Thomas Edsall on toxic wokeness and how it hurts the Left

May 27, 2021 • 10:30 am

As far as I can determine, New York Times political columnist Thomas Edsall is a classical centrist liberal. Nevertheless, like many of us, he’s worried that wokeness among Democrats, rife in the misnamed “progressive” wing of the Party, could spell disaster in our attempts to court centrist Americans. This is the subject of his weekly column in the Times (click on the screenshot to read):

First, some statistics showing where Americans sit on several issues that are “big” for progressives (all quotes are from Edsall unless indicated otherwise):

  • In 2019, the Democracy Fund Voter Study Group commissioned a survey asking for agreement or disagreement with the statement: “There are only two genders, male and female.”

    In the full sample, a decisive majority, 59 percent agreed, including 43 percent who “strongly agreed,” 32 percent disagreed and 9 percent who said they weren’t sure. Among Republicans, it was no contest, 78 percent agreed and 16 percent disagreed. Independents mirrored the whole sample.

    Democrats were split: a plurality, 48 percent, disagreed, and 44 percent agreed.

  • An August-September 2017 Pew Research survey asked respondents to choose between two statements: “whether a person is a man or a woman is determined at birth” and “whether a person is a man or a woman can be different from the sex at birth.”

    A 54 percent majority of all those surveyed said sex “is determined at birth” and 44 percent said it “can be different from the sex at birth.” Republican voters and those who lean Republican chose “at birth” 80 to 19. Democratic voters and those who lean Democratic said sex can be different from the sex at birth 64 to 34.

  • Or take the public’s view of the “defund the police” movement that gained momentum after the murder of George Floyd a year ago.

    March 1-2 USA Today/Ipsos Poll found that voters were opposed to defunding the police 58-18, with the strongest opposition among whites (67 percent to 13 percent support, the rest undecided) and Republicans (84 to 4 percent), while a plurality of Democrats were opposed (at 39 to 34), which was also true among African Americans (37 to 28).

  • These surveys are complemented by others that measure the fear that our public dialogue is too constricted. A Harvard/Harris survey in February asked, “Do you think there is a growing cancel culture that is a threat to our freedom or not?” By 64-36, a majority of voters said they thought there was. Republicans see a threat by 80-20; independents by 64-34, but Democrats were split, with a slight majority, 52-48, saying they do not see a threat. This basic pattern is observable across a number of issues.Although centrist Democrats make up a majority of the party in the polls I cited above, the fact that a substantial minority of Democrats takes the more extreme stance allows Republicans to portray the Democratic Party as very much in thrall to its more “radical” wing.

Now of course some of the “wokeness” is in a good cause. Transgender people need to be not just respected, but given, as far as possible, full equal rights under the law. Police violence, racist or not, needs a closer inspection. And more people than ever are living in fear that what they say publicly could lead to their eternal damnation (pushback is of course useful and legal, but things have gone way too far).

Before I show some of the statements collected by Edsall to support his thesis, here’s one in support of wokeness that deserves consideration:

Elizabeth Rose, a law student, argued, for example, in “In Defense of Cancel Culture” last year that “for all the condemnations on cancel culture as an un-American speech suppressing monster, I would argue that cancel culture is incredibly American.”

Cancel culture, she continued,

is essentially a boycott. It’s refusing to participate or support those that promote racist, homophobic, sexist, transphobic, or otherwise ignorant behavior. Protest is at the heart of this country and it shouldn’t be limited in the name of making already powerful people feel safer to spew ideas that are not tolerable in today’s society. Because exposure by millions is so easy now with social media, celebrities, rich, powerful, connected, and beautiful, can no longer get away with disrespecting human dignity. They are not being held to a higher standard for being a public figure, they are being held to the bare minimum.

The problem is not that one should not push back against statements you consider injurious or bigoted. The problem is twofold. First, the pushback is not just counter-speech, but an attempt to ruin the lives of those who say things you don’t like. It is, in other words, a lack of empathy and civility—the assumption.  More important, much of the wokeness that irritates people like me—and probably many centrists—is that it is performative: it doesn’t aim to improve social problems but, apparently, to highlight the virtue of the critic. This includes things like the demonstrations against “Kimono Wednesdays” at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts, the attack on a professor who used a Japanese phrase that sounded like the “n word” but was a common Chinese filler sound, the overreaction to supposed racial slights that weren’t really racial, like the one at Smith College, the demonization of “whiteness” that’s an essential part of much anti-racist training (training that’s proved to be largely ineffective), and (a non-performative example) the dismantling of standardized testing on the grounds that it reveals gaps between racial groups. If these things strike me as overreactions, and often risible, then they will strike people more centrist than I as even more ridiculous.

