as if Biden is the incumbent and Trump the challenger.

            I knew he’d try and run his re-election campaign like that, because he doesn’t know how to lead, he only knows how to criticise. So he wold always have to re-run the 2016 campaign. At first when he started doing it, saying ‘you’ll get more of this if Biden wins’ about riots that occurred under his leadership, I honestly thought it was comical.

            But this is the way everything starts with Trump: as a ridiculous joke. Then by sheer force of bullshit Trump manages to get it off the ground, and suddenly it’s flying, powered by voluminous quantities of hot-air and male-cow-faeces. And then the joke isn’t funny anymore.

            The Dems need to up their game, Biden especially. Biden needs to do a lot of things I just don’t think he’s capable of doing. This race will tighten over the next few months. We have our fingers crossed for you America.

          3. One of the advantages Trump gains from only representing half the country is that he can portray any bad things that happen on his watch on the other side, making it appear that they aren’t really happening on his watch. This is why he keeps insisting that all the violence is in Democrat-run cities and states, regardless of whether that’s true or not. It’s really quite effective.

            Of course, it partly is true. Democrat mayors are loathe to come out hard against BLM and other protestors whereas Republican ones wouldn’t have many qualms against doing so.

        2. Fivethirtyeight has Biden up 7.5% in the polls. The gap is narrowing and it probably has at least something to do with the riots.

          More unfathomably, Trump’s approval rating is at 43%. How anybody can look at what is happening in the USA and think its leader is doing a good job is a source of wonder for me. It signifies a serious problem I think: nearly half of Americans are getting their news from sources that are outright lying to them.

          1. Most of that 43% are probably people who vote GOP without thinking about it. I know a few like that. They don’t really follow the news and vote GOP because its long-term commitment to lowering taxes and to continuing their cushy way of life. If they do hear anything bad about Trump, they put it down to just the usual partisan bickering and/or liberal MSM bias.

  7. For the best investigative report on Trump and his administration please read “A Very Stable Genius” by Philip Rucker and Carol Leonnig.
    It has restored my faith in journalism.

  8. We don’t have to FEAR that the Right will damage the Constitution. McConnell et al have already demonstrated their willingness to betray their Constitutional duties for political reasons, not least when they refused to allow consideration of a SCOTUS nominee by Obama during the last year of his presidency. I’m not a Constitutional scholar, so maybe I’m making more of this than is warranted, but the fact that such actions were allowed and then all but ignored by the American people seems to make it clear that the Constitution is already on its last legs.

    1. The best I can say is, the Constitution is a pretty basic document. It is little more than an outline of duties for both congress and the executive. Just based on the document itself it was naturally expected the congress had the most duties and responsibilities. However, all the rules and regulations came later and the founders had nothing to do with that. Much of the damage was accomplished by the congress later, over the years and it continues to this day. All of the power held by the majority party in the Senate was never built in to begin with. It all came later. The same is true in the House. They have designed rules and regulations that damaged or destroyed the original purpose. The executive has been granted many powers it never had and continues to take more all the time. The current occupant has shown this in spades, doing things he never should have been able to do. The congress has become progressively weaker and weaker to the point it can hardly even operate and the current majority leader in the Senate has proven this branch of govt. is damn near useless.

      1. I think the Constitution did about as well as any document of that kind could. If it had been more specific, it would have more quickly been made irrelevant by the progress of history. If it has a big flaw, it’s that it counted on the American people electing presidents that care about the country and and the rule of law. Perhaps it should have mandated mental health and personality tests for all presidential candidates that must be passed before being allowed to continue.

        1. I have sad new for you, the constitution did not plan for the people to vote (elect) the president. That was done by the electors in the states. The people voted only for members of the house of representatives. So maybe the fact that the people do elect this office today is the problem. But this highlights a very big issue and that is, people really have no clue what the constitution does or says. They just don’t know – they can point at it and that’s about it.

          1. Yes, I see your point but with the old system there was a different problem. Someone could buy up all the electors or perhaps a party could capture a majority of the electors much like Trump captured the GOP. So much of our world depends on people not being asshats.

        2. It’s weakness — a weakness likely inherent in any constitutional democracy — is that its functioning ultimately depends not just on the consent of the governed, but on the consent of those doing the governing to conduct themselves according to established norms and traditions.

