Andrew Sullivan on the death of “true liberalism”

July 10, 2021 • 12:45 pm

As the end of my life comes closer, though with the same speed that the end of everyone’s life comes closer, I realize that I’m OLD and don’t have many good years left. This makes me think a lot about whether there is anything desirable about dying. Well, maybe if you’re intolerably ill or in pain, but otherwise I can think of nothing desirable about being an ex-Coyne. The only consolation is that I’ll be gone and won’t know it.

A while back I took a survey of readers’ opinions, asking them what they’d decide if they had a chance to be immortal, living in decent health. Surprisingly, most did not; they thought they’d get bored or that global warming would happen and they’d die anyway, or stuff like that. Barring an apocalypse, though, I don’t see a problem with immortality. If nothing else, you can remain eternally curious about “what will happen next.” And something always does. And there are all those books to read, and more to be written!

But lately I’ve had darker thoughts, mostly revolving around what is happening to my beloved Left. Every day I read—and post—about the insanity that the Left is falling prey to, and about the fear of decent, sane people to speak up against the madness. And so I think, “Well, maybe I don’t want to be around when the ‘progressive’ Left morphs into the society described in Nineteen Eighty-Four. I don’t want to be subject to my own side being intolerably authoritarian. I don’t want to be afraid to say what I think without fear that the mob will come to ruin my life. And I am baffled by the degree of insanity promulgated by many on the Left. It’s not all Critical Race Theory (though that’s a part of it), but mostly just a sense that many of my fellow leftists have lost their bearings—and their marbles.

Andrew Sullivan feels the same way (though not about death), mourning what’s happened to the Left in his latest Substack column (click on screenshot below to read it).

Sullivan gets a lot of flak from his readers about his obsession with CRT, but his plaint is wider: the spread of illiberalism among liberals. So, as in the title, when readers accuse him of having changed, of having moved so far to the Right (singling out his “obsession” with CRT), his response is: The real question is “What happened to you?” While he recognized that the “progressive Left” has some good points, as does CRT, this is what he singles out:

Take a big step back. Observe what has happened in our discourse since around 2015. Forget CRT for a moment and ask yourself: is nothing going on here but Republican propaganda and guile? Can you not see that the Republicans may be acting, but they are also reacting — reacting against something that is right in front of our noses?

What is it? It is, I’d argue, the sudden, rapid, stunning shift in the belief system of the American elites. It has sent the whole society into a profound cultural dislocation. It is, in essence, an ongoing moral panic against the specter of “white supremacy,” which is now bizarrely regarded as an accurate description of the largest, freest, most successful multiracial democracy in human history.

We all know it’s happened. The elites, increasingly sequestered within one political party and one media monoculture, educated by colleges and private schools that have become hermetically sealed against any non-left dissent, have had a “social justice reckoning” these past few years. And they have been ideologically transformed, with countless cascading consequences.

And so we have this:

Look how far the left’s war on liberalism has gone.

Due process? If you’re a male on campus, gone. Privacy? Stripped away — by anonymous rape accusations, exposure of private emails, violence against people’s private homes, screaming at folks in restaurants, sordid exposés of sexual encounters, eagerly published by woke mags. Non-violence? Exceptions are available if you want to “punch a fascist.” Free speech? Only if you don’t mind being fired and ostracized as a righteous consequence. Free association? You’ve got to be kidding. Religious freedom? Illegitimate bigotry. Equality? Only group equity counts now, and individuals of the wrong identity can and must be discriminated against. Color-blindness? Another word for racism. Mercy? Not for oppressors. Intent? Irrelevant. Objectivity? A racist lie. Science? A manifestation of white supremacy. Biological sex? Replaced by socially constructed gender so that women have penises and men have periods. The rule of law? Not for migrants or looters. Borders? Racist. Viewpoint diversity? A form of violence against the oppressed.

Now I don’t agree with Sullivan on everything—his weakness for religion and views on abortion are two—but more and more he’s sounding not like an alt-righter but a moderate Democrat.  He warns, and I’m with him here, that if this keeps up, the GOP may come roaring back in 2022, and where will we be then? A lot worse than we are now! Either way, Nineteen Eighty-Four is just down the pike.

I still think Trump is effectively gone as a potential President, but the people who agree with his despotism and idiocy still comprise nearly half of Americans. When a third of us adamantly refuse to get the COVID vaccination out of sheer ignorance or stubbornness, then we’re cooked.