Note, too, that the Right engages in much of this bad behavior, as Nadine Strossen points out:

Nadine Strossen, professor emerita at New York Law School and former president of the American Civil Liberties Union, wrote by email that she considers herself

a “bleeding-heart liberal” but even more important to me are the classic liberal values that are under siege from all sectors of the political spectrum, left to right, including: freedom of speech, thought and association; academic freedom; due process; and personal privacy.

As I always emphasize, the behavior of the Right is nearly always way more odious than that of the Left, but my interest is keeping Democrats in power, and to do that, as Edsall’s quotes attest, we need to dial down the more ludicrous forms of wokeness. Do you want Republicans to recapture the House and Senate in 2022?

More from Edsall:

In an article in March, “Why Attacking ‘Cancel Culture’ And ‘Woke’ People Is Becoming the G.O.P.’s New Political Strategy,” Perry Bacon Jr., formerly a senior writer at FiveThirtyEight and now a Washington Post columnist, described the ways that policies the Democratic left argued for provided political opportunities to the Republican Party:

First and perhaps most important, focusing on cancel culture and woke people is a fairly easy strategy for the G.O.P. to execute, because in many ways it’s just a repackaging of the party’s long-standing backlash approach. For decades, Republicans have used somewhat vague terms (“dog whistles”) to tap into and foment resentment against traditionally marginalized groups like Black Americans who are pushing for more rights and freedoms. This resentment is then used to woo voters (mostly white) wary of cultural, demographic and racial change.

Among the reasons Republicans will continue to adopt an “anti-woke posture,” Bacon writes, is that it

gives conservative activists and Republican officials a way to excuse extreme behavior in the past and potentially rationalize such behavior in the future. Republicans are trying to recast the removal of Trump’s accounts from Facebook and Twitter as a narrative of liberal tech companies silencing a prominent conservative, instead of those platforms punishing Trump for using them to “incite violence and encourage overturning the election results.”

Insofar as Republicans suppress Democratic votes, Bacon continued,

or try to overturn election results in future elections, as seems entirely possible, the party is likely to justify that behavior in part by suggesting the Democrats are just too extreme and woke to be allowed to control the government. The argument would be that Democrats would eliminate police departments and allow crime to surge if they have more power, so they must be stopped at all costs. Polls suggest a huge bloc of G.O.P. voters is already open to such apocalyptic rhetoric.

We’ve already discussed James Carville’s outspoken criticism of Wokeness in an interview at The Atlantic, but here are three other critics. First, Jon Haidt:

Jonathan Haidt, a social psychologist at N.Y.U., argued in an email that the policies the Democratic Party’s left wing is pushing are an anchor weighing down the party’s prospects:

Wokeness is kryptonite for the Democrats. Most people hate it, other than the progressive activists. If you just look at Americans’ policy preferences, Dems should be winning big majorities. But we have strong negative partisanship, and when people are faced with a party that seems to want to defund the police and rename schools, rather than open them, all while crime is rising and kids’ welfare is falling, the left flank of the party is just so easy for Republicans to run against.

And then Jonathan Rauch discusses why those opposed to more extreme wokeness don’t criticize it publicly. I think his reasons are quite good:

I asked Jonathan Rauch, a senior fellow at Brookings and the author of the new book “The Constitution of Knowledge: A Defense of Truth,” about the lack of pushback, and he suggested a series of factors. [JAC: I’ve put in bold the ones I consider most important.]

  • “The younger generation (wrongly) perceives free speech as hazardous to minority rights.”

  • “The purist side has had more passion, focus and organization than the pluralist side.”

  • “Universities are consumeristic these days and very image-conscious, and so they have trouble withstanding pressure from their ‘customers,’ e.g., activist students.”

  • “The use of social pressure to manipulate opinion is a powerful and sophisticated form of information warfare. Anyone can be dogpiled in minutes for any reason, or no reason.”

  • “Activists have figured out that they can have disproportionate influence by claiming to be physically endangered and psychologically traumatized by speech that offends them.”

