The road to perdition for the Demonized

January 12, 2022 • 10:15 am

This is something I not only see happening all the time, but also worry about it happening to myself. The phenomenon is this: someone of a liberal bent gets called out, demonized, or canceled on social media by the Woke, and is more or less blindsided because of it.  Then a series of semi-predictable steps occurs, with many stopping before the last step, which corresponds to the lowest circle of Hell.

I won’t give a lot of names, but I’ve given names of people who seem to have stopped at various levels.

1.) Person strikes back either once or not at all at those who have gone after him/her. Remains a liberal. (Example: Nick Cohen)

2.) Person continues to strike back, writing several accounts or emitting several tweets about their cancellation. Person, however, remains liberal. (Examples: J. K. Rowling, Abigail Shrier.)

3.) Person goes into more general critiques of Wokeism, more or less making their living attacking the Woke. Politics begin to move rightward (Example: Bari Weiss.)

4.) Person moves much further towards the right, becoming more or less a conservative (Example: James Lindsay, who voted for Trump, apparently as a reaction to wokeness.) This is akin to having abandoned your ideological principles in the service of revenge, but it never works because the Woke never forgive.

Now of course not everyone goes down this route, but it is a natural pathway, and to me an understandable one: it’s a way of repeatedly striking back at those who, you think, have wronged you. And there are exceptions. Although Andrew Sullivan was center-right, the follies of the Right have moved his politics toward the center. And Sullivan, who’s remarkably open-minded, seems impervious to criticism, and is willing to admit when he missteps.

As for me, I constantly worry about the excesses of the Left moving me towards the Right. (You know the old saying, “A young person who is a conservative has no heart; an old person who is a liberal has no brain.”) And I console myself by saying that I haven’t moved towards the Right; rather, I’ve stayed put while the Democrats have moved leftward. In general I think that’s true, but I always wonder whether, were I to meet my 25-year-old self and exchange political views, the younger Jerry Coyne would be upset at the views of the older one. A tweet by Colin Wright expressing my concerns is mentioned by reader Michael Hart in comment #4 below:

I’ve been a diehard Democrat my whole life, and even voted for Bernie Sanders in the primary. My liberal history when I was younger is known to readers here, but whatever political “activism” remains comes out in this website. (Granted, I spend a lot of time bashing the “Progressive Left,” but that’s because I want to save the classical liberal Left.

I may be missing steps, and am loath to give examples lest I insult people. But feel free to weigh in. Just don’t call me “alt-right” or I’ll ban your tuchas.

A piece on the Left I wish I’d written (well, at least part of it)

December 21, 2021 • 12:00 pm

This piece by Fredie deBoer on his eponymous Substack column is free, but do subscribe if you read him often. It’s an analysis of the failure of the Left to unify themselves in a way that can appeal to middle American and defeat the Republicans—things I’m on about all the time. It also answers a question I get all the time: “Why are you always bashing the Left and leaving the Right alone when the Right is clearly more dangerous to America?” Well, I don’t really neglect the Right, and I do agree about the relative dangers. But I do concentrate on the Left, and deBoer explains why better than I can.  And he pulls no punches.

Click to read:

The part I don’t wish I’d written, because I think it detracts from deBoer’s message, is that he writes a LOT about Chris Hayes—a political commentator on MSNBC—using Hayes as an exemplar of what’s gone wrong with the Left. In particular, after Trump was elected, says deBoer, Hayes got woke. This is just a short bit reflecting deBoer’s disappointment with Hayes (even though he says he admires him):

When I think of this refusal to practice introspection, I think of MSNBC host Chris Hayes. I see two great impediments to the American liberal project, and Hayes embodies both: a fixation on Trump that nears the pathological, trapping liberalism perpetually in yesterday’s war, and a studious refusal to speak plainly and critically about the way that the Democratic party has become captured by donors and staffers whose politics are not just wildly out of step with the median American but with the median Democrat. Whether for ratings or to satisfy the contemporary lie that Trump is the worst president ever – you can read Hayes’s own writing from the Bush era to understand why it’s a lie – Hayes cannot quit Donald Trump, and thus like his party cannot settle on a remotely coherent political vision. He’s trapped.