You can read Sullivan’s column for yourself, but in a few places Sullivan quotes Obama, and those quotes, uttered today, would make Obama a target of the Left. Here are a few of them (Sullivan’s words are indented, Obama’s indented even more):

At the moment, I’m recording an audiobook for a new collection of my writing, from 1989 – 2021, “Out On A Limb,” to be published next month. (More to come on that next week.) It covers the Obama years, including my impression in May 2007 that he’d be the next president and why I found him so appealing a figure. It’s been a shocking reminder of how our politics has been transformed since then:

My favorite moment was a very simple one. He referred to the anniversary of the March on Selma, how he went and how he came back and someone (I don’t remember who now) said to him: “That was a great celebration of African-American history.” To which Obama said he replied: “No, no, no, no, no. That was not a great celebration of African-American history. That was a celebration of American history.”

How much further can you get from the ideology of the 1619 Project — that rejects any notion of white contributions to black freedom? In his Jeremiah Wright speech, the best of his career, this is what Obama said of Wright’s CRT-inspired words, damning America:

They expressed a profoundly distorted view of this country — a view that sees white racism as endemic, and that elevates what is wrong with America above
all that we know is right with America… The profound mistake of Reverend Wright’s sermons is not that he spoke about racism in our society. It’s that he spoke as if our society was static; as if no progress has been made; as if this country — a country that has made it possible for one of his own members to run for the highest office in the land and build a coalition of white and black; Latino and Asian, rich and poor, young and old — is still irrevocably bound to a tragic past.

This is what I still believe. Do you?

And though it will earn me my own flak, I have to say that I think America is still a great country. Of course we have problems but we are not, as, say, The Squad would aver, deeply “problematic”, riddled with inequality, racism, and capitalism.  It may be trite to say this, but if America is so horrible, why are people crowding our borders to get in?

Sullivan continues:

. . . Obama was a straddler, of course, and did not deny that “so many of the disparities that exist in the African-American community today can be directly traced to inequalities passed on from an earlier generation that suffered under the brutal legacy of slavery and Jim Crow.” I don’t deny that either. Who could? But neither did he deny African-American agency or responsibility:

It means taking full responsibility for own lives — by demanding more from our fathers, and spending more time with our children, and reading to them, and teaching them that while they may face challenges and discrimination in their own lives, they must never succumb to despair or cynicism; they must always believe that they can write their own destiny.

To say this today would evoke instant accusations of being a white supremacist and racist. That’s how far the left has moved: Obama as an enabler of white supremacy. You keep asking: what happened to me? I remain an Obamacon, same as I always have been. What, in contrast, has happened to you?

 

44 thoughts on “Andrew Sullivan on the death of “true liberalism”

  1. Canada doesn’t have a major political party held hostage by conspiracy theories and a deranged former despot. But illiberalism among our elites is still a huge, long-term problem. The erosion of free speech and of a consensus on objective knowledge seem like some of the most important consequences of illiberalism. I wonder whether those other consequences are not also more important in the US than the roaring-back of the GOP in 2022? Although I guess that’s the most imminent of the consequences.

    On the positive side, our national Green Party self-destructed over competing accusations among the party leaders of racism versus support for Palestinians in a woke race to the bottom. The event suggests that illiberals can be their own worst enemies.

  2. Here is a valuable piece of history that gets to the heart of our modern debate about liberalism. It is about the 14th amendment to the US Constitution.

    July 9, 2021
    Heather Cox Richardson
    Jul 10

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    [It appears this did not go out last night. My apologies.]

    On July 9, 1868, Americans changed the U.S. Constitution for the fourteenth time, adapting our foundational document to construct a new nation without systematic Black enslavement.

    In 1865, the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution had prohibited slavery on the basis of race, but it did not prevent the establishment of a system in which Black Americans continued to be unequal. Backed by President Andrew Johnson, who had taken over the presidency after an actor had murdered President Abraham Lincoln, white southern Democrats had done their best to push their Black neighbors back into subservience. So long as southern states had abolished enslavement, repudiated Confederate debts, and nullified the ordinances of secession, Johnson was happy to readmit them to full standing in the Union, still led by the very men who had organized the Confederacy and made war on the United States.

    Northern Republican lawmakers refused. There was no way they were going to rebuild southern society on the same blueprint as existed before the Civil War, especially since the upcoming 1870 census would count Black Americans as whole persons for the first time in the nation’s history, giving southern states more power in Congress and the Electoral College after the war than they had had before it. Having just fought a war to destroy the South’s ideology, they were not going to let it regrow in peacetime.