And Randall Kennedy (an African American):

Randall Kennedy, a law professor at Harvard and the author of the forthcoming book “Say It Loud! On Race, Law, History and Culture,” cited in an email a similar set “of reasons for the deficient response to threats against freedom of thought, expression and learning emanating from the left.”

His list:

“Woke” folk making wrongful demands march under the banner of “EQUALITY” which is a powerful and attractive emblem, especially in this George Floyd/Covid-19 moment when the scandalous inequities of our society are so heartbreakingly evident. On the campuses, many of the most vocal woke folk are students whom teachers and administrators want to mollify, comfort and impress. Many teachers and administrators seek desperately to be liked by students.

At the same time, Kennedy continued, many of the people demanding the diminution of what he sees as essential freedoms have learned how to package their insistence in effective ways. They have learned, Kennedy wrote, to deploy skillfully the language of “hurt” — as in “I don’t care what the speaker’s intentions were, what the speaker said has hurt my feelings and ought therefore to be prohibited.”

Because of this, Kennedy argued,

Authorities, particularly those at educational institutions, need to become much more skeptical and tough-minded when encountering the language of “hurt.” Otherwise, they will continue to offer incentives to those who deploy the specters of bigotry, privilege and trauma to further diminish vital academic, intellectual and aesthetic freedoms.

I would particularly emphasize the recurrent claims of “harm” or “danger”, claims that I often reject completely. Few of these clams involve actual harm; instead, nearly all involve having to encounter ideas you don’t like. And that is part of not just college education, but growing up in general. To call it “harm,” “danger,” or “injury” is ludicrous.

What’s the cure? Well, it’s to appeal to those who are open minded, and that excludes most Republicans. One of the few sensible courses of action I’ve seen is suggested by Diane Halpern, a psychology professor at Claremont McKenna College and former president of the American Psychological Association. (It would require a psychologist rather than a politician to make sensible suggestions, wouldn’t it?)

[Halpern] wrote in an email:

All social movements are a series of actions and reactions. For example, we can all agree that charges of sexual assault should be fair to all parties involved. But how does “fairness” get operationalized. The swing from policies that seem to favor the person being accused, then the reverse, then back again, and so on is mirrored in many other topics where people disagree. Action in one direction is followed by reaction in the other direction.

The difficulty, Halpern continued,

is to get people to find what they can agree upon and continue from that point. For example, most people will agree that they want humane treatment of migrants who are fleeing almost certain death in their home country, and we can agree that the United States cannot admit everyone who wants to live here. If conversations began with a shared set of goals, there will still be strong disagreements, but the tone will reduce some of the hostility both sides feel toward each other.

But, as Edsall notes, given the huge ideological gap between Republicans and Democrats, even this tactic may be futile. My suggestion would be the same one I give atheists who are sick of theocracy in America but don’t know what to do: “Speak up! There are many who feel like you, but are afraid to open their mouths. The more of us who express our feelings, regardless of how we’re demonized, the more the silent majority will stop being silent.”

This is one reason, I think, that religiosity has decreased so strongly in the last two decades, for that’s when people like Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Dan Dennett, and Christopher Hitchens started writing anti-theist books, empowering others to take up the cause. Now we need a similar spate of anti-Woke books, and by those on the Left. John McWhorter’s will be one of the first, though there are others by more conservative writers like Douglas Murray. Books like that one have good stuff in them, but are ignored by the Left simply because of the authors’ political leanings.

h/t: Greg Mayer

41 thoughts on “Thomas Edsall on toxic wokeness and how it hurts the Left

  1. And on cue…

    “Regret to inform you that the DEI trainers are at it again (from a presentation given to Lockheed Martin employees and leaked to @realchrisrufo”

    My question: Is the pointing out of these traits a signal that they are nefarious? Instead of a “can-do” attitude, Is one to adopt a “can-don’t” one? Why would a corporation instill failure ethics in its employees?

    1. I think most see such training as CYA by HR to keep from being sued. I am willing to bet that those who perform well (“can do”) will be the ones promoted.

  2. “There are only two genders, male and female.”

    That was fatal. It is so heinous, it leaves the victory to the Wokes right out of the gate.

    It should have been “There are only two sexes, male and female.”

    Wokes WANT conflation of sex and gender. They want sex to be socially constructed. This thing just amped into their playbook.