And that’s all I’ll say about Hayes, though deBoer has a lot more to say about him. I don’t think it’s wise to use Hayes as a whipping boy for Woke Democrats, simply because it detracts from deBoer’s message. Plus I don’t know squat about Chris Hayes!

I’m just going to give two long quotes by deBoer because he expresses some of my own sentiments more strongly and with more sarcasm than I could. The bold questions are mine that I think deBoer answers (indented bits):

First, why does he (and your host) concentrate on the perfidies of the Extreme Left rather than the Dangerous Right? deBoer:

Sometimes I get people asking me why I don’t write more criticism of Republicans and conservatives. I’ve made the basic point many times before: those with influence within the conservative movement are too craven or crazy for meaningful written engagement to be worth anything, and those who are interesting and honest have no influence within the conservative movement. You can engage with Ross Douthat, who’s sharp and fair but who the average conservative would call a RINO [JAC: “Republican in name only”], or you can engage with a roster of interchangeable lunatics who lie and dissemble in defense of a cruel revanchist movement. I tend to train my fire on the broad left of center because, as much as I would sometimes like to wash my hands of the whole damn lot of them, they are the half of American politics that could actually reform, that could improve. I see no positive outcome from going through Breitbart posts and pointing out the lies. But Hayes, and other liberal Democrats who grumble and groan about left on liberal criticism, seem to think that if we just keep talking about how awful Josh Hawley and the Proud Boys are, somehow these problems will all sort themselves out.

They won’t. If you’re obsessed with defeating Trumpism, you should realize that you can only do that through securing a broad multicultural coalition, and you can’t do that when you’re alienating Hispanic voters or failing to challenge people in your political orbit when they insist that white children should be taught that they’re inherently and irreversibly racist. 70% of this country is white, Hispanic voters are not remotely as left-leaning as people assumed, immigrants are far from uniformly progressive, women were never actually a liberal stronghold, and you can’t win national elections by appealing only to the kinds of people who say “Black bodies” instead of “Black people.” This is the simple point David Shor has made for over a year, and for his trouble he gets a columnist in the Nation flat-out lying about him. Imagine a political tendency where popularism – literally, the idea that you should do things that appeal to voters – is immensely controversial. Liberalism is not healthy.

And your host will add: yu don’t need me to bash Republicans because there are already a gazillion people who do it, and you can read them instead of me.  Also, I feel more compelled to address problems in my own family (Democrats) than in that bad family across the street. It’s easier to settle family squabbles than reconcile the Hatfields with the McCoys.  Finally, it distresses me that my family is riven by a thousand differences, as well as imbued with apparent ignorance of what Americans want in their democracy—both of which will help spawn Republican victories down the road. At any rate, deBoer is right: we need a multicultural coalition, and the “elites” aren’t helping with that.

Now deBoer is not in my position on the political spectrum. In his Substack bio, he describes himself this way:

I write about everything but have a few jams that I engage with consistently. I am a Marxist of an old-school variety, which means I frequently complain about liberals, social democrats, and whatever “democratic socialism” is.

Second, and finally, what does the Left need?  deBoer, though perhaps “a Marxist of an old-school variety”, says this, first quoting Democratic ex-Senator Harry Reid, who, when asked what message he wanted to leave with America, answered “I want everybody in America to understand that if Harry Reid can make it, anybody can.”

And then deBoer riffs on that:

Does that sound anything like the message American liberalism wants to deliver now? Absolutely not. Today, American liberalism wants to tell you not that America can be a place of justice and equality where we all work together for the good of all, even as we acknowledge how badly we’ve failed that ideal. In 2021 liberalism wants to tell you that the whole damn American project is toxic and ugly, that every element of the country is an excuse to perpetuate racism, that those groups of people Hayes lists at the bottom are not in any sense in it together but that instead some fall higher on an hierarchy of suffering, with those who are perceived to have it too good in that hierarchy deserving no help from liberalism or government or the Democratic party – and, oh by the way, you can be dirt poor and powerless and still be privileged, so we don’t want you, especially if you’re part of the single largest chunk of the American electorate. Anyone who tows the line [sic] Harry Reid takes here is either a bigot or a sap, and politics is a zero-sum game where marginalized groups can only get ahead if others suffer, and Democrats fight to control a filthy, ugly, fallen country that will forever be defined by its sins. That’s the liberalism of 2021, a movement of unrelenting pessimism, obscure vocabulary, elitist tastes, and cultural and social extremism totally divorced from a vision of shared prosperity and a working class movement that comes together across difference for the good of all. In fact, I think I learned in my sociology class at Dartmouth that a working class movement would inherently center white pain! Better to remain divided into perpetually warring fiefdoms of grievance that can accomplish nothing. Purer that way. Now here’s Chris with part 479 of his January 6th series, to show us the country’s biggest problems.

Conservatives run roughshod over the country, and liberals are powerless to stop them, because liberalism has been colonized by a bizarre set of fringe cultural ideas about race and gender which they express in abstruse and alienating vocabulary at every turn. If anyone complains, liberals call them racist or sexist or transphobic, even when those complaining are saying that we can fight racism and sexism and transphobia more effectively by stressing shared humanity and the common good. Republicans tell the American people batshit conspiracy theories about communists teaching Yakub theory in kindergarten; Democrats fight back by making PowerPoint slides about why resegregating public schools is intersectional. We have reactionary insanity that expresses itself in plain, brute language and an opposition that insists that most voters don’t actually have any real problems, using a vocabulary that should never have escaped the conference rooms of whatever nonprofit hell it crawled out of. I cannot imagine a more obvious mismatch, the gleeful conspiracist bloodletting of the right against the sneering disdain and incomprehensible jargon of the left. I wonder who’ll win politically, an army of racist car dealership owners who have already taken over vast swaths of America’s state and local governments, keening for blood and soil? Or the guy in your anthropology seminar who insisted they were the voice of social justice while simultaneously making every conversation all about them?

This is all humorous and snarky, but also rings true. (I suppose deBoer’s Marxism is reflected in his concentration of class instead of race.) Be that as it may, the next time someone asks me why I bash the Left more often than the Right, I’ll just send them this post.


Note to deBoer: it’s “toes the line,” not “tows the line.” And it’s a “vise grip” not a “vice grip.”


h/t: Steve

Why are Biden’s ratings so low?

November 28, 2021 • 1:00 pm

Like many of you (perhaps), I’m wondering why Joe Biden’s approval ratings are so low—43% as of November 24—given that his infrastructure bill has passed and he appears to have brokered a deal to get the Build Back Better bill passed as well. Yes, there were hiccups: we still have problems at the border, there’s inflation, and the Afghanistan withdrawal wasn’t very tidy. But Biden’s left-centrist agenda is doing quite well. So why the disapproval? A new piece by the liberal writer Jonathan Chait at New York Magazine has a thoughtful (and long) take on the issue. Click on the screenshot to read:

The upshot is at the beginning:

But the truth is that Biden’s presidency began to disintegrate without his abandoning the center at all. He found himself trapped instead between a well-funded left wing that has poisoned the party’s image with many of its former supporters and centrists unable to conceive of their job in any terms save as valets for the business elite. Biden’s party has not veered too far left or too far right so much as it has simply come apart.

. . . The split within the Democratic Party runs along educational lines. The party’s college-educated cadre holds more liberal views and is increasingly estranged from its working-class counterparts. Those non-college-educated voters are disproportionately Latino and Black, but their worldview bears similarities to that of the white working-class voters who have left the party. The college-educated wing might have claimed power in the name of minority voters, but in reality it has started to drive them away.

Yes, Chait thinks that Biden is the unfortunate but innocent victim of a war within the Democratic Party.  On one side is the Left and the intellectuals, fervently backing causes (open borders, defunding police, etc.) that aren’t popular with Middle America and non-college-educated folks.  And the “progressive Left” doesn’t seem to grasp that minorities like blacks and Hispanics are more conservative than everyone imagines. The Right, of course, tries to label all Democrats as wokies like AOC and Elizabeth Warren, and they’ve done pretty well at that game. There is seemingly no end to the performative craziness that characterizes the extreme Left.