    Congress rejected Johnson’s plan for Reconstruction.

    But then congressmen had to come up with their own plan. After months of hearings and debate, they proposed amending the Constitution to settle the outstanding questions of the war. Chief among these was how to protect the rights of Black Americans in states where they could neither vote nor testify in court or sit on a jury to protect their own interests.

    Congress’s solution was the Fourteenth Amendment.

    It took on the infamous 1857 Dred Scott decision declaring that Black men “are not included, and were not intended to be included, under the word ‘citizens’ in the Constitution, and can therefore claim none of the rights and privileges which that instrument provides for and secures to citizens.”

    The Fourteenth Amendment provides that “All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.”

    The amendment also addressed the Dred Scott decision in another profound way. In 1857, southerners and Democrats who were adamantly opposed to federal power controlled the Supreme Court. They backed states’ rights. So the Dred Scott decision did more than read Black Americans out of our history; it dramatically circumscribed Congress’s power.

    The Dred Scott decision declared that democracy was created at the state level, by those people in a state who were allowed to vote. In 1857, this meant white men, almost exclusively. If those people voted to do something widely unpopular—like adopting human enslavement, for example—they had the right to do so and Congress could not stop them. People like Abraham Lincoln pointed out that such domination by states would eventually mean that an unpopular minority could take over the national government, forcing their ideas on everyone else, but defenders of states’ rights stood firm.

    And so, the Fourteenth Amendment gave the federal government the power to protect individuals even if their state legislatures had passed discriminatory laws. “No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws,” it said. And then it went on to say that “Congress shall have power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.”

    The principles behind the Fourteenth Amendment were behind the 1870 creation of the Department of Justice, whose first job was to bring down the Ku Klux Klan terrorists in the South.

    Those same principles took on profound national significance in the post–World War II era, when the Supreme Court began to use the equal protection clause and the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment aggressively to apply the protections in the Bill of Rights to the states. The civil rights decisions of the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s, including the Brown v. Board of Education decision outlawing segregation in public schools, and the Loving v Virginia decision permitting interracial marriage, come from this doctrine. Under it, the federal government took up the mantle of protecting the rights of individual Americans in the states from the whims of state legislatures.

    Opponents of these new civil rights protections quickly began to object that such decisions were “legislating from the bench,” rather than permitting state legislatures to make their own laws. These opponents began to call for “originalism,” the idea that the Constitution should be interpreted only as the Framers had intended when they wrote it, an argument that focused on the creation of law at the state level. Famously, in 1987, President Ronald Reagan nominated Robert Bork, an originalist who had called for the rollback of the Supreme Court’s civil rights decisions, for a seat on that court.

    Reacting to that nomination, Senator Ted Kennedy (D-MA) recognized the importance of the Fourteenth Amendment to equality: “Robert Bork’s America is a land in which women would be forced into back-alley abortions, Blacks would sit at segregated lunch counters, rogue police could break down citizens’ doors in midnight raids, schoolchildren could not be taught about evolution, writers and artists could be censored at the whim of the Government, and the doors of the Federal courts would be shut on the fingers of millions of citizens for whom the judiciary is—and is often the only—protector of the individual rights that are the heart of our democracy….”

    It’s a funny thing to write about the Fourteenth Amendment in the twenty-first century. I am a scholar of Reconstruction, and for me the Fourteenth Amendment conjures up images of late-1860s Washington, D.C., a place still plagued by malaria carried on mosquitoes from the Washington City Canal, where generals and congressmen worried about how to protect the Black men who had died in extraordinary numbers to defend the government while an accidental president pardoned Confederate generals and plotted to destroy the national system Abraham Lincoln had created.

    It should feel very distant. And yet, while a bipartisan group of senators rejected Bork’s nomination in 1987, in 2021 the Supreme Court is dominated by originalists, and the principles of the Fourteenth Amendment seem terribly current.

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    This was written by Heather Cox Richardson.

  3. Another Obama quote: “Go to any inner-city neighborhood, and folks will tell you that government alone can’t teach kids to learn. They know that parents have to parent, that children can’t achieve unless we raise their expectations and eradicate the slander that says a black youth with a book is acting white.”