          Donald Trump wouldn’t recognize a norm or tradition if he tripped over one — and he hasn’t just tripped over them; he’s tried to mow them over when they get in his way.

  9. Nick Cohen gets it right. The illiberal Left poses a serious and growing threat to free expression.

    But any American who thinks the Left poses the greatest danger to democracy today is as badly mistaken as a patriotic German who thought the greatest danger to the Weimar Republic in 1933 was the successor to the Spartacus League, the KPD.

    1. In regard to the KPD’s helpful activities during the Weimar Republic, Wikipedia reports as follows: “The KPD regarded itself as “the only anti-fascist party” in Germany and held that all other parties in the Weimar Republic were “fascist”.[8] Nevertheless, it cooperated with the Nazis in the early 1930s in attacking the social democrats, and both sought to destroy the liberal democracy of the Weimar Republic.[21] In the early 1930s the KPD sought to appeal to Nazi voters with nationalist slogans[8] and in 1931 the KPD had united with the Nazis, whom they then referred to as “working people’s comrades”, in an unsuccessful attempt to bring down the social democrat state government of Prussia by means of a plebiscite.[22]”

      1. Hey, whaddya gonna do? The Marxists have always been stuck on the notion of enhancing the contradictions.

        The only point I was making here is that the Commies weren’t the threat to the Weimar Republic in 1933 that the little mustachioed failed artist and former corporal and his minions were — just as the authoritarian Left isn’t the existential threat staring the US of A in the face at this moment.

  10. I think the thing about the Left and Right in this country is that their roles, to me at least, seem so compartmentalized that in their areas, they are both the stronger force. I think, for example, that the Right has dominated economic policy for awhile now, so in that particular area, I do tend to root for the Left, at least to a degree. I think some of the Left’s proposals would bankrupt the country but I also think we’re way past due for doing things like investing in infrastructure and addressing the burden of higher education costs. If we went too far in the direction of the Left I may reverse course, but at the moment, they tend to have my support on economic matters.

    When it comes to culture and the culture wars, however, I think the Left has won these so completely that they have been suffering from an echo-chamber effect for awhile now. I think this has reached (hopefully) a culmination in doing things like outright supporting riots and burning down impoverished neighborhoods (an absolutely literal version of “burn the village to save it”). The Left has become increasingly authoritarian in terms of social mores just as the Right has gone wildly libertarian, making them the much more relevant force here. I think an increasingly smaller number of people would say that their concern for their reputation, fear of social reprisal or shaming, etc., centers around Right leaning groups. This would have been very different back in the day when, say, pregnancy outside of marriage would have been a true scandal in terms of one’s reputation, but that’s not the world most people are living in now.

  11. This is an absolutely brilliant column by Nick Cohen. He is right on the mark when he says: As the world stands, the fight against the radical right is a fight for the preservation of liberal democracy. The fight against the far left is a fight for justice for the individual denied the freedom to express his or, and more frequently today, her opinions without post-Stalinist inquisitors demanding she confesses her ideological crimes or lose her job.” He goes on: “Both fights are essential but the difference in scale is so enormous it barely makes sense to put them in the same category.”

    The fight against the right is all that counts at the moment. The fight against leftist extremism can wait to Trump leaves the White House (we hope) on January 20, 2021. The current situation reflects a major difference between the left and the right, at least in the United States. The right focuses on their goals with laser intensity. They never waver in propagandizing for what they want through their skillful use of the media. This has been going on for decades. On the other hand, those on the left are continually squabbling, infrequently uniting to achieve what they almost all want. Now it is time for them to end their internecine bickering and drop their calls for ideological purity to join in a united front against the greatest threat to democracy this country has ever faced with the exception of the Civil War. Ultimately, democracy was saved with the end of that war. The struggle now is still undecided.

  12. Dr. Coyne, I am sorry that times are such that you feel compelled to periodically go through these confessions of political bona-fides.

    Many of my friends and acquaintances, some of them once liberals, seem to hop on the progressive bandwagon more and more. It is really astounding to see their facebook postings…the degree of epistemic closure and intratextuality.

    Often, just flat-out lies that they resent to have corrected.

    1. I don’t take this post as a self-compelled “confession[] of political bona-fides”; I take it as a heartfelt statement of moral and political principle.