On the other side are the centrists, whom you’d think would ally with Biden. But they’re fueled, says Chait, by Big Business, which is pumping money and ideas into the centrist moiety of the party in a way that actually stalls Biden’s agenda (think Manchin, Sinema, and their allies in the House). In the meantime, the Democratic Party circles the drain as the internecine squabbling continues, ignoring the main concerns of Americans.

Here are a few quotes from an article well worth reading. There are many more examples in each area, so have a look at NY Magazine. I’ve tried to summarize the argument under a few subheadings. Quotes from Chait are indented.

What Americans want. 

One recent poll asked voters to identify the features of the Build Back Better plan that most appealed to them. The top five were, in order, adding dental and vision benefits to Medicare, home health care for the elderly and disabled, letting Medicare negotiate prescription-drug prices, Medicare coverage for hearing, and free community college. Democratic centrists in the Senate eliminated three of them from the bill completely and gutted a fourth. “Bizarrely,” observed Democratic pollster William Jordan in September, “the parts of Biden’s agenda that are most popular seem to be most at risk right now.”

The centrists did not, for the most part, object to the spending. What they ruled out was the policies Biden had come up with to pay for the spending. Most of the money would come from tax hikes on corporations and people earning more than $400,000 a year, cracking down on tax cheats, and letting Medicare negotiate what it pays for pharmaceuticals, which cost Americans more than twice as much as in peer countries. All those measures actually made the popular spending plans even more popular. Raising taxes on the rich commands near two-to-one support. And pollsters have said negotiating drug costs is literally the most popular idea they have ever tested.

What Americans don’t want. 

During the 2020 primary campaign, progressive commentators were writing columns on a near-daily basis insisting that none of this could hurt the party. Swing voters barely existed, left-wing policies were all popular, mobilizing the base mattered far more than appealing to moderates, and electability was just an empty buzzword used by a failed Establishment to fend off popular changes. For a while, these arguments carried the day as the leading Democratic candidates kept racing one another to endorse ideas that polled catastrophically: decriminalizing illegal border crossings (27 percent approval versus 66 percent disapproval), abolishing private health insurance (37 versus 58), and providing government health insurance for people who immigrated illegally (38 versus 59).

. . .The grim irony is that, in attempting to court non-white voters, Democrats ended up turning them off. It was not only that they got the data wrong — they were also courting these “marginalized communities” in ways that didn’t appeal to them. For the reality is that the Democratic Party’s most moderate voters are disproportionately Latino and Black.

In 2020, even as Biden improved on Clinton’s performance among white voters, Black support for Trump rose by three percentage points from four years before, and Latino support rose eight points. The California recall election and Virginia governor’s race this year both showed at least some evidence that Latino voters are continuing to slip away from Democrats. The 2021 New York mayoral election was marked by heavily Asian American neighborhoods flipping Republican.

Confounding the liberal assumption that immigrant communities demand more lenient border policies, many signs suggest the swing is a result of their wanting stricter enforcement. Some of Trump’s largest gains came in Mexican American precincts in Texas; Biden’s approval rating among Hispanic Texans stood at 37 percent in late September, with just 26 percent approving of his handling of the border. Their dismay was not that Biden has deported too many immigrants; by a 20-point margin, they registered their support for deporting Haitian refugees.

How the Left screwed up. 

There was never a world in which a concept supported by less than 20 percent of the public [“defunding the police”] was going to emerge victorious.

Yet activist groups of all stripes rushed to join the defund movement, including Planned Parenthood, the ACLU, and dozens of climate groups. Those endorsements have continued to blow back in the faces of Democrats. Virginia Republicans in this year’s election learned they could attack any Democrats receiving endorsements from these groups as gaining support from “pro-defund” organizations, and one Democrat declined an endorsement from NARAL, an abortion-rights group, in order to avoid being linked to police defunding.

Elizabeth’s Warren’s campaign exemplifies the toxicity of Wokeism. (Warren was at one time my go-to Democratic candidate.)