    Here’s one from Kareem Abdul Jabbar: “I got all A’s and was hated for it; I spoke correctly and was called a punk. I had to learn a new language simply to be able to deal with the threats. I had good manners and was a good little boy and paid for it with my hide”.

  4. The defenders of CRT are trying to make out that **any** sort of criticism of it is part of a “moral panic” from various conservatives, Republicans, and Far Right gremlins. ‘ETVPod’ is one of the culprits for this. The likes of *Z *yers, naturally, as well.

    There is plenty of criticism of CRT from liberals, skeptics, and moderates. And why not? CRT is anti-science and anti-liberal, so it is a duty for any genuine skeptic or liberal to criticise the hell out of it.

    BTW, some have expressed shock at my claim that CRT is anti-science and anti-liberal. Well, they can simply read the Wikipedia entry on it.

  5. Back in the 1960s on college campuses throughout the nation there were massive demonstrations for civil rights and against the Vietnam War. Some student groups, such as SDS, advocate for the end of capitalism and were willing to engage in violence in a foredoomed attempt to achieve their ends. Students such as myself believed with extraordinary naiveté that we represented the views of the country at large. We couldn’t have been more wrong. Instead we got Nixon, Reagan and the ultimate transformation of the Republican Party into a cult. That is, beginning with Barry Goldwater the radical right slowly, but inexorably, morphed from laughable kooks into the political and cultural home of somewhere around a third of the country.

    So, today, the far left as symbolized by the Woke is once again handing another gift to the far right. Although I believe in absolute numbers the Woke is a small fraction of the American electorate, each of their follies is used by the right to scare the American people into thinking that transgender people will be indoctrinating their children that being straight is on a level with white oppression.

    Now I will go out on a limb with a bold prediction. Just as the protest movements of the 1960s and early 1970s faded away into obscurity, so too will the Woke within the next five years and will be remembered as nothing more than an historical curiosity. Some of their more tepid policies may become embedded in society, but the nonsensical stories we hear about them on an almost a daily basis will be no more. However, the radical right will not go away because they are in the fight for the long term as evidenced by more than fifty years of incessant agitation. They will remain a potent force in American politics because its base of White Christian nationalists views themselves in an existential conflict with a changing American society.

    One may rebut my argument by noting the decline of religion, even the right-wing kind. This is true, but the right-wing hopes to pick up non-ideological support through the use of massive propaganda and scare tactics. Such a strategy has worked in the past and may very well work in the future. This is because if there is such a thing as “national character” then the American one is marked by conservatism. That is, one can make the case that throughout their history, Americans are not against change, but they want it gradual and without social disruption. Although this is not the place to do it, I would argue that even such a cataclysmic event as the Civil War started out of very conservative motives, both North and South. Such a case can also be made for the American Revolution. Regardless, when Americans are scared of too rapid changes, they will vote for those politicians that offer stability. This is what the far right preaches, and they hope that this sermon will convince enough voters (supplemented by voter suppression and nullification) to allow them to take and retain power.

  6. Excellent post, Prof. CC—one of the very best since I first subscribed.

    That Barack Obama could wind up being in the cross-hairs of the ‘progressive’ Left shows you just how much that Left is, in its own way, recapitulating the career of Bolshevism, which eventually turned on and consumed first the most genuinely progressive elements of Russian politics and, eventually, its own firebrand ideologues. Idiots like Di Angelo look for all the world like copies of Stalin from the Bizarro planet in Superman. The Soviet Union in the 1930s is the logical end point of the current authoritarianism embodied in Woke ideology. What a gift to the alt right….

    1. Always remember that as president, Obama wore a brown suit once. Republicans have even never forgiven him for that.

      1. To me, that was one of the racist dog whistles that one could be 100% sure about. Anyone who participated in the brown suit ridicule was telling us that they are racist, regardless of their denials. Another one was birtherism, of course.

  7. Um. If you were immortal you would be inclined to keep your head below the parapet and not draw attention to yourself. The pendulum seems to swing back eventually.

    Of course not drawing attention to yourself allows the yahoos to elaborate their fashionable politics.

    That mortals hunker down too is a paradox.

  8. I think Andrew Sullivan is over-reacting.

    There was always a fringe to the left. In the past they were communists or hippies. Today, they are the woke brigade. They are a small but noisy group. Most of the left is where they always were. Sullivan seems to be reacting to the right wing propoganda about the left, rather than to the reality.

