The illiberal Right and the illiberal Left

November 3, 2021 • 9:45 am

I was going to write about this article today, but it almost seems outmoded in light of the drubbing Democrats are taking in various places. Clearly, the extreme “progressive” wing of the party is pulling it away from victory.  Youngkin won in Virginia largely because he played up the “Critical Race Theory in School” argument, but I wouldn’t want that victory to mean that schools should stop teaching about the real oppression in American history or about the Civil Rights movement, the odious treatment of Native Americans, and so on. We just have to do this sensibly, and I hope there’s a way that’s sufficiently sensible that Republicans can’t make hay of it.

But I digress. Below is a piece written on Bari Weiss’s site by David French, identified as “a senior editor at The Dispatch a columnist for Time, and a member of Persuasion’s Board of Advisers.” And I think it’s sensible and strikes the right tone.

Click to read for free (but do subscribe to her site if you read it often). Do note Norman Rockwell’s famous painting, “The Problem we all live with” (1964), depicting Ruby Bridges, the first black child to desegregate an elementary school in New Orleans in 1960.  She faced enormous opposition, of course, as shown by the n-word on the wall, the splashed tomatoes, and the four U.S. Marshals escorting her to the classroom.

There’s an introduction by Bari that includes this:

In the essay below, David French reports on the fallout of these bills in states like Texas and Tennessee, where he lives with his family. It is there that parents have complained about Norman Rockwell’s painting The Problem We All Live With (shown above) which depicts the courageous Ruby Bridges. David suggests that in the attempt to respond to left-wing intolerance the right is creating their own.

French is a conservative—not just that, but, as he notes, “a pro-life, ideologically conservative Evangelical Christian who upholds traditional church teachings on sex and marriage.”  As he says, he has all the bona fides that should make the Right appeal to him. But it doesn’t, for he sees the Right as illiberal (French, a free speech advocate, was once the president of FIRE):

But something is going wrong on the right. An increasing number of politicians, lawyers, and activists are responding to fears of left-wing intolerance with their own efforts to censor, suppress, and cancel. They’re doing so in different places and different jurisdictionsthe very places and jurisdictions where the right is dominant and where, all too often, the echoes of America’s most painful past can still be heard.

The most prominent example of right-wing illiberalism comes from the series of so-called “anti-CRT” bills being passed in legislatures across the country.

According to a Heritage Foundation tracker, the bills have been introduced in more than 20 states and passed in seven. They promise to protect children from a divisive and hateful ideology, but they’re largely a mess. They’re vague and poorly drafted, and they leave teachers utterly confused.

This has led to Right-wing censorship that has gone too far (remember, the Left does this too, but with different books). French mentions that a member of Texas’s House Committee on General Investigating sent a letter to all school districts demanding that they reveal whether they have any of 800 “problematic” books and identify other ones. These are, of course, books that emphasize the more unpleasant aspects of America or American history.

And it also happened in French’s home state, Tennessee:

In addition to the hundreds of books listed in Texas (including “The Indian Removal Act and the Trail of Tears,” “Between the World and Me,” and “The Confessions of Nat Turner”), what other books “might” make students feel discomfort? Our local experience in Tennessee sheds some light.

I live in Williamson County, one of the nation’s most prosperous counties and a bastion of state Republican power. This summer, an activist group called Moms for Liberty filed a formal complaint with the Tennessee Department of Education alleging that four young-elementary books—“Martin Luther King Jr. and the March on Washington,” by Frances E. Ruffin, “Ruby Bridges Goes to School: My True Story,” by Ruby Bridges, “The Story of Ruby Bridges,” by Robert Coles, and “Separate Is Never Equal,” by Duncan Tonatiuhviolated the state’s new, expansive anti-CRT law.

I’d urge you to read the entire complaint. It does not refer to a single example of actual critical race theory. The objection is instead to the effect of photographs and accurate depictions of the Civil Rights Movement. Exposure to these historical details, we’re told, “makes children hate their country, each other, and/or themselves.”

If you think I’m exaggerating, here are some of the objections to “The Story of Ruby Bridges”: “Pages 20-21 show images of white people yelling and protesting with accompanying text, ‘The crowd seemed ready to kill her.’” And: “Pages 12-13 show more white protestors surrounding Ruby and reads ‘Men and women shouted at her. They pushed toward her.’”

To be clear, the complaint is complaining about photographs and descriptions that depict what life was actually like for black Americans living in the Jim Crow South.

The many problems with  “Ruby Bridges Goes to School,” according to the complaint, include “photographs of a neighborhood sign that reads ‘WE WANT WHITE TENANTS IN OUR WHITE COMMUNITY’ and a smiling white boy holding a sign that says ‘We wont [sic] go to school with Negroes.’”

The complaint also takes issue with Norman Rockwell’s painting The Problem We All Live With, which depicts Ruby Bridges walking to school with the “n word” in the background and originally appeared, in 1964, in Look, a general-interest magazine published in Des Moines, Iowa. That’s right: They’re complaining about Norman Rockwell.