    When you are asking about politics (republican/democrat) you are seeking approval for LAW. If, instead, this was simply a moral question … is it wrong for humans to seek to live as a gender other than their sex … fine – just don’t make any law, regulation, or social service on it.

  3. Did Edsall’s article really express an opinion or was it just a survey of the landscape? I’ll admit to reading it quickly but it seemed more the latter.

    Both Right and Left will attempt to cast their opponents in terms of the opinions of their most extreme members. In some ways that’s healthy as it forces both sides to rein in their crazies. Unfortunately, this is all the GOP has right now. They are no longer trying to win favor on the basis of policy but, instead, characterizing their opposition as crazy. (And trying to mess with the voting process if they should lose.)

    1. His articles tend to be surveys as you say, but they couch an opinion. That’s the best way I can put his style………

        1. That the democrats may end up losing seats because of “woke” tendencies. So, his column is a heads up.

  4. I suppose you are far more optimistic than I on this and on the reasons for any religious changes in America. Concerning religion any reduction in it is more of a generational shift than any of the books. Not many of the religious read these books. If wokism is just another religion, and it may be, all the speaking up will change little. As long as the power of the platforms on the internet remain the same I do not see much change. Breaking up the monopolies and regulation will do more to prevent the counter culture and other bad actors. As an example look what the few months of removal from internet platforms has done for Trump. The cult still hangs on but overall – last poll I saw, 66% of the pop. do not want to see Trump running again.

    1. Yeah, the religions have just changed: Wokeism, QAnon, Trumpism. All are more relevant to everyday life than old-time religions. They just haven’t kept pace with modern idiocy.

  5. “whether a person is a man or a woman is determined at birth”

    The actual Pew question was significantly different than that:

    “… (54%) say that whether someone is a man or a woman is determined by the sex they were assigned at birth, while 44% say someone can be a man or a woman even if that is different from the sex they were assigned at birth.”

    Sex is determined at conception, not at birth, and sex is not determined by “assignment” at birth or at any other time, so both statements are false.

    1. agree.

      I just thought of a comeback to any Woke person saying the phrase “assigned at birth.”
      “Assigned. Oh. You must believe in God! After all, who else did the ‘assigning?'”

      1. They’ll look at you as though you’re an idiot and tell you: “The doctor”.

        (Yes, they really will! That’s what they really think.)

    2. “Sex is determined at conception.”

      Can I disagree with that a little bit? Sex as Jerry has typically defined it here (type of gamete) is determined in embryonic development after conception.

      The vast majority of us develop as females or males consistent with our karyotype at conception (XX or XY), but a tiny minority don’t develop functional gonads or gametes and so are neither male nor female. And a different tiny minority develop both ovary and testis tissues (and make both oocytes and sperm), and individuals like that are both male and female at the same time.

      Of course, that’s not evidence that “sex is not binary” or that there is a rainbow continuum of human sexes. Sex is still binary, and most people are one or the other, but some are neither and others are both.

      The gender of those folks (and others with various intersex conditions) depends on those other factors like external genital morphology, “assignment at birth”, social interactions, self-perception, etc.

      At least that’s how I’ve come to think about these things.

      1. Mike, I have heard that intersex people actually are not “both.” Instead, they lean very far in one direction or the other. I am not making a counter claim, just reporting that some commentators have attacked the notion of anyone truly being both sexes.

        Do you have and number of rate — out of every 100 births in the US or World, how many are balanced (“some are neither, others are both.”

        1. Hi John!

          “Intersex” seems to include a wide variety of underlying differences in development of secondary sex traits. Some intersex individuals are fully male or female in the primary sexual trait (type of gonad, with two ovaries or two testes) but with fully developed secondary sexual traits of the other sex. The example that I know a little about is complete androgen insensitivity, in which an embryo with an XY genotype develops testes (and so is male) but a female habitus with fully developed female secondary sexual traits (development of genital structures, facial hair, mammary glands, voice, musculature, height). The wikipedia page is pretty good.

          Other intersex individuals develop more ambiguous secondary sexual traits, but are also fully one or the other sex (with unambiguous testes or ovaries, but not both). A famous example of this kind of phenotype is the sprinter Caster Semenya, who has undescended testes and many male secondary sexual traits (musculature, hip proportions), but ambiguous or unusual genital traits that led her to live as a girl and a woman.