    1. Not so. The degree to which Woke culture has become endemic in academia is unprecedented. The fringe Left back in the 1960s, in its Maoist avatar most conspicuously, never was able to enforce conditions on academic discourse to anything remotely like the extreme degree I see every day at my own university—and we’re far from the worst in this respect. Remember, this is now the default not just amongst the hotheaded youngsters, but senior faculty and administration as well. The stifling effect of self-proclaimed ‘justice culture’ is overwhelming. I’ve been in academia for well over half a century and I’ve never experienced anything like it.

      1. Perhaps Sullivan includes the world outside of academia where it’s not so bad. I’m not in academia but your description sounds right based on what I’ve read here and elsewhere.

      2. I would add that Woke culture has also become endemic among professional organizations and associations. A personal example: Sullivan’s terminology of “moral panic” about white supremacy fits perfectly two associations to which I belong (and which shall remain nameless here), associations that, if regarded by a disinterested anthropologist from another planet, would be seen as among the most non-racist, diverse and inclusive in human history (echoing Sullivan’s claim that the USA is “the largest, freest, most successful multiracial democracy in human history.”) The funny/sad thing is that I continue to receive communiques from these associations in which they bemoan the “deep presence of systemic racism” in the associations, with the consequent being the urgent necessity for more programs, funds, and personnel devoted to DEI.

        1. Yes, this is my experience as well. It’s true, as Paul says, that it’s not as bad outside academia as inside… but the world of the professions is definitely approaching that of higher education, and my fear is that there is going to be some kind of tipping point or phase transition where our whole culture shifts into Wokethink norms of behavior. People joke about the ivory tower and so on, but the truth is that academic attitudes seem to wind up percolating over our cultural expectations over the long term. And our leadership, across social institutions generally, is going to be supplied by people coming out of academe, whose thinking is likely to have been strongly shaped by what they were socialized into during their years there. Given what the place is now like (and almost certainly will be like, i.e., even more so), this is a very scary prospect….

        2. Do you think these professional organizations really believe this stuff? Or are they doing it out of fear? Just a bit more anti-racism and they’ll finally be free. Self-flagellation comes to mind.

          1. I second the observations of Type Logician and StephenB, referring to a large research
            university from which I am retired, but with which I maintain some E-contact. There is a deluge of calls for more flagellation, more DEI bureaucrats, and more trainings and meetings to combat the “systemic racism” that is imagined to afflict every cultural, linguistic, and scientific field and practice. This mania is absolutely different from anything in the last 60
            years of academic and professional association life, certainly more ubiquitous than the
            fabled Red scare of the 1950s. The only analogies that comes to my mind are a few past episodes of mass hysteria, such as the flagellants of the 14th century,
            the speculative tulip mania in the Netherlands of the 1630s, and the witch trial hysteria in
            Salem, Massachusetts Bay Colony, in the 1690s.

      3. Orwell’s “Politics” essay points to “justice” as a word with no precise meaning, which can… I’ll have to find the quote ….

    2. I’m not sure, I wasn’t there, but I don’t think that leaders and Congressmen of the Democratic party were endorsing marxism in the 60’s and 70’s like, let’s say, Defund the police is right now.

  9. Yes, the left has its nuts and nuttiness.

    But I think the right will beat us to it as far as authoritarian societal structure goes. They are setting things up so that they have permanent control, even though they don’t have a majority. I’m not sure how long that model is sustainable, but it’s possible that they can set things up so that anyone left of Trump and McConnell has no control, nor any input.

    The next election is quite possibly the last legitimate (sort of) election this country will ever see.

    L

      1. Do you think I’m wrong?

        Maybe you’ve heard that a lot because a lot of people are seeing the right wing passing state laws to keep their opposition from voting, and to be able to overturn results of elections they don’t like if they should lose.

        The Supreme Court is fine with that.

        The US Congress has not been willing to do what is necessary to protect voting rights.

        So where does that leave us?

        L

        1. It’s not clear that the Supreme Court is ok with those new state laws that allow partisans to negate elections. They will probably get challenged, especially in their application.