These people don’t want to face up to the fact that there are unsavory parts of American history. I shudder now to think how my own secondary-school texts glossed over the problem of civil rights and the genocide of American Indians. French ably defends the view that this history needs to be taught:

Why would parents appeal to a law meant to combat critical race theory to censor deeply troubling but wholly uncontroversial books? Because the law allows them to do just that. It bans any “concept” that  “promot[es] division between, or resentment of, a race, sex, religion, creed, nonviolent political affiliation, social class, or class of people.”

This extraordinarily subjective standard permits parents to object whenever their children express anger or discomfort.

There is no question that stories of American segregation are difficult to hear, but when they read about Ruby Bridges or Martin Luther King Jr., children are reading about national heroes. Consider Rockwell’s painting. That young girl, in all her courage, is an example for us all. And if one doubts the need for instruction about racism, one need only read recent stories from the same school district in the same county. For example, in 2019, the Tennessean reported that white middle school students locked arms in a hallway to form “Trump’s wall” and let only white kids pass.

Appropriately, my friend and William and Mary classmate Jim Batterson, who comments here, just sent me an email and photo when I was writing this. This typifies the everyday racism that obtained in Virginia when we went to school. He was in Newport News, I in Arlington. His class of 550 students had just three African-Americans and two Hispanics. Jim said this (posted with permission):

Here is a pic from my 1966 high school yearbook showing the cafeteria staff. Please notice that all are black with the exception of the cafeteria manager and that all blacks are listed by first name while the white cafeteria manager is given the honorary prefix “Mrs.” and no first name…a sign of respect for an adult. I expect things were the same at your northern Virginia high school. I think this is a good and simple example of racism. I also have a pic of custodial staff that is captioned similarly.

and the custodians—same deal:

It’s this kind of historical racism that kids need to learn about, and that we can’t let go down the drain because of the “CRT” fracas.  In the end, French also calls out the illiberal Left as well:

America is confronting two powerful illiberal movements, and where you stand on their relative threats can depend greatly on where you live. If you’re a conservative professor or student under fire in the elite academy, the travails of elementary school teachers in a Nashville suburb aren’t much on your mind. You’re fighting for your reputation and career against some of the most elite and powerful cultural forces in the United States.

But if you’re the parent of a black child who comes home in tears explaining that she wasn’t allowed past “Trump’s wall,” if you later witness a member of a school board audience shout “you’re in the South” when another parent laments the omnipresence of Confederate symbols, then the struggles of Ivy League conservatives don’t have much purchase.

And the consequences, which we’ve seen this morning:

But might does not make right, and if we use power punitively, then we create a nation of warring illiberal jurisdictions. Many of the same people who flex their muscles in Red America to pass expansive and vague anti-CRT laws cry foul when Blue America forces public school teachers to use preferred pronouns.

I remember, years ago, when I began my First Amendment litigation career, hearing FIRE’s two founders, Alan Charles Kors and Harvey Silverglate, challenge the idea that Americans were “too weak to live with freedom.” They believed that you trained even young Americans to venture forth in a pluralistic nation with confidence in their ideas and the fortitude to weather dissent.

That means encountering teachers and teaching you may not like. It means encountering words that trigger strong reactions. And, parents, that even means sometimes helping your children learn difficult truths and to question or even unlearn lessons they’ve learned at school. It’s not an easy path, but it’s a better path than the one we’re on nowwhere scholars are under fire from left and right, and in some schools even Norman Rockwell is out of bounds.

And that is an eloquent ending.

72 thoughts on “The illiberal Right and the illiberal Left

  1. The Norman Rockwell picture from New Orleans in 1960 is a reminder of just how solidly Louisiana was Democrat for decades, pretty much for an entire century. \It was one of the bluest of blue states.

  2. The Norman Rockwell picture from New Orleans is a reminder of what happens when Democrats control a state, in this instance New Orleans, for pretty much a century.

    1. Can you explain this comment??? How much in common do the Democrat Parties of today and of over 100 years ago have? As a generalisation I would think that it is not healthy for any party to have hegemony in a state or country over many decades but is there something specific about the Democrats you can point to that inevitably leads to little girls requiring an escort of US Marshalls in order to be able to attend school?

      1. I can only offer (and I am no nuanced expert), that the Democrats used to champion the interests of the blue collar working class, so where possible, states with a large populations of such people would lean democratic. This included many southern states. But blue collar voters were also commonly racist. So when Democrats passed civil rights legislation in the ’60s they lost many Democratic voters and the blue states turned red.

        1. Or perhaps people in those states stopped being racist and so the racist blue states stopped electing Democrats.

      2. Perhaps you are right. It was a long time ago, We can’t draw lessons about Democrat control by looking at historical facts.

        Perhaps we should just turn that Norman Rockwell painting to the wall and not teach about racism in Democrat controlled Louisiana.

        It was 60 years ago, after all.