          But some individuals do develop gonads that contain both ovary tissue (with eggs) and testis tissue (with sperm). By the strict definition, such individuals are both male and female. I have not read about any cases in which such individuals are fertile as both a male and a female. No, I don’t know anything about the frequency of individuals who are both sexes (the term “hermaphrodite” is sometimes used, but I’ve read that it is considered pejorative). I guess this must be very rare. This review seems to be informative.

          Individuals that do not develop gonads and are neither male nor female also seem to be very rare. They may have XY or XX karyotypes, but develop female secondary sexual traits and live as girls and women. This paper describes an example of two sisters both with agonadism, one XX and the other XY.

          1. Thank you for responding.

            The number of cases where the balance is even has to be so tiny that the rarity itself negates the claim “there is a class of humans whose sex has to be chosen by the person.”

            The most important issue is: when activists have won so many brutal battles to get gender rendered ‘socially constructed,’ why do they persist in aggressive pursuit of “and so is sex.”

            I have zero respect or empathy for it.

      2. To add on …

        Is there even one case on record, or many, of a human producing both gametes?

        And isn’t it impossible to have both XX and XY?

        1. Yes, rare individuals have both testes and ovaries and produce both gamete types. Those individuals are both male and female

          Well, technically it’s possible to have both XX and XY; individuals with XXXY karyotypes have two extra sex chromosomes (48 in total), and develop lots of unusual phenotypic traits, but they develop testes (so are male) and tend to have unambiguous male secondary sexual traits.

          I think your question is about individuals with both gonad types who make both types of gametes? These are not individuals with “both XX and XY”. They are individuals with both gamete types. Not the same thing.

          Apologies if that doesn’t make sense. I may not be very good at explaining these details.

  6. I would particularly emphasize the recurrent claims of “harm” or “danger”, claims that I often reject completely.

    I don’t reject the notion of social or emotional harm brought by words. I just think some amount of rough & tumble is necessary for a functioning society. You can’t play rugby without getting bumped, you can’t play politics without getting insulted, you can’t play research without getting your work critiqued, and you can’t play social policy without hearing counterproposals you don’t agree with. Some level of negative feedback is just part of human social interaction.

    Aside, but I greatly dislike those trans questions. No nuance whatsoever. Jerry’s notion of a strong bimodal distribution with a low but non-zero number of cases in between gets entirely lost.

    1. Rough and tumble, that is life, for me that is the point. Society would be better if people were taught to deal with that. There will never be a situation in life where noone disagrees with your view of the world, and everyone should be taught to deal with that. You can think what ever you want to, but to claim that your view is gospel, and that anyone who is opposed to that view is “hurting” you, is completeley insane. Yes, words can “hurt”, but any sentient human being should be able to deal with that. Sorry, but anyone who claims otherwise puts themselves in the position of the victim, whether knowingly or not. And we all know what happens to victims. Yes, there are true victims who can’t help themselves…
      But, on the other hand, in human society, the position of the victim has certain advantages. Sometimes I ask myself if all this posturing doesn’t have an evolutionary background. Survival of the hurt. I am not shitting you, this is not exclusive to humans. It’s a tried and true evolutionary option.

  7. I wonder how many self-described Democrats believe that an individual’s species can eventually be different from the one “assigned” at birth?

    While this comedy is being acted out, the Performative Left will continue performing, and thus fulfill its historical task of helping the Republican establishment maintain power and block alternative policies. The shouts of performers for “Ho Ho Ho Chi Minh” undoubtedly helped Nixon’s 1972 landslide; the hi-jinx in Chicago by Tom Haydn & Co. may have made the difference for Nixon’s narrow 1968 election victory; and the transparent Stalinophilia of the 1948 “Progressive” Party operation might arguably have helped the GOP make sure that US remained decades behind other developed nations in establishing a national health insurance system or its equivalent.

    1. That’s a popular ploy on the Right. Make up something more extreme than anything the Left has actually said and then wonder if they believe it. You’re just “asking questions”, right?

      1. Perhaps but surely you have to admit that claiming that we’re unable to assign a baby’s sex at birth is ludicrous and beyond the pale. So let’s soften Jon’s somewhat hyperbolic analogy of assigning a species at birth to ‘can we determine a typical mammal’s sex at birth, say a dog or a monkey?’ What’s your answer Paul?