Elizabeth Warren’s presidential campaign in 2020 may offer the single most instructive example of the distorting effects of the progressive-activist complex. Warren began her presidential candidacy with some liabilities — most obviously, she was a woman running after an election many Democrats believed they had lost because of sexism — but also many strengths. She had earned a reputation as a hard-nosed champion of economic reform. Her platform was simultaneously aggressive yet broadly acceptable within the party.

Over the course of her campaign, though, Warren found herself both racing to outflank Sanders to her left and unable to expand her base beyond college-educated liberals. Persist, Warren’s campaign memoir, chronicles her dogged and largely successful efforts to win the approval of political activists. She proudly notes that a 2015 address at the Edward M. Kennedy Institute in Boston was called “the speech that Black Lives Matter activists had been waiting for” by the Washington Post. At another speech in 2018, she declared, “The hard truth about our criminal-justice system: It’s racist … front to back.”

The book quotes an activist’s tweet approving of her criminal-justice plan, her well-received appearance at the “She the People” forum, her endorsement by Black Womxn For. At no point, however, does she show any sign of grasping the disconnect between the preferences of progressive activists and those of minority voters. Indeed, as Warren’s campaign went on, her strategy devolved into issuing more (and more left-wing) policy promises, lining up more activist groups, getting more positive tweets.

The progressive-foundation complex was designed to lift up a candidate like Warren. Instead, it swallowed her in a trap, luring her deeper and deeper into a worldview increasingly alien to the voters she needed to win.

How the Left-centrists screwed up.  This is the part that I find the least convincing, but it is true that those who consider themselves centrists include those blocking the Build Back Better bill.

“We can’t go too far left,” warned Joe Manchin. “This is not a center-left or a left country. We are a center — if anything, a little center-right — country; that’s being shown, and we ought to be able to recognize that.”

The news media, after years of covering the party’s sharp left turn, were primed to accept this interpretation. “Tonight really empowers Manchin and [Kyrsten] Sinema,” a Democratic strategist told Politico. “Joe Manchin’s wing of the Democratic Party will seem much more crowded today,” observed the congressional tip sheet Punchbowl News.

But this seemingly intuitive response had its diagnosis backward. Rather than helping to correct the Democrats’ problems with the electorate, ManchinSinema, and their centrist House allies have compounded them. The story of Biden’s domestic agenda is that it was crippled by a small but crucial faction of Democrats who came to be persuaded by the C-suite view of the world. And all the while, those Democrats persuaded themselves that they were the authentic voices of the people.

The effect of the lobbyists on the center.

It was not quite as simple as wealthy people showing up in Washington with suitcases full of cash. But in some cases, at least, it wasn’t that far from the truth. Former North Dakota Democratic senator Heidi Heitkamp was lobbying against changes to a notorious tax loophole permitting capital gains to escape taxation if the owners passed it on to their children — a loophole she had not long before called “one of the biggest scams in the history of forever.” Former Arkansas Democratic senator Blanche Lincoln, who had once campaigned on a promise to allow Medicare to negotiate drug prices, was lobbying against it on behalf of Big Pharma. And former Montana senator Max Baucus was writing op-eds arguing against various tax hikes for the rich while refusing to tell reporters who was paying for his consulting business.

. . .Over the summer and fall, item after item in the Biden agenda was suddenly plagued by a handful of Democrats expressing quiet doubts. Many of these doubts seemed new. When Sinema ran for Senate in 2018, she made reducing prescription-drug prices a core promise. And yet by 2021, she had turned sharply against her previous position.

The most spectacular success of this lobbying campaign was not merely that it persuaded a crucial faction of Democrats to ignore both the voters and their own policy wonks to side with organized business interests. It was that they managed to coat an agenda that was in its specifics as electorally toxic as defunding the police with the pleasant sheen of “centrism.”

. . . The independent variable here is not Biden moving to the left; it is congressional centrists counterposing themselves against Biden in a way that makes them look more centrist but also makes Biden look simultaneously more left wing and less effective.

What Biden wants to do, but is stymied. 