        1. With all due respect that’s absurd. If you think that the message to draw from the painting is that Democrats are racists you’re looking at it with an extraordinarily narrow, partisan view. Racism is an ugly trait, especially when it is built into the institutions of society as it was in Louisiana and other southern states but it is hardly the exclusive preserve of the Democrats. Are you suggesting that all those years ago Republicans in the south were clamouring for equal rights for blacks? I doubt they were. The fact is that a majority of white people in the south were happy with the way society was organised back then either because they actively believed in white supremacy or (perhaps more commonly) because it was the way things were and they simply didn’t bother to question it.

          Progress has certainly been made since the Jim Crow days but racism has not gone away. Probably racists may be found in any party if you look hard enough but right now they are most evident in the MAGA strand of Republicans where you really don’t need to look very hard at all and too many Republican politicians are all too happy to encourage this through dog-whistle comments and failure to condemn the overt racism of extremists (such as Trump describing violent white supremacists as good people).

          So, yes, the painting should be prominently displayed and discussed for the lessons it provides about racism and where it leads but lets not pretend that the lesson is that the Democrats are an inherently and irrevocably racist party which is evidently not the case. Rather the lesson should perhaps be that, depending on the times and the circumstances, any party can potentially be infected with racism and that this is always a poisonous and damaging route for any political party to go down.

          1. You are right once more.
            We should teach children the historical facts in the Norman Rockwell painting that racism in Louisiana was at its highest when racists were Democrat voters, and explain that doesn’t mean Democrat voters are racist.

            It is so important not to let children put two and two together , isn’t it? We need to teach them the correct things to think. Democrats, good – Republicans, racist.

            And we definitely shouldn’t show them the pictures of KKK at Democrat party conferences. After all, that is ancient history and a lot has changed since then.

            1. You have a peculiarly one-eyed way of looking at things and I will charitably put your distortion of what I wrote down to careless reading rather than a deliberate attempt to straw man me. By all means teach that the Democrat voters of Louisiana in the 1960s were racist – they evidently were. But don’t pretend that this means that a vote for the Democrats today is a racist vote because that simply does not follow. As I said, any party can be infected by racism and that includes the Democrats. Right now racism is more of an issue in the Republican party though wouldn’t you agree?

              And while it is always instructive and useful to learn from the past you really need to understand the distinction between ‘were’ and ‘are’.

              1. You are right again.
                We have to be very careful about what lessons we draw from looking at events of 60 years ago.

                That is why Critical Race Theory is so important. It understands that we can’t just look at events of 60 years ago and say ‘That is how things are today.’

                CRT realises that people have changed and that what used to be racist organisations (like the old Southern Democrats) aren’t racist anymore.

              2. As I am sure you are perfectly well aware, I made no no comment whatsoever about CRT or defence of it. Thanks for all the snark.

    1. Winsome Sears became Virginia’s first Black female lieutenant governor.

      What is the response from the Left to this historic achievement?

      ‘Fascism tends to win in the end’

      1. What is the response from the Left to this historic achievement?

        ‘Fascism tends to win in the end’

        I may be wrong, but I don’t see where ploubere is responding to that historic achievement at all with their comment.

  3. Many would consider Thomas Sowell one of our most distinguished public intellectuals, and perhaps the most brilliant amongst black scholars. Now in his nineties, he has recently written a very sobering essay reminding his many devoted admirers of the dangers of disseminating “woke” propaganda in the schools, warning how often, in the past, the extreme balkanization of society through highly-racialized identity-politics has brought about disastrous results.

    1. He’s probably correct about the woke stuff, however-

      Sowell has written some very, very stupid things re: climate change.I don’t see how anyone with any scientific knowledge could support them.

  4. If we look at Christopher Rufo’s Briefing Book on CRT:

    https://christopherrufo.com/crt-briefing-book/

    you can see the right-wing claims about what CRT is, as well as the quotes from its self-proclaimed prophets in support of those claims.

    If we accept this definition of what CRT is, then there is nothing in banning CRT that would bar schools teaching about slavery or Jim Crow or the Holocaust or any other historical event for that matter. That claim is complete mendacity.

    Further, if what the right wing views as CRT is not “real” CRT, then the proponents of the false CRT have nothing to fear from a ban.

    The reality is that CRT is peddling the same kind of racialist conspiracy theories that have been used to incite ethnic violence from Rwanda to Malaysia. The whites are keeping us down, the Armenians are keeping us down, the Jews are keeping us down, the Chinese are keeping us down, the Tutsi’s are keeping us down, etc.

    If someone has any common sense, you need to look at actual governments that have adopted these kinds of policies and rhetoric. Mao did his cultural revolution to create equality between all people in China across class lines, it was a disaster. All this anti-white racism (we should be clear which race they are against) was widely adopted in post-colonial Africa (as well as anti-Asian racism) and you can see the fruits of it there.