        I say this is a shockingly dumb question even while remaining fully committed to allowing individuals to choose their gender (not really sex) and would respect their choice and rights.

        1. My take on sex and gender is pretty much like most on this website and not really at issue here. There are certainly those on the Left that believe in a sort of sexual “blank slate” that is mostly unscientific. I was only objecting to the suggestion that the Left was going to extend the concept to species. It’s better to counter their unscientific ideas with science and not put made-up hyperbole in their mouths.

    2. True, the cop riots in Chicago during the ’68 DNC didn’t help the Democrats’ cause any. But what put Nixon over the top in his close 1968 contest with Humphrey was Nixon’s last-minute snaking of LBJ’s peace deal in Paris through the bad good offices of Anna Chennault, as well as Nixon’s bald-faced lie that he had a “secret peace plan” to end the war in Vietnam (a lie that permitted the war to continue for another four years, at the cost of eventually etching the names of 26,000 additional American boys into a black granite wall in DC, not to mention untold millions of additional Southeast Asian casualties).

      It may be that there were people chanting Ho Chi Minh’s name in 1972, but I don’t recall it (and it would seem odd, given that Ho was three years’ dead by then). Nixon’s landslide election was due more to his slick, policy-free, completely amoral campaign — an even more distilled version of his slick, amoral 1968 campaign described by Joe McGinnis in his book The Selling of the President — an operation that was able to stonewall the investigation into Watergate and the Nixon administration’s other depredations until after the ’72 election. That operation was also able to label George McGovern — a preacher’s kid from the plains of Dakota who’d flown 35 combat missions as the 24-year-old captain of a B-24 over the flack-filled skies of Germany in WW2, and one of the most decent human beings ever to seek the US presidency — as the candidate of “acid, amnesty, and abortion.” (It also didn’t help, of course, that McGovern’s own campaign was being run by rank amateurs who couldn’t even manage to vet Thomas Eagleton, the Missouri senator who was McGovern’s original VP pick.)

      1. 1972 was the first election in which I was allowed to vote. I hated Nixon and would never have voted for him. McGovern ran an inept campaign and I decided that a person who couldn’t hire a competent campaign team couldn’t be trusted to hire a competent team to run the country. So I voted for Dr. Spock and started a long career of voting for third party candidates. But I’m left handed which may explain everything.

        1. Sounds like we’re coevals, Suzi. I cast my first ballot ever at age 18 for George McGovern in the 1972 Ohio Democratic primary (after the 26th Amendment had been ratified the summer before, lowering the voting age from 21). I voted for George again in that Fall’s general election, although I’ll admit that it wasn’t with quite the same alacrity, given the faltering, sputtering campaign he’d run and — worse — the compromises he’d made with establishment Democrats, such as the big-city bosses (including Chicago mayor Richard Daley).

          I loved Dr. Benjamin Spock (and my mother never had his best-selling book far from hand while rearing my younger siblings and me in the Fifties). But there’ve been lots of people I love — from Dr. Spock to Allen Ginsberg to Dick Gregory — that I couldn’t in good conscience convince myself were suited to serve as United States president. (N.B.: It was the “permissiveness” of Spock’s child-rearing approach that bore the brunt of right-wing ire for laying the groundwork for the cultural upheaval that came to be encapsulated by the term “The Sixties.”)

      2. Hello, Ken. Your analysis of Nixon’s 1968 election seems right, but the disorders outside the Chicago Democratic convention sure didn’t help. As for 1972, the Ho Ho Ho performers had been
        busy throughout the late 60s, and I have no doubt that reaction to them contributed to Republican
        vote totals—not only in 1972, but long afterward. Remember the phrase “Reagan Democrats”? There were even some Democrats in 1972 who opposed the American intervention in Vietnam, but held their noses and voted for Nixon precisely in reaction to the behaviors of the performance Left. One such individual, who later reminisced about this choice, was Captain Wesley Clark, who was to become a four-star General in 1996, Supreme Allied Commander Europe in 1997, and run for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2003-4.

  8. Activists and media on both sides are out of touch with the majority of their party. They get money/power/prestige/clicks by appealing to the looniest. This ensures that both side can accurately depict the other side as wackos creating an ever worsening feedback loop.

    In theory, we could vote the worst out but primaries ensure that lefter Democrat and the righter Republican win which denies the center a voice. There is also no media money to be made by appealing to the moderates because they are simply not as involved as the rabid.