        2. The proposed laws are supposed to make it easy to vote and very hard to cheat.
          We really do need to have a system where the average reasonable person believes that the elections are secure and fair.
          What matters is public perception, because the whole system is held together by our collective belief in it.
          Right now, a very large number of voters think it is likely that no matter who the majority of people vote for, if the chosen (by someone) candidate does not have enough votes on election night, someone is going to show up with vanloads of votes at 0400, and the chosen candidate will have just enough votes to win.
          Anyway, the state laws are in response to HR1, a bill that would federalize control of election processes, with pretty much the DNCs Christmas list of changes to the system to primarily allow DNC control forever.
          The DNC hates the idea of having to find new ways to cheat, so the of course use the most hyperbolic language possible to claim that the republicans are trying to “Keep the opposition from voting”.
          The bills make it harder for the dead to vote, as well as people not normally eligible, like people who moved away years ago. The bills make vote buying harder, a practice that was brought to public attention with some undercover films during the last election

  10. Regarding Jerry’s prologue to this article, I’m reminded of the Woody Allen joke that goes, “I’m not afraid of death, I just don’t want to be around when it happens.” Seriously, death is when the perception of reality becomes reality. I can’t wait, but I guess I’ll have to.

  11. Are the real liberal elites really the ones to blame here? I can’t think of any liberal thinkers that I respected before Wokeness appeared on the scene that are now in favor of this assault on liberalism. Instead, we have a New Left culture that has been brewing for decades, pushing other ways of knowing, anti-merit, and various other half-baked theories as a sort of grassroots movement. These New Leftists have found a way to expand their power by bullying in the name of anti-racism. The Old Left had made racism into such a powerful boogieman that the New Left were able to recruit people to their side by bullying them.

    The real thinkers have been blindsided by this, as have normal everyday Democrats. It is difficult to fight because, if we do, we’ll get called racists, misogynists, and the like.

    Something similar has also happened on the Right. Normal conservative politicians have gradually been shoved out by the New Right. Not many respected conservative thinkers have bought into their ideology. Instead, populists have taken advantage of fear and outrage to push the Old Right out of power.

    There really has been a revolution of sorts on both sides.

    1. Agreed, strongly. The problem is that the real, true-blue liberals are now keeping their mouths shut for fear of the abuse they’ll receive, not from the right—they’re more than happy to take on the other side —but from the Jacobins on the far left of the aisle. If Barack Obama can be construed as, in the IRA’s terminology, a ‘legitimate target’, heaven help the poor ordinary liberals or old-fashion social democrats who raise their heads even a little bit above the parapet.

  12. Sullivan makes some strong points that remind me of Orwell noting that “The real division is not between conservatives and revolutionaries but between authoritarians and libertarians.” The post-Trump GOP isn’t even pretending to be the party of small government, low taxes, and individual rights any more. The Democrats are proposing budget busting increases in borrowed money and taxpayer funds. Both parties now fall clearly in the authoritarian camp.

    As the token libertarian here, I hope this augurs a realignment, with at least one party moving in an anti-authoritarian direction. I don’t believe the majority of Americans support either right wing populism or left wing wokeism. Hopefully that sane demographic will get some representation.

    1. Democrats wanting government to spend money on helping citizens and the country to prosper is not authoritarianism, not by any reasonable definition. Get a better dictionary.

  13. Ajamu Baraka, the Green Party’s vice-presidential candidate in 2016, wrote about Obama as follows: ““The fact that Barack Obama will be standing in the shadow of Dr. (Martin Luther) King (Jr.), his presence conveying the impression that he somehow represents the values and self-sacrificing lives of Dr. King … should be taken as an insult by everyone who has struggled and continues to struggle for human rights, peace and social justice.” After the election, Mr.Baraka had an essay in Counterpunch which I remember well. He warned darkly of the fascism that would come with Donald Trump’s inauguration, but added that it would just be a continuation of Obama fascism.

    The Green Party received only 1.1% of the vote in 2016, compared with its high points of 2.7% in 2000.
    Nonetheless, the attitude Mr. Baraka represents has been heard more and more loudly in recent years, particularly in the groves of academe—and, increasingly, outside the groves of academe as well.

    1. “Obama fascism”

      Now that’s a phrase I didn’t expect to hear. He’s a fascist by his mere presence and black skin?

      Obama understood the significance of his election very well, both good and bad. He understood the significance of being the first black president and decided that he would leave it to others to point that out and celebrate it. He also understood that their would be a tremendous racist backlash. His only chance to minimize it was to avoid playing the race card as much as he could. He knew that most of those that elected him also expected him to make great progress against racism while in office. He knew that he would disappoint them in order to minimize the racist backlash. The more he could get the electorate to accept him as a normal president, the better for the country. Unfortunately, it wasn’t good enough and the backlash gave us Trump.