    Has anti-white racism helped post-colonial Africa develop? No, it has been a disaster. South Africa prevented anti-retrovirals from coming in because the viral theory of AIDS was invented by the evil white pharma industry, and millions died of preventable deaths. That is the future that is being offered to us.

    Why would anyone push rhetoric and policies which have been an absolute disaster everywhere they have been tried? It a recipe for a failed state.

    1. What do the pundits on MSNBC, amongst many others, hope to gain by maligning those who criticize the introduction of BLM/CRT/1619 propaganda (i.e. “wokeism”) into the public schools (while American students show consistently poor results in reading, writing, math, geography, etc)? Asra Nomani ( a liberal feminist of Muslim descent) has laughingly wondered whether she, too, is now a “white supremacist.”

    2. You mean like segregation law? Why are you afraid of historical truth? Why are you even in your post whitewashing the reality of African colonialism???

      1. So you are saying President Mbeki was right about AIDS, and its a colonialist lie that AIDS is caused by a virus and that 300,000 Black bodies died in the name of anti-white stupidity?

        I suggest, like me, you talk to some Black African immigrants, many who have lost brothers, sisters, mothers for this kind of stupidity, because they have nothing but contempt for people who push this garbage. They have seen how it has ruined their countries and killed their loved ones.

        1. BTW, President Mbeki had all the woke talking points. Africans have “different ways of knowing”, Western science is structurally racist, the viral theory of AIDS was just a means for evil Western pharma companies to take Africa’s riches, post-modern no objective truth.

          And what South Africa got was a 300,000 person stack of dead people, mostly Black bodies, all preventable. Granted, “anti-racism” has nothing on the body count from Anti-Semitism and the struggle to abolish Jewishness, but they are just getting started.

        2. Here is the Guardian Article on Mbeki:

          https://www.theguardian.com/world/2000/oct/06/chrismcgreal

          In all these arguments, as well as in the virus versus poverty controversy from 2000, two closely linked features appear. The first is the racialisation of the issues, with the government accusing its opponents, whether activists or politicians, of racism. The second is the theme of conspiracy against Africans, either from the country’s white conservatives or from the pharmaceutical industry. Both features combine in the somewhat contradictory notion that the AIDS epidemic and its treatments are part of a plot to eradicate the black population.

          From:

          https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1125376/

    3. As an outsider, I have the same impression.
      Two decades ago, I feared that Islam would take over the West. I still fear it, but today I fear more that CRT will take over. And I find it more sinister, because in case things go too far south, we can convert to Islam but we cannot change our skin color.
      Indeed, Islam proclaims women like me second-hand people. But at least it acknowledges that we are needed and useful. In CRT, white people like me are portrayed as pests that have held on for too long, and are standing in the way of the bright future.

      1. You might also observe that these things never tend to “take over”. They are just dumb ideas that we have to fight against and endure. Islam was never really going to catch on in the West or be forced down our throats by terrorists. The 9/11 attacks should have been dealt with as horrific crimes rather than an existential threat. Remember when some claimed that certain towns in Michigan were under sharia law? CRT will not really amount to much in the big picture but we still have to expend our energy fighting it. The real loss is it sucks our energy away from more constructive responses and is so disappointing of our fellow man and woman.

        1. I disagree. My reading of history is that these things fairly often do take over, sometimes with irreversible consequences.
          A title from the Guardian from 2015:
          “Muslim population in England and Wales nearly doubles in 10 years”
          https://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/feb/11/muslim-population-england-wales-nearly-doubles-10-years
          In our south-western neighbor, North Macedonia, a historically small Muslim minority has grown to about one third, and everyone expects the country to become Muslim-majority in our lifetime.
          As for non-religious toxic ideologies – not only small countries such as Cuba but even the superpower China cannot yet recover from the communist plague.

          1. So what if the Muslim population has grown? That’s not taking over. It is more than likely that virtually all those people adopt the society of their new home. Nothing wrong with that, right?

            1. Numerous historical examples show that migrant populations can remain culturally, and often geographically too, isolated enclaves in their host countries, keeping—even for generations—their customs, their values, their language, etc., and marrying mostly among themselves. If such migrant populations grow significantly in proportion to the host population, through additional migration or naturally (more children than average), the values and beliefs of the country as a whole are bound to change.

            2. A generation ago, it would have been unthinkable that anywhere in Western Europe, people would fear publishing books and cartoons, those who overcome their fear would be gunned down or stabbed, police would start a manhunt for some random guy overheard to rant against a particular religion in a bus, thousands of young girls in numerous cities would be made sex slaves while authorities would turn a blind eye, the leadership of a major old European party would become antisemitic to appease a fast growing group of new voters, and a victim of persecution (Asia Bibi) would be refused asylum because the same new voters would be unhappy.
              These things have been discussed many times on this site.

              1. Don’t bad things happen in every generation? People are dying of cancer, heart attacks, etc. all the time. I’m with Pinker on this sort of thing.