  13. I have found a comfortable niche calling out the excesses of the Left. I do this for several reasons: to try keeping my side of the spectrum fairly pure, sane, and non-hypocritical, because I fear that these excesses may help Trump gain a second term, and because I don’t think people see these excesses reported in the mainstream media (“MSM”, as it’s now called).

    I’ve always assumed you do it as well, Jerry, because those excesses first manifested themselves, and continue to find their most virulent form, in your own milieu, academia.

    1. I believe you are correct in your statement. As I am not from that milieu as many here are, the far left, the woke population is not as interesting for me. The republican party has always been front and center as the increasing danger to this fluttering democracy. More specifically the nearly detached federal govt. from the people and reality is the real problem and it will still be so after Trump is gone. I am not so sure the democrats will hang together long enough to solve the decline. The modern political situation for the U.S. is dire and I do not see the leaders anywhere who are addressing the most important issues let alone getting action on them.

      1. By the way, I would be glad to give you a short list of things to fix. Since you are a lawyer I’m sure you could get them done quickly and then I could give you an additional list.

  14. (A note: Perhaps in the US, at least, the right has political power, but next to no cultural power.)

    This just came via email and thought I would share:

    “When a political movement has gone so far as to instigate self-denouncing sessions, how could it accept victory by an opponent whose win can only be evidence of white supremacy? And will it be acceptable for white people who regard themselves as progressive to keep off the streets or to support the police as they try to protect the mainly poor people whose livelihoods go up in smoke when rioters come to town?”

    1. The right has plenty of cultural power in the US. Have you forgotten about our “three guns in every pot” policy? How about the racism? And the so-called “independence and self-determination” streak that has so many of them always voting to lower taxes and blaming poor people 100% for their situation? Need I go on?

    2. … in the US, at least, the right has political power, but next to no cultural power.

      To have cultural power, it helps for a movement to have some — culture, that is.

      The old-line conservative movement understood this, even in its more extreme manifestations, from Russell Kirk and William F. Buckley, Jr., to Thomas Carlysle, going all the way back to Edmund Burke.

      Trumpism, OTOH, has none (unless you want to count reruns of The Apprentice or a Winnebago destination like Branson, MO).

      Indeed, the raison d’être of Donald Trump’s “cultural populism” is to grind what passes for culture into its coarsest, most vulgar forms.

  15. Good job of defining your nuanced (reasonable to me) position on the Left. I see Biden as a competent politician; a person who’s capable of compromise. I voted for Ms Clinton for the same reason. As a WFP member, I’m further Left, but the actions of the GOP: SecPol, no prosecution of corruption, probable agents provocateur, &c, are all right out of the NSDAP PlayBook from the 20s-30s. This year is our last chance to defend the Constitution. I do hope we succeed.

  16. I disagree with Nick Cohen’s article. Trump may be distasteful, boorish, corrupt but he’s not a danger to American democracy. He’s so incompetent that he hasn’t been able to pass a single significant law while in office except for some tax cuts (which any other Republican president would have done as well). Basically, all of his attempts to put his policies in place have been either rejected outright by the bureaucrats or slow-walked to death or suspended pending court decisions (which will take years anyway).

    Fundamentally, I would think the left-wing extremists pose the greater danger to the readers of this website. This is because we interact with them every day, they’re in our schools teaching our children about the 1619 project, in our universities telling the professors what they’re allowed to teach, in our workplaces requiring mandatory participation in critical race theory trainings. I can certainly say, as a member of the academia, that I am much more afraid of the far-left who spend their time trawling for “offense” and can “cancel” me and destroy my career based on a single remark during a lecture than of the far-right spending their time in a church in Alabama. Basically, it’s the benefit of federalism, we are all separated in our own states and bubbles and in my bubble it’s the left that is a clear and present danger.

    1. The essence of the 1619 Project is that race and slavery have played a major role in the unfolding of American history.It should be taught in all schools. The right wing prefers the fairy tale version of American history for the purpose of inculcating in the citizenry a belief that anyone who challenges the fantasies is unamerican and, therefore, unworthy of holding positions of authority. As to be expected, the right wing is relentless in advocating their lies in the belief (perhaps not unfounded) that it will help Trump.