Biden’s legislative strategy has closely hewed to Shorist principles. Biden has tried to keep the political conversation framed as closely as possible around issues in which he and his party have an advantage: handling the pandemic and rebuilding the economy. His economic program has carefully avoided any controversial social debates and focused on a highly popular combination of raising taxes on the ultra-wealthy and redistributing the proceeds to the working and middle class through programs like universal access to child care, community college, and a child tax credit.

. . . In one sense, the strategy has worked perfectly. Biden’s program has avoided generating the kind of angry public backlash that rose up against Obama (and Bill Clinton before him). Indeed, Biden’s agenda has proved so uncontroversial that Republicans have barely roused themselves to denounce it at all, instead focusing on whatever culture-war chum floats across Fox News, from Dr. Seuss to COVID-vaccine mandates. Even the expected grumbling from progressives has largely failed to materialize because the agenda included an ambitious list of progressive economic priorities that no less a left-wing eminence than Sanders described as “the most consequential piece of legislation for working families since the 1930s.” Democratic pollster Sean McElwee told CNN he detected no divide between liberal and centrist Democratic voters, all of whom supported Biden’s program.

. . . The dream of a Rooseveltian presidency was always grandiose, not least because Biden lacks FDR’s giant majorities in Congress. Yet it was a sensible ambition in its form. Biden’s goal was to demonstrate the concrete benefits of good government and, in so doing, to disprove the cynical Trumpian claim that Washington was merely controlled by wealthy elites. The Democrats can still come through on that promise, if they can prevent the left wing and plutocratic center from pulling the party apart. But time is running out, and Trump is waiting.

It all makes sense, but of course this is all post hoc analysis of why Biden isn’t polling well. It may well be right, but the only way of testing it is to get rid of the Biden-impeding factors (which is impossible), and see if his numbers rise. I suspect that if the pandemic continues waning, and the Build Back Better plan passes with the bits that Americans actually want, then Biden will become more popular. But the border issue will remain, as will the “progressive” left, wedded to principles that won’t fly with the main body of the Left.

And Trump is waiting in the wings. . .

The coalescence of the American Right: a view from David Brooks

November 23, 2021 • 1:30 pm

I didn’t know that, alongside his gig as a columnist at the New York Times, David Brooks is a contributing writer to The Atlantic. And five days ago he wrote a long column about his visit to the National Conservative Conference in Orlando, Florida (NCC; click on screenshot below). As a centrist-rightist who hates Trump, Brooks feared he’d be expelled or ostracized from the meeting. Instead, he was treated politely. What happened was that the meeting scared the bejeezus out of him as he realized how the right is coalescing around a central narrative—one that could propel Trump back to the White House.

According to Brooks, the new Republicanism fuses hatred of the “elites” (which means all Democrats, centrists, and the media), who are said to control everything, with espousal of a working-class populism that sees the average Joe and Jill as victims.  Into that toxic mess they toss a large dollop of religion, for this movement sees religion not only as important for their goals and the “salvation” of America, but essential.  Finally, the conservatives at this meeting feel that they must regain power by starting at the state level.

Here are the three themes of this gemisch and their adherents. I note to my dismay that Glenn Loury is calling himself a conservative again. My emphasis:

The movement has three distinctive strains. First, the people over 50 who have been hanging around conservative circles for decades but who have recently been radicalized by the current left. Chris Demuth, 75, was for many years president of the American Enterprise Institute, which used to be the Church of England of American conservatism, but now he’s gone populist. “NatCons are conservatives who have been mugged by reality,” he told the conference. Seventy-three-year-old Glenn Loury, a Brown University economist, was a conservative, then a progressive, and now he’s back on the right: “What has happened to public discourse about race has radicalized me.

The second strain is made up of mid-career politicians and operatives who are learning to adapt to the age of populist rage: people like Ted Cruz (Princeton, Harvard), J. D. Vance (Yale Law), and Josh Hawley (Stanford and Yale).

The third and largest strain is the young. They grew up in the era of Facebook and MSNBC and identity politics. They went to colleges smothered by progressive sermonizing. And they reacted by running in the other direction. I disagreed with two-thirds of what I heard at this conference, but I couldn’t quite suppress the disturbing voice in my head saying, “If you were 22, maybe you’d be here too.”