  5. I think we are witnessing a rerun of the tactics of the Red Scare of the late 1940s and early 1950s. Back then, right-wing Republicans attempted to portray the Democratic Party as dominated by Communists. It was the heyday of McCarthyism. This effort met with initial success as Republicans made significant electoral gains in Congress after about 20 years of Democratic dominance. However, these gains lasted only about five or six years. Starting in the mid-1950s, the Democrats regained control of Congress for about 40 years. The reasons for the relatively short time of right-wing dominance are twofold. The first is that the Democrats condemned Communists (in and out of the country) and became as much Cold War warriors as the Republicans. The second is that several Republican politicians, including Senator Margaret Chase Smith of Maine, condemned McCarthyism.

    Will history repeat itself? That is, will the Democrats condemn the far left of the Party? Are there any Republican politicians with actual power (as opposed to the Never Trumpers, who really can’t do anything except write opinion pieces) that will condemn the far right that dominates their party? Both actions are necessary to allay the fears of those easily manipulable voters that can swing elections. At the moment, neither action (particularly the second) seems imminent. Consequently, we may be on the cusp of a far-right dominance much more dangerous than the forbearers of the 1950s

    1. Back then, right-wing Republicans attempted to portray the Democratic Party as dominated by Communists

      If I were to believe the words of several Republican members of congress that I follow on twitter – this is happening today. They yammer on about communism and socialism all the time. But, I don’t think it’s as catchy to the lay folk as it was back then. Abortion, as it turns out, is also too popular with the voters, much to their dismay. So they’ve settled on the CRT boogeyman. Turns out it gets the folks all riled up.

  6. I would add to my comments on the pictures of cafeteria and janitorial staff from my1966 high school yearbook, that students called the Black adult janitors by their first names, ie “James”, “Joseph”, etc, but always addressed the White chief custodian as Mr. Hubbard. These small details are examples of the ways of the South that endured since slavery and were part of the daily invisible-to-Whites slights of Blacks that became resident in our minds as just the way things are.

    There were two Black high schools in the city and three White. The schools were not integrated in 1966 (that would happen around 1971 as a result of Federal court actions) but were desegregated in the sense that our White high school had three Black transfer students in my class of 550 and maybe 10-12 Black students in the entire school of about 2000 students. I remember our janitor, James bringing his two small children to a wrestling event, but politely declined to sit in the stands with us even though we asked him to come up. I did not understand it then, but he clearly was at the edge of his comfort zone simply by standing inside the gym with his kids watching the event. This was just an example of how things were in 1960’s Virginia when I grew up.

    1. You may be interested in reading “Robert E. Lee and Me: A Southerner’s Reckoning with the Myth of the Lost Cause” by Ty Seidule. He is a retired army general that grew up in Virginia a little after your time, but his experiences seem to mirror yours. He spends a lot of time describing the Virginia school system that he was educated in. As a youth and well into his army career, he worshipped Robert E. Lee. But, as time went on he learned more about the Civil War and his attitude towards Lee changed from adulation to repulsion.

      1. Thank you for the heads up. I look forward to reading it. According to his Wikipedia page, he was born in 1962 in Alexandria, VA and grew up a few blocks fromRobert E Lee’s boyhood home. So he would have attended fairly segregated schools at least through elementary school. He also graduated from Washington and Lee university. It will be very interesting to learn of the development of his views over the years.

  7. … David French, identified as “a senior editor at The Dispatch a columnist for Time and a member of Persuasion’s Board of Advisers.”

    If you want a sense of where the large cadre of real religious wingnuts on the Right are coming from these days, read the piece “Against David French-ism” from First Things magazine.

  8. It should have been obvious from the start that the wokies were playing with fire, particularly in attempting to insert their agitprop into public education. Reminiscent of the way Bernardine Dohrn & Co. were of invaluable assistance to the election of Richard Nixon and later of Ronald Reagan. Oh, wait, that happened the day before yesterday, and is thus a secret hidden from ideologues of the performance Left (unlike the now famous arrival of slaves in Jamestown in 1619).

    Incidentally, we may expect the reaction elicited by wokery to be more extreme than the brief and relatively mild Red scare of the early 1950s. After all, back then the McCarthyites had to confect imaginary threats, like the fact that Gregory Peck played a Soviet partisan in one wartime film. Today, they need only point to California’s proposed new, politicized math curriculum. Republicans all over the country must be licking their chops about that brilliant move.

  9. David French also has a new newsletter hosted by The Atlantic called The Third Rail (https://newsletters.theatlantic.com/the-third-rail/), described as:

    The Third Rail concentrates on the Constitution, culture, and the disputes that divide America. David will take a hard look at hard issues and seek to examine not just the ends but also the means of American debate.

    It says it is free but I think that may only be for an introductory period.