      1. The aim of the 1619 project is to reshape the historical narrative and paint America as inherently and irredeemably racist. The left openly admits that it is in a fight to control “the national narrative” and is grasping for power. As to be expected, what is a few historical distortions and inaccuracies when there is power to be won? For the left, the ends often justify the means (see the red terror, the purges, the gulags).

        1. Of course, you’re right. Slavery and racism never existed. But, if slavery did exist, it was a totally benign existence. In fact, slaves were virtually members of the family. So much so, that miscegenation was common. Discrimination against blacks is nothing more than leftist lies. Never mind what scores of professional historians have written over the past few decades – leftist bastards. And we shouldn’t forget the Founders. They were brought together by God to create the greatest document in world history – the constitution. This was to be expected since these men, all part of the economic elite, managed the incredible feat of putting aside their personal interests to promote the general good. This is what millions of school children have been taught for centuries, right up to the present day. How could it be wrong? Trump defends it so it must be right. Yup, you don’t have to go to Disneyland to be in fantasy land.

          1. Of course, strawmanning the opponent’s argument is always easier than replying substantively. My view is that schools should teach about slavery and racism and Jim Crow and segregation. But these things do not define what America is and do not make the country inherently racist. Yes, we need to avoid whitewashing history but we also need to keep the promise of America alive and hold our society to that promise (as MLK did).

            This sums up my views on the topic. I’ve noted that you spend a lot of time in the comments defending the 1619 project and I don’t want to turn the comments section into a prolonged discussion.

      2. It is clear that kids aren’t taught the “real truth” about racism in the US. (Or perhaps no truth about racism at all.) But the 1619 Project goes too far by pretending it was all nothing but racism. Wouldn’t something in the middle be better?

        1. We don’t know to what extent the various school districts throughout the country will incorporate the principles of the 1619 Project in their curricula, but if they teach in their history classes the neglected role of slavery and race in American history along with other major themes then the project has done its job. I believe that in most college introductory U.S. history classes, the role of slavery and race is emphasized, as it should be. Unfortunately, the vast majority of college students do not take these classes. Thus, it is up to the high schools to do the job.

          1. Given the inroads the Woke have made into higher education, your imagined synthesis is not how I see it going down. They will try very hard to inflict their “anti-slavery or death” attitude on kids. It is at the heart of their worldview. Rather than each school district adding a little 1619 to their history curriculum, we’ll see some school districts adopt it wholesale and others will fight against it and win. Parents that can afford to will move into whichever school district fits their beliefs. And you can bet that color will play a prominent role in this neo-segregation.

    2. I am afraid you are living in a bubble concentrating only on the far left and may not be aware of what Trump has been doing the past 4 years. Just to name a few, he has taken control of congress due to the republican majority in the Senate and nothing gets done without his personal approval. Guess what, that is more dictator than democracy. He has also highjacked the justice depart and he alone decides who gets investigated and who goes to jail. He has completely stopped immigration in this country all by himself. Also, not suppose to happen. I could go on but you get the idea.

      1. I agree that Trump is more corrupt than usual and has used the levers of power to benefit himself and his family. I think that is a new and worrying development that indicates the need for more safeguards in the system. I also prefer Biden over Trump as Biden represents the sane wing of the Democratic party and I am more in alignment with the Democratic policies than the Republican ones.

        But my point was that every day I interact with the left-wing extremists, not the right-wing ones. We all here like to talk politics but at the end of the day the federal government in Washington, DC is far from people’s everyday concerns.

        1. There are already safeguards built into the system but they depend ultimately on the courts. Our legal system has its own set of checks and balances. Anyone can sue anyone and if you don’t like a ruling, you can appeal. All of this machinery is probably a good thing but someone with enough power and motivation can abuse it. It’s a bit like computer security. Too much and everything comes to a halt. Too little and everything still comes to a halt.

          1. There are safeguards but they are not sufficient. One of the things revealed by the Trump presidency is how much the way our government runs depends on various norms and conventions. If these norms were enshrined in law, it would be much more difficult for the executive to violate them. Any such initiative would be subject to vetting by career lawyers and legal counsels.

    3. Donald Trump may well be one SCOTUS appointment away from seeing Roe v. Wade overruled in its entirety and, thus, from having women in red states (especially poor women who cannot afford to travel out of state) stripped entirely of their reproductive rights.