  9. Is good or bad for a party really the standard of goodness and light that we want to use for policies. It’s perhaps inevitable that a party’s mere electoral success, rather than the success of its policies, would come to be the standard for judgement, but we have to acknowledge that that leads down dark roads. The question is whether Wokeism is good for the United States. I happen to think not. If the Republican Party opposes it, I think they are to be applauded, whether it redounds to their benefit at the polls or not. (It will.) One of the problems with electoral politics is that people tend to support a party even if the party pursues policies they don’t support, in the hope that their success will enable other policies that they do support. (It’s rather like the corrupt politician who complains that he only did it so he could do the good things.) And let’s not forget the old refrain “no enemies on the left.” In the case of Wokeism, the propaganda efforts of the media on behalf of the party vanguard seem to be effectively burying the message that this isn’t what the country wants.

  10. The defense of cancel culture by E. Rose is a common one, and the hallmark of this defense is to completely focus on the CC aimed at missteps of the and powerful — people are usually not cancelled — while completely ignoring the fact that most of these attacks are aimed at ordinary people who often in no way deserved to have their lives ruined by an un-reasoning and indifferent Twitter mob.

    1. Yes, that one stood out to me too. That the author failed to note that made me suspicious of the entire article.

      Actually, the Twitter mob is less of a problem. Sure, they can issue death threats and trash someone’s reputation. The real cancellation comes from people in power who listen to the mob, Twitter or otherwise. Twitter never actually fired anyone.

  11. “As I always emphasize, the behavior of the Right is nearly always way more odious than that of the Left…”. But in this case, the behavior of those (progressives) on the Left IS more odious than that of the Right.

    I’d just like to bring up a small point here: Not all Republicans are bad. Not all Democrats are good. Of course that’s so, and I think most who visit this excellent site think so.

    I moved from the Midwest to Portland, Oregon about five years ago. That move pushed me right-ward politically, so impractical and militant are the mainstream opinions here. I’ve learned over the years that not all Democrats have halos, and not all Republicans have scabs on their knuckles.

    There are Republicans, like me, who despise the Republican party’s ties to religion. Who think we need to make gun rights much stricter, who understand abortion is sometimes the better of two bad options. Who think that some ideas from the Democrats make more sense that those emanating from the Right. Who think Donald Trump should stay out of politics and public life for good.

    We who are more centrist love this site too!

  12. On a tangent to our host’s mention of the Four Horsemen, in addition to the influential works of these estimable gentlemen, I recommend one of my favorites, a slim volume by John Allen Paulos titled Irreligion: A Mathematician Explains Why the Arguments for God Just Don’t Add Up. (Another one of my favorites is our host’s Faith Versus Fact, natch!😉)

  13. Clearly the left needs to dial back their extreme wokeness in order to court the electorate. Just look at how successful it has been for Republicans to come more to the centre. Obviously it was by dialling back their more extremist elements that they were able to get the presidency in 2016

    1. I think tongue in cheek? I don’t know how the #s would play out, but I do wonder if we would do quite well in elections if the Democratic Party went went Broke for Woke. There is an untapped reservoir among our youth who would be mobilized like never before to vote, and I do wonder how impactful that would be in winning elections. A centrist like me might cringe at what hath been wrought, but I’d take AOC over MTG any day.

      1. Not being from the US and never having visited I can only talk about what I’ve seen and read, but the think pieces I have read do seem to portray the youth as generally not voting and even having internalised a belief that they are too young to deserve to vote. I suspect they may be very hard to mobilise. I think the fear would be that if you went broke for woke and all the tik tokkers and Leftbookers got excited they still might not show up on election day. Here we have compulsory voting so that’s less of an issue.

      2. Preference is not the issue, Mark, the issue is more WHO votes. WHO stuffs their creaky limbs into their 1990 caddy with the Jesus statue and GOES TO THE POLLS after Country Kitchen early bird special….
        and WHO sits around their college dorm room, unregistered even (“I’m registered back at Mom and Dad’s soooo…”) and *feels* like they’ve voted because they “LIKED” Biden or AOC on twitter. That’s our “untapped youth”. Good luck tapping that (no pun intended).

        Preferences only matter to people who vote (like you and I, and I imagine many here), ELECTIONS go to who turn up.
        (I’ve written articles about this)


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