  10. I was going to write that nobody is against the teaching of actual history, but of course there are. Newtonian principles apply to human interactions as well, Every revolutionary movement inspires a counter-revolutionary movement.
    As far as CTR or the woke indoctrination in schools, it is a legitimate concern, and an actual danger to our society as a whole. Claiming it is not taught, or that opposing it means erasing history is a false argument. There is plenty of evidence, from school lessons shown by concerned parents, to vast numbers of videos, some recorded openly and some not, showcasing absolutely nutty left wing extremism being pushed on kids. It is unacceptable, and has to be stopped.
    A large complication is how to stop it. Of course the legislation so far written is crude. It is more complicated than defining pornography.
    And it is unlikely that any legislation is going to convince teacher to teach unbiased lessons when so many of them seem to hold a political stance 10 degrees left of members of the Red Guards.

    I cannot help but think of woke politics as a virus. Just like when treating a virus, you have to tread very carefully to keep from killing or doing lasting damage to the host. Most of the time when you are sick, the unpleasant symptoms you experience are caused by your body trying to fight the illness. Perhaps angry parents are the fever. The cough will be something else.

    Evangelical or fundamentalist people who want to ban books is a long-term American problem. Both liberals and conservatives of the classical type have always known that such people must be kept under control.

    It is a deliberate strategy of both major parties to try to make extremists the face of the other party, when the vast majority of people are moderates, no matter how they vote.

    I wish to share a bit of personal news, related to my interactions with the woke philosophy.
    My youngest spent the night in hospital last night, which turned out to be due to an adverse drug reaction. Both drugs had been prescribed as part of Trans affirmation.
    The kid is much better today, but it was a hard night for us.
    All the trans kids take lots of meds. Most of them seem to be taken to curb the negative side effects of other meds. They are, each and every one, a medical house of cards.
    I would be very keen to find out if the docs who are behind this are among the 20% who still support the AMA.

    1. I was going to write that nobody is against the teaching of actual history, but of course there are.

      I was homeschooled for some of my youth (thank goodness not all of it) – and the curricula available (especially the evangelical ones) are straight up lies. They teach a Christian nationalist revisionist propaganda. Luckily, my dad’s work meant that we had taxpayer funded educational opportunities at lovely schools when abroad. But I’ve seen the texts.

  11. I would refer back in our own history when a very similar political separation existed. It is this countries nature to be extremely divided and has been so since the beginning. So why is it such a shock now? Because as usual, we are very ignorant of our own history. If you need a review I would recommend the same book that was recommended to me earlier by Historian I think. The book is called Fears of the setting Sun by Dennis C. Rasmussen. It is primarily a review of what some of us already knew who read a lot about American History. If you remember the Federalist and the Democrat Republicans and understand what these two first parties were about, you have a version of today. It was just as nasty and mean then as now. The leaders back then were becoming just as disillusioned with the government and the direction it was going as we are today. And these were some pretty smart people. George Washing, Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison. It is true those original parties did not have an insane person at the top of one party that was a crook but other than that, it was pretty raw. I would say the absence of a Trump back then may be the only reason it survived. This make the current future look much worse.

  12. In addition to the campaign to wokerize public teaching in schools, the performance Left has hit on an even more brilliant way to help the GOP: their trendy rhetoric in favor of abolishing policing and decriminalizing small-time crime. Seattle had two such candidates in the election just concluded, and both of them were overwhelmingly defeated even in Seattle, a sign of the times. There are encouraging signs that local Democratic politicians are waking up to the idiocy of such gestures and no longer indulging them: see https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2021/10/30/crime-mayors-races/ .
    So, at least at the local level, the Democratic Party is perhaps becoming realistic enough to escape the damage that the performance Left generally inflicts on the common-sense Left.

      1. The genius of democratic politics. But it sometimes takes surprisingly long for an organization to recognize it and act accordingly. Why is that? I think it is because a change of tune—even just transposing a given tune into a different key—requires that some individuals admit having made a mistake. Resistance to doing that seems to be as powerful in the human species as the urge to explore boxes is among cats. Well, maybe not quite as uniformly distributed in the species. We do have somewhat different procedures, collectively called Science, which have been advantageous.

        1. Science? You still subscribe to this patriarchal, white-supremacist, colonialist social construct? Please go to the nearest diversocrat for repentance and re-education.

  13. Clearly, the extreme “progressive” wing of the party is pulling it away from victory. Youngkin won in Virginia largely because he played up the “Critical Race Theory in School” argument,

    Meh, I think the election was mostly a referendum on Biden’s performance. He’s not popular and that translated into less Dem votes. VA has a lot of military folk; the fubar that was our withdraw from Afghanistan likely mattered. And he’s been unable to pass any major legislation despite having (hypothetical) control of both Senate and House – IMO that makes a bad impression on moderates too. Even if the truth is, Sinema and Manchin are the reason for the failure, not Biden.

    In terms of Virginia specifics, my opinion is the anti-CRT stuff was barely apparent; if there were ads or articles in the public sphere, they were not memorable or impactful. OTOH, the GOP “McAuliffe hates parents” ads (taking quotes from the debate out of context) were both memorable and impactful, and the Dems did essentially nothing to counter them. Literally nothing that I was aware of for practically a month, eventually running a very tepid counter-ad in the last week ahead of election day.