      Hillary Clinton faced a similar situation. She was lauded as the first female president. Unfortunately for her, she joined in on the celebration. Like Obama, she would have been better off trying to make her presidency just business as usual. Instead, her progress-for-women agenda seemed to override all other concerns. The backlash, amplified by Trump, started before she could even gain office.

  14. ——————————————————————–
    Commenter #5: ” Just as the protest movements of the 1960s and early 1970s faded away into obscurity, so too will the Woke within the next five years and will be remembered as nothing more than an historical curiosity.” Permit me to take issue with that. The noisiest and most utterly counter-productive part of the “protest movement of the 1960s and early 1970s”, namely the general outlook of the Weather Underground, has not faded away, but has been revived in precisely the form we calls wokeism. This outlook includes the romantic idolization of Black “revolution” by the Gilbert-Boudin wing of the Weathermen, as in their collaboration with the Black Liberation Army in the botched Brinks robbery/murder operation in 1981. Just a few years ago, a woke-Left website featured a fawning interview with David Gilbert, lifetime scholar-in-residence at various New York prisons due to his part in the Brinks job. The interview hung on every word of Mr.Gilbert’s sage advice for the “Progressive” movement. Kathy Boudin received a sentence of 20 years for her part in the Brinks job. Gilbert and Boudin’s son Chesa, known familiarly as “Cheesy”, is the current DA of San Francisco, and is conducting woke experiments on the decriminalization of crime.

  15. Been worse before?
    Pre WW2?
    Lunatics “Right” and “Left”?
    The Spenglerian Golden Agers, the immiserated Frankfurt School.
    The morally frozen Bolsheviks?
    The jackbooting Teutonic Nationalists.
    All this because August 1914 a couple handfuls of half wits [especially the Russian Foreign Minister] took their eyes off the ball, indulged in a spot of good old European tribal biff – Whatto chaps! – only now availed of the best in volume and lethality of military muscle their industrialised modernised economies could provide.
    Ironically products of the same “Enlightened” radical liberal reform which eventually delivered popular democratic reform.
    After the dust of not one but two world wars settled.
    Throw in the Depression for good measure.
    Freedom is now well n truly unbottled, traction gained, roots deep into West at least?
    Despite the authoritarian instincts of many, R and L.
    Grounds for wary hope?

  16. Fortunately I’m all out of freebies on his substack and I WON’T be paying for him.
    He frequently pisses me off. If he’s not pontificating (with supreme confidence!) about things he clearly knows nothing about (like all drugs) in which he proves his ignorance every time he opens his mouth….. he’s covering for the Catholic Church and Jay-sus. His narcissism puts me on edge. Sure he’s bright, but a lot of a-holes are. I’ll listen to him for free now and again and I am glad you can act as a filter so I don’t have to endure the whole “dish”.
    D.A.
    NYC

  17. With this piece, I find myself wishing Sullivan was not so great a writer.

    Obama : “… by demanding more from our fathers, and spending more time with our children, and reading to them, and teaching them that while they may face challenges and discrimination in their own lives, they must never succumb to despair or cynicism;”

    This of course would also be found a sexist attack on single mothers, an insult to those who live and struggle with a “broken” family, and a power move to impose the hegemony of the “nuclear family”. All completely racist, of course.

    “ … they must always believe that they can write their own destiny.“

    That is – sadly in double-edged fashion – in essence, how it works in Fantasyland. One need only believe, as a virtue.

    The “liberal elite” as Sullivan describes needs this advice :

    The pandemic is waning – time to spend way WAY less time pointing your faces at tiny screens and point them at friends and family. Make it hurt. Also, find friends more than completely missing any through the insulation of your clique.

    1. Proofread :

      “not so great a writer” -> “not such a great writer”

      … he’s a great writer, OK?

  18. I get so frustrated with this ongoing thread. 1984 — yeah, right! Cameras in every classroom with watchers hanging on to every word a teacher says just to make sure no hint of reason escapes lest little ears be corrupted by evolution or equality or decency or heavens forbid responsible sexuality. Those ideas aren’t coming from the left.

    They sure as heck are coming from the organized right wingnuts lobbying in every school district across the country. Thanks for making it harder to teach.

  19. Keep fighting the good fight Mr Coyne, until the end. Maybe we can shorten the backend of our inevitable downfall into some kind of techno feudalism. We’ve already lost but maybe like the fictional Hari Seldon predicted, we can shorten the pain if we make some key moves.

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