What has driven Loury back to the Right along with the young? Wokeness.  Still, Loury quacked like a liberal at the NCC:

Some of the speakers at the conference were in fact classical liberals, who believe in free speech, intellectual debate, and neutral government. Glenn Loury gave an impassioned speech against cancel culture, the illiberal left, and the hyper-racialized group consciousness that divides people into opposing racial camps. Loury asserted that as a Black man he is the proud inheritor of the great Western tradition: “Tolstoy is mine! Dickens is mine! Milton, Marx, and Einstein are mine!” He declared that his people are Black, but also proudly American. “Our Americanness is much more important than our Blackness,” he said, before adding, “We must strive to transcend racial particularism and stress universality and commonality as Americans.” This is the classical-liberal case against racial separatism and in favor of integration.

And then the characterization of the Left as elitists who must be overthrown at the state level:

The idea that the left controls absolutely everything—from your smartphone to the money supply to your third grader’s curriculum—explains the apocalyptic tone that was the dominating emotional register of this conference. The politicians’ speeches were like entries in the catastrophism Olympics:

“The left’s ambition is to create a world beyond belonging,” said [Josh[ Hawley. “Their grand ambition is to deconstruct the United States of America.”

. . .Conservatives have got the culture-war act down. Trump was a culture-war president with almost no policy arm attached. The question conservatives at the conference were asking was how to move beyond owning the libs to effecting actual change.

Christopher Rufo, the architect of this year’s school-board-meeting protests against critical race theory, argued that conservatives had erred when they tried to slowly gain power in elite cultural institutions. Conservatives were never going to make headway in the Ivy League or the corporate media. Instead, Rufo argued, they should rally the masses to get state legislatures to pass laws embracing their values. That’s essentially what’s now happening across red America.

My old friend Rod Dreher of The American Conservative argued that because the left controls the commanding heights of the culture and the economy, the only institution the right has a shot at influencing is the state. In these circumstances the right has to use state power to promote its values. “We need to quit being satisfied with owning the libs, and save our country,” Dreher said. “We need to unapologetically embrace the use of state power.”

The importance of religion:

Yoram Hazony, the chief intellectual architect of national conservatism, is an Orthodox Jew who went to Princeton before moving to Israel. He argues that you can’t have a society that embraces government neutrality and tries to relegate values to the private sphere. The public realm eventually eviscerates private values, especially when public communication is controlled by a small oligarchic elite. If conservatives want to stand up to the pseudo-religion of wokeism, they have to put traditional religion at the center of their political project.

Another Israeli political philosopher at the conference, Ofir Haivry, argued that Americans shouldn’t delude themselves into thinking that a nation is built out of high-minded liberal abstractions, like the Bill of Rights. A nation is, instead, a cultural tradition, a common language, a set of rituals and beliefs, and a religious order—a collective cultural identity.

But is that collective identity going to be Jewish or Christian? For make no mistake about it, conservatives see America as a Christian nation, not an Abrahamic or Judeo-Christian one. They’ll come for the Jews after they take care of the Left.

For his part, Hazony argued that the American cultural identity is Christian—and has to be if it is not going to succumb to the woke onslaught. If 80 percent of Americans are Christian, Hazony reasoned, then Christian values should dominate. “Majority cultures have the right to establish the ruling culture, and minority cultures have the right to be decently treated,” he said. “To take the minority view and say the minority has the ability to stamp out the views of the majority—that seems to me to be completely crazy.”

I’m not a sophisticated enough thinker to parse the Right this way, and I didn’t go to that conference. But to Brooks, this neo-populism is not only growing, but a severe danger to America:

Over the past few decades there have been various efforts to replace the Reagan Paradigm: the national-greatness conservatism of John McCain; the compassionate conservatism of George W. Bush; the Reformicon conservatism of the D.C. think tanks in the 21st century. But the Trumpian onslaught succeeded where these movements have so far fizzled because Trump understood better than they did the coalescence of the new American cultural/corporate elite and the potency of populist anger against it. Thus the display of Ivy League populism I witnessed in Orlando might well represent the alarming future of the American right: the fusing of the culture war and the class war into one epic Marxist Götterdämmerung.