    So, my autopsy is: Joe Manchin probably cost the Dems the VA governorship. And if he didn’t, then the Dems PR failure to counter the “McAuliffe hates parents” ad campaign probably did.

    1. Blaming Manchin and Sinema ignores the fact that Biden is pandering to the far left in the party and ignoring the very valid concerns those two senators are raising about government debt and inflation. Biden is failing because he lacks the intestinal fortitude to tell The Squad et al. to go pound sand.

      1. Manchin’s first obligation is to his constituents – not the Biden administration, not the Democratic party. So I’m not making an “ought to” argument here about his behavior. I’m saying that, right or wrong, good reasons or bad, the failure of the administration and him to come to an agreement on legislation probably impacted how people voted in Virginia.

        Having said that, I think you’re going to put your foot in your mouth if you’re going to argue “valid concerns” with the President’s budget. Manchin voted for Trump’s $4.4 trillion 2019 budget. I guess you’re saying that he had no concerns with that size budget, but Biden’s $1.7 trillion budget – lowered to that number specifically to cut out things Manchin disagreed with – is an amount he has legitimate concerns over? Really, that makes sense to you? You think that’s a consistent and defensible fiscal position?

        1. I don’t buy that old “just keeping the constituents happy” stuff. WV is a poor state and most of Biden’s policies would help its citizens. And if WV voters were polled, they’d be against taxing the rich or corporations. It also has been shown that WV will be hard hit by climate change. Hard to see what Manchin is really doing for his constituents, unless by “constituents” you really mean donors.

  14. I didn’t read all the comments so please excuse me if I reiterate something already stated. I find it almost humorous that the very people complaining and enacting educational laws and regulations to prevent CRT from being taught because of a perceived racist bent in CRT are doing the exact thing that CRT proposes as a theory – that the Law and educational culture has a baked-in racist element.

    Almost humorous.

    1. Your comment is not coherent. If I have a “theory” that the Hutu have been held down in Rwanda despite legal promises of equality while the Tutsi have benefited, and that the Hutu need to struggle, violently if necessary, against the Tutsi until they obtain equality of outcome, then I have a racialist theory. Also, the Tutsi deny their privilege and consciously and unconsciously fight to maintain their privilege. Further, I might claim that the Hutu/Tutsi distinction is made up by the Dutch (even if population genetics might show otherwise), and that we need to abolish Tutsi-ness and Tutsi privilege. Certainly this was the kind of rhetoric that was used in the build up to the Rwandan Civil War.

      My theory looks at social inequality and blames another group for the persistent inequality between Hutu and Tutsi.

      In contrast, I could look at racial data on employment, and look at decline in Black income relative to white income and explain it in part by secular economic changes favoring STEM employment, and the income difference in part due to relative share of each group’s educational training in STEM fields. This account doesn’t blame anyone, one group had a bigger share in STEM, the economy favored STEM fields, and so one group did better than the other.

      Likewise, if you look at educational attainment or other measures to explain racial disparities in Rwanda, it is not an exercise in assigning group blame, it looks at facts on the ground.

      Myth is used to mobilize mass action. In creating myths were are not interested in facts, we are interested in getting people to engage in political action. In Rwanda, a version of CRT was used to convince one group to machete to death the other group. That will not happen in America because of prosperity and demographics, but you already have the Dallas police shootings in 2016, “progressive” racial conspiracy theories lead to the same kinds of violence as “right wing” racial conspiracy theories. Demythologizing is not creating a different myth, its about sapping the energy out of a myth, the point of which is to attempt to get people to live side by side peacefully despite our differences, and work together for a common prosperity.

        1. Sigh, exactly. If you have a law that says Jews can’t work in certain professions, you don’t have “baked in racism”, you have legal racism. If you teach children in public schools that Jews are disproportionately represented in elite professions, banking and the media because they are consciously or unconsciously cooperating with each other to keep down normal Germans, and the Nuremberg laws are necessary to compensate for past and future oppression, then you are teaching kids German national socialist ideology. Its not “baked in” racism, its racism. Remember, according to Hitler, Jews had all the power, and power + prejudice equals racism, so it was all just self defense by poor Germany who had been picked on by everyone. Like Kendi, Hitler was assured of his own authority, and if you disagreed, you had just been brain washed and you hated nice German people. In fact, if you take Kendi’s logic and apply it to interwar Germany, its pretty clear that the Nazi’s come out on the side of anti-racism, like the Turks and Hutus.

          When a Nazi accuses you of being a Zionist stooge because you reject their racist conspiracy theory, it is not because science has “baked in” pro-Jewish bias, or that testing like IQ is “Jewish science” as was claimed. Because between being a Nazi and a Zionist stooge, there is a position that understands that all inequalities in the world are not the direct result on one group maliciously conspiring against another group, where you seek to form responsible judgments based on the facts with fairness to all involved, and where your response to social inequality is more involved then figuring out which group we need to line up and shoot to achieve social justice. Yes, judgment is subjective, but not necessarily biased, nor are cognitive biases uncorrectable, nor is judgment so idiosyncratic that there can’t be broad agreement.

