I was deeply disturbed to read that James Lindsay, who styled himself a liberal, was so incensed at wokeness that he declared he was voting for Trump. I called this “cutting off his nose to spite his face.” But according to this new Atlantic article by Yascha Mounk, Lindsay’s not the only one who did some proboscis-snipping (click on screenshot below to read).
The list of shame:A number of influential commentators who firmly opposed Donald Trump in 2016 recently announced their intention to vote for him in 2020. Nearly all of them, including James Lindsay, Danielle Pletka, and Ben Shapiro, blamed illiberalism on the left. As Shapiro said on his popular show, he is planning to vote for Trump because “Democrats have lost their fucking minds.”
Well, for Shapiro and Pietka it may just be the hens coming home to roost, but not Lindsay, and probably not for Dave Rubin, who I thought was a progressive (and a libertarian). Rubin issued this disturbing tweet a few days ago. Is he, like Lindsay, so fed up with wokeness that he’s going to the Dark Side? Or was he always a secret Republican?
Tyranny is here. Vote every Democrat out of office at every level everywhere. That is the only way to get things to start turning around.
Or live like sheep going to slaughter, your call. https://t.co/uepWJ1Drpj
— Dave Rubin (@RubinReport) October 21, 2020
Helen Pluckrose exposed the folly of voting for Trump if you’re a liberal out of mere disdain for extreme Leftism, and so does Mounk in his piece. I needn’t reprise his litany of Trump’s perfidies, missteps, and outright stupidity, which leads him to agree with Pluckrose:
But the fact is that Trump presents a much greater danger to key constitutional values, and does more than anyone else to lend apparent credibility to extreme forms of protest as well as an unremittingly negative appraisal of America. Voting for Trump to stem the rising tide of illiberalism is about as pure an example of cutting off your nose to spite your face as political life can afford.
Hey! I used that metaphor first!
Mounk then singles out two aspects of Trumpism that have played on the fears of non-extremist liberals, making them almost as fearful of the extreme Left as of Trump:
Many of the most worrying tendencies on the left stem from two intellectual mistakes. The first is to focus so tightly on the country’s flaws that its strengths become invisible, and its institutions dispensable. The second is to believe that the right poses such an imminent danger that any form of resistance against it is justifiable, even if it involves violence.
Trump, of course, disagrees with both of these mistakes. But because he is genuinely dangerous and extraordinarily polarizing, he makes it much harder for establishment institutions, as well as moderate voices on the left, to hold their ground against these fallacies.
It’s still easy, I think, to hold your ground against “justifiable violence,” especially because nearly all Americans oppose it. I agree with Mounk about the two factors playing into violent and destructive protest from the Left. Where I disagree is his soothing assurances that a Biden victory will disempower rather than empower the extreme Left and the “antifa types”:
. . . . 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. So long as citizens can contest political injustice at the ballot box, there can be no excuse for burning down government buildings. But Trump’s penchant for cruelty is the best possible recruitment tool for those who want to fight fire with even more fire. When the sense of terror that Trump has understandably instilled in many citizens begins to ebb, so too will the misguided hesitance of many Americans to criticize violent extremists pretending to fight for a noble cause.
But violence, looting, and rioting aren’t the main things I worry about. I worry about Wokeness. And yes, while Trump has leveraged Wokeness to his advantage, I am not at all sure that a Biden victory will stop the rot spreading rightwards from the extreme Left. Biden has disavowed violence, but, malleable as he is, can he resist the pressures of the Authoritarian Left, with the fear that he might be called a racist? I’m not at all sure, though Mounk gives a somewhat mixed message here:
Far from moving to the right on key social and cultural issues such as immigration, race relations, and same-sex marriage, however, Americans—especially white Americans—have moved to the left. The proportions of voters who believe that immigrants are good for the country, that members of ethnic minorities suffer from significant discrimination, and that everyone should enjoy the right to marry have all gone up. Scholars have found that this counterreaction to Trump is no outlier: More often than not, public opinion moves against the president.
Well, that’s okay. The country, which is nearly half Trump supporters, could stand a move to the Left, particularly in the areas Mounk mentions. But Mounk then says “no worries” because of this:
Those who worry about illiberalism on the left should take this pattern to heart. According to commentators such as Shapiro, progressives already hold power in universities and the mainstream media, in Hollywood and Silicon Valley. If they also capture Congress and the White House, they would gain virtually unified control of American politics and culture. But fears of a Biden presidency leading to a woke takeover misunderstand the way public opinion moves in America. Because Trump’s ample failings have given the most misguided claims of the far left a superficial veneer of plausibility, Trump himself has been the far left’s biggest ally. And if the Biden administration does overreach on key cultural issues, that will likely set the stage for a course correction—a cascade back to moderation.
I’m not at all sure that “overreaching on cultural issues” will trigger a “course correction”. Why would it on the Left when the Authoritarian Left already knows how to hijack the entire movement—just play the racism and bigotry card against those more toward the center. Plus the Authoritarian Left already controls the liberal media in the U.S. and nearly all the universities, where students regularly get indoctrinated with “illiberalism on the left.” How will that indoctrination go away?
To my mind, this tendency might only get worse should the Democrats capture both houses of Congress and the Presidency. So yes, although I worried a lot about how Wokeness would empower Trump, I worry—to a lesser degree—that it will empower Biden as well, not as a counterreaction, but as a justification for the most vociferous segment of the Left to grab even more power. The fears of being called a racist and of being cast into perdition on social media or in the popular mind—these are very powerful psychological forces. But I hope I’m wrong.
Still, regardless of any nascent Wokeism in Biden, there’s no doubt about Mounk’s conclusion
If you want to combat illiberalism, casting a vote for Donald Trump is the worst possible thing you can do.
Sadly, neither Rubin nor Lindsay seems to realize this simple truth.