      In addition, Donald Trump has foreign financial entanglements much more vast than any of his 44 predecessors. Yet he is the first president since before Richard Nixon to refuse to make meaningful financial disclosure, including by releasing his tax returns. Trump is also the only modern US president to refuse to place his assets in a blind trust while in office. Result being, US citizens have no earthly idea what financial conflicts of interests may be motivating Donald Trump’s official decision-making.

      What we do know that Donald Trump isn’t above profiting personally from the US presidency — look no further than the Emolument Palace hotel he has in the old post-office building just down Pennsylvania Avenue from the White House, where all the ranking fixers, foreign and domestic, book banks of rooms whether they need them or not. And we know he charges the Secret Service and other federal employees full freight whenever they’re forced to rent a room or a golf cart at one of the Trump country clubs he frequents. He’s also had the US ambassador to the Court of St. James’s — one “Woody” Johnson, a big-dollar Trump donor with not a lick of diplomatic experience — lean on the UK powers-that-be in an effort to host the British Open at Trump’s Turnberry golf resort in Scotland, which has been bleeding pounds sterling ever since Trump bought it in 2014, for cash of dubious provenance.

      A second Trump term, in which he is unleashed from even the constraint of ever having to run again for reelection, would result in an orgy of self-enrichment, the likes of which neither this democracy, nor any other, has ever seen before. Trump will happily undermine our international alliances in favor of cutting deals with the foreign autocrats with whom he is so enthralled, for present and future consideration, the best interests of the people of the United States be damned.

      1. However you pile up the corruption and illegal operations of this clown, we are one election away from doom if he is not thrown out. It should happen as he is currently down 10 points (52 to 42) but I would like to see is widen for Biden. The democrats must win the Senate as well or Biden will not accomplish much. I think it will take four years or more to fix what Trump has broken and that would just be a start. Trump will need to be prosecuted and put a way to rot, maybe in a prison down on the Texas boarder with Mexico and no air conditioning. Just a view of the boarder and no wall.

        1. … but I would like to see i[t] widen for Biden …

          “Widen for Biden” might be the best rhyming political slogan since “Get Clean for Gene” (not that the latter did MN Sen. Eugene McCarthy much good in the long, rotten run of the ’68 presidential campaign).

          1. I mean, the clean-for-Gene anti-war crowd did score McCarthy 42% of the vote in the ’68 New Hampshire primary, which scared LBJ out of the race and RFK in, which got Bobby croaked in LA, which gave Hubert the nomination in Chicago, which put Nixon in the White House.

            So I’m not sure what to say about them apples, except blame it on the fates or the furies or determinism’s quirky sense of humor. So it goes.

        2. I think it will take decades to fix what Trump has broken. The internal damage is bad but the external damage isn’t much better. God help us if he is elected for 4 more years. I really worry you will see Russia get bold with Eastern Europe.

          1. Yes, yond Vladimir has a lean and hungry look as regards the Baltic region already, now that he’s swallowed Crimea whole and is gnawing on eastern Ukraine and has all but metabolized Belarus.

  17. I find it laughable when I see from intellectuals that
    A) the left wing is a great threat than the right wing because of the University and workplace codes.
    B) this is a reason to vote for Donald Trump.

    When politicians and pundits wade into the culture wars, they are doing so on something where they have very little power to change things. The idea that Trump can stop this is laughable because these problems (according to the pundits) have exacerbated since Trump was elected in the first place. It’s as absurd to say that Trump is the best hope against the practice in the same way as saying the riots are “Joe Biden’s America”. The exercise in power on offer by the left is cultural rather than political in nature. This is just as true as when these same tactics are used by the Christian Right, or the norms of corporations were dictated by the ideals of the nuclear family. The culture is changing because people’s attitudes change. Politicians aren’t very effective against that because politicians at best mimic the zeitgeist rather than shape it.

        1. I’d just avoid Quillette. It’s a shame that it’s turned into an echo chamber, but invariably when you see these websites that want to balance a pencil on one end by ‘remaining neutral’ they tend to come down on one side or the other eventually. They get pulled that way by their readership, and indeed Quillette’s commenters are now mostly right-wingers and libertarians. Perhaps if liberal-left readers and commenters had been more numerous in the site’s youth it would have come down on the other side.