          What troubles me is that there is structurally little difference between CRT and standard sophisticated versions of Anti-Semitism other than one attacks Jews and the other attacks “whites”. Same rhetoric, same rhetorical moves, same if you are not for us, you are biased in favor of the enemy, race traitor crap, and what this stuff has done in Africa (where it came to power first) is horrible. I know this is one of those unsayable things, but ideologically, there is only a razor thin difference between the ideology of Kendi and the ideology of someone like David Duke, Kendi is the shot gun, Duke is the long rifle, and the end game will likely be the rehabilitation of Anti-Semitism.

  15. Slow on the uptake, but the commonality between “defund the police” and CRT is in a major political party taking a stance against any kinds of norms or standards. Police enforce laws, laws enforce good behavior, and so we need to eliminate police. Schools have tests and grades, tests and grades affirm good students, and so we need to gut standards. Racism serves as the rationale for the elimination of standards, but its pretty clear that even if America was systematically racists the way Kendi claims, letting drug cartels operate open air markets in minority neighborhoods and gutting educational standards in primary and secondary schools is not in the interest of ethnic and racial minorities, and will only make racial disparities worse.

    NY is, of course, now a white supremacist enclave because Blacks voted in a former cop over a nice progressive lady. In Virginia, exit polls show Hispanics gave Youngkin a 9 point lead. People may have noticed white supremacy went from a narrow niche in Alabama trailer parks in 2012 to taking over the country, and now it is time to face the fact that “white supremacy” is now a multiracial, multiethnic coalition. That evil white light when you drill down on the exit polling data seems to refract into a rainbow.

    In contrast, folks like McCauliffe (who lives in a .3% Black neighborhood) and the rest of the nice white people who went to Harvard (and their nice white neighborhoods and nice white private schools), as well as some people of color getting grants from the Ford Foundation or cushy jobs working at historically white elite institutions, need to do a better job of educating people, as their enlightened world view seems to only be shared by themselves and the people of color they support as servants. I know Jack Doherty probably think he and Kendi are like the Lone Ranger and Tonto, but from the outside it is more like the plot of an Edgar Allen Poe story. That is, the woke elite seem to increasingly resemble the old Southern plantation class, which is a bad look if you are trying to pretend you are fighting racism. [On the other hand, if the South had adopted woke politics in 1850, and white abolitionists were attacked as racists, etc., we would probably still have slavery.]

    1. Terry McCauliffe has learned the lessons of history. He knows the history behind the de-segregation of public schools.

      He knows the history of racism and he has learned about what happened to public schools.

      So he sent 4 of his children to private schools. No public school for his kids!

      If only other people would learn the lessons of history the way Democrats do.

  16. There’s a relevant and interesting Twitter thread this morning by Nate Cohn, who writes for the New York Times. He points out that CRT allows the Republicans to take the high road on race by speaking colorblind racial epithets, quoting MLK, and accusing those pushing CRT of being the ones who want to divide the races. It would be ironic and sad if this is what kills CRT. There’s an obvious element of truth here but it ignores all the racial dog whistling by Trump and much of the GOP and the racism of its voters. How could the Dems allow this to happen? We all know, right?

    https://twitter.com/Nate_Cohn/status/1456047450968449024?t=7JfClSOa2WHc3wC6DKLQ-Q&s=09

  17. Weird how it’s always the left’s fault when things don’t go the democrats’ way. It couldn’t possibly be that McAuliffe lost because he tried to run against Trump instead of actually arguing that he would improve people’s lives in a meaningful way.

    1. Youngkin won because the Left’s support for CRT allowed him to say this with a straight face (quote may not be 100% in order or complete as I couldn’t find the complete speech):

      “We all know education starts with curriculum. We will teach all history, the good and the bad. America has fabulous chapters and it’s the greatest country in the world, but we also have some abhorrent chapters in our history, we must teach them. Children will not be taught “to view everything through a lens of race. Dr. Martin Luther King implored us to judge one another based on the content of our character and not the color of our skin. Therefore, on day one, I will ban critical race theory in our schools.”

  18. “..I wouldn’t want that victory to mean that schools should stop teaching about the real oppression ….. We just have to do this sensibly…”

    Surely that means facts, real truth, about the terrible state of slavery and post-slavery—kids can absorb this stuff; 8 year olds should be very aware of e.g. Tulsa. But drop any horseshit from Princeton sociologists of the 1970s, black, white or little green men. I don’t know how university arts departments, particularly English and Sociology, but plenty of philosophers etc. as well, have been so easily sucked into nonsensical, usually meaningless, mutual babble. So someone like Pinker ends up being some kind of enemy because he realizes the value of scientific thinking??

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