          Spontaneous symmetry breaking. The pencil can’t stand on its end for ever.

          1. That’s like saying it’s best to avoid the New York Times because it’s also an echo chamber. In fact, there is still some good stuff on there, like essays by John McWhorter. I think it’s narrow minded to simply avoid websites because they generally hew to one end of the ideological spectrum. Now with something like Breitbart I’d agree, but not with Quillette. And I certainly wouldn’t tell people, as you’ve just done, to not go to a site. What’s the harm? That they may embrace a view you don’t like.
            In fact, I’ve written a few times for Quillette, and I’m not a right winger or a libertarian. That wasn’t when it was young, either.

          2. Yeah, given where it was I was quite excited about Quillette in the beginning. Though I remember it being filled with American gun nuts obsessed with arguing against the efficacy of Australia’s gun laws, so I quickly avoided the crowd it attracted. Still some of the people involved share good stuff, so I follow a couple of people from it on Twitter.

            Plus it helps to understand where people who disagree with politically are coming from. Better than being in a self-righteous echo chamber… 😛

          3. I think I have a particular problem with Quillette because it set out its stall as a genuinely different kind of website but then gradually listed in one political direction without ever acknowledging it. It seems hypocritical to me for it to continue to advertise itself as a platform for freethought while consistently skewing in one political direction.

            I do think the standard of their writing is a cut above though. I still visit it every now and then, less for the political articles and more for their science and tech articles.

  18. On Frump,
    “his defeat is a necessity not just for the United States but for humanity.”
    With all the power of a nobody I ‘demand’, nay ‘command’ Americans of sound mind to make this happen… please.

  19. Apparently the decision horizon of a Brexit is about a month – Johnson gave it 38 days as of yesterday – and it looks like a no-deal.

    The European Union’s chief negotiator urged the UK on Wednesday (2 September) to meet the EU in the middle by offering compromise proposals on state aid, fisheries and governance, warning that the EU would not ‘sacrifice’ its long-term interests for the sake of a deal.

    “We need to move,” Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator on a post-Brexit trade agreement, said in an online address to the Irish Institute for International and European Affairs. “I have shown openness to find a compromise. On none of these issues has the UK moved in a reciprocal way.”

    This will, same as UK now discover that they have to take cair of their illegal immigrants, lead to immediate problems:

    “If there is no agreement everyone will see in four months a huge change,” said Barnier, offering “good luck” to those Brexiteers who believe that a ‘no deal’ scenario offers an economic opportunity to the UK.

    Barnier repeated that he was “worried and disappointed” by what he described as the UK’s reluctance to compromise. He also denied that the UK had tabled new legal documents on fisheries during the last negotiating round in mid-August.

    “There will be no trade agreement between the UK and the EU without credible assurances on the level playing field, and a sensible and balanced framework on fisheries,” said Barnier.

    [ ]

    I think UK’s own estimate is that they will take an immediate 10 % hit in GDP. The local newspaper began speculating today that a no-deal Brexit may mean a dissolution of UK into Small Britain, with Scotland and Wales leaving it to stay with EU and Northern Ireland becoming a Britain governed non-EU part.

    Dangers of the wrong right, indeed.

  20. “The Right has power, and the radical Left doesn’t.”

    I suppose that depends on how one defines power.
    The radical left seems to currently have corporate sponsorship, support of most of the mainstream media, and largely control the primary and secondary school systems.
    Their slogans appear everywhere in both private and government spaces. Deface one of those, and see what happens to you.
    They sit on government commissions that decide what public art can continue to be displayed, and on the boards of museums, similarly judging the political purity of exhibits and collections.

    Whether they have already passed from being “the resistance” to being “the man” is the question, I suppose.

    They certainly do not have as much power as they would like to have.

  21. If my only choices were between an Orwellion history-faking newspeak society or an overconfident salesman selling a really bad product, I wouldn’t see this as a sign of a healthy democracy.

    A two party democracy seems to lead to more extremism as can also be witnessed in the UK. (I don’t know if that’s a good or a bad thing). If well organized extremists cannot build their own parties they infiltrate in other parties.

    Personally I prefer modest, neutral and compromise-seeking politicians.

  22. Exactly. Let’s try our best to get the left to be the rational, evidence based side and leave the craziness to the far right where it belongs!

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