It’s a long piece, but we should all be sussing out the Right to better anticipate and combat their inevitable striking out in the 2022 and 2024 elections. Brooks’s piece is free, so go read it.

Andrew Sullivan on the election and CRT

November 6, 2021 • 11:45 am

It seems that much of the gubernatorial election in Virginia turned on the issue of Critical Race Theory (CRT) being taught in schools. Youngkin denounced it while McAuliffe deprecated parents’ “rights” to have a say in their kids’ schooling.  After McAuliffe’s loss, upset Democrats accused the Republicans of “dog whistling”: using CRT as a cover for their racism and white supremacy.  In this week’s main article on Andrew Sullivan’s website, he notes that this criticism may have held a wee bit of truth, but in general was wrong.  His thesis:

What has happened this past week, I suspect, is that the woke revolution has finally met its match: educated parents. People can tolerate sitting through compulsory “social justice” seminars, struggle sessions, pronoun rituals, and the rest as adults, if they have to as a condition of employment. But when they see this ideology being foisted on their children as young as six, they draw a line.

I believe you can read his piece for free by clicking on the screenshot below.  But again, I urge you to subscribe if you read him frequently.

The one bit of Sullivan’s column I disagree with is the almost palpable joy with which he greets Youngkin’s victory.  Who can be happy that a Republican, particularly one who may have a covert agenda that may jibe with many Republican stands? But you could argue as well that this is a necessary wake-up call for the Democrats to reorganize, listen to the electorate, and thereby promote future victories. Only a major loss—or, in this case, the repudiation of several Woke initiatives throughout the U.S., could do that.

Dems have also argued that CRT was not being taught in Virginia schools. Well, not in the academic form, but Sullivan dispels that with some data. I’m giving a long excerpt here, for it contains links you can consult. Emphasis below is mine:

Look at recent polling. A big survey from the Manhattan Institute of the 20 biggest metropolitan areas found that the public, 54-29, wants to remove CRT concepts such as “white privilege” or “systemic racism” from K-12 education. That includes black parents by a margin of 54-38. And that’s in big cities. A new Harris poll asked, “Do you think the schools should promote the idea that people are victims and oppressors based on their race or should they teach children to ignore race in all decisions to judge people by their character?” Americans favored the latter 63-37.

And when the Democrats and the mainstream media insist that CRT is not being taught in high schools, they’re being way too cute. Of course K-12 kids in Virginia’s public schools are not explicitly reading the collected works of Derrick Bell or Richard Delgado — no more than Catholic school kids in third grade are studying critiques of Aquinas. But they are being taught in a school system now thoroughly committed to the ideology and worldview of CRT, by teachers who have been marinated in it, and whose unions have championed it.

And in Virginia, this is very much the case. The state’s Department of Education embraced CRT in 2015, arguing for the need to “re-engineer attitudes and belief systems” in education. In 2019, the department sent out a memo that explicitly endorsed critical race and queer theory as essential tools for teaching high school. Check out the VA DOE’s “Road Map to Equity,” where it argues that “courageous conversation” on “social justice, systemic inequity, disparate student outcomes and racism in our school communities is our responsibility and professional obligation. Now is the time to double down on equity strategies.” (My itals.) Check out the Youtube site for Virginia’s virtual 2020 summit on equity in education, where Governor Northam endorsed “antiracist school communities,” using Kendi’s language.

Matt Taibbi found Virginia voters miffed by “the existence of a closed Facebook group — the ‘Anti-Racist Parents of Loudoun County’ — that contains six school board members and apparently compiled a list of parents deemed insufficiently supportive of ‘racial equity efforts.’” He found Indian and South Asian parents worried about the abolition of testing standards, as well they might be. And at school board meetings, in a fraught Covid era of kids-at-home, parents have been treated with, at best, condescension; and at worst, contempt. Remember how the National School Boards Association wanted the feds to designate some protests from these angry parents as “a form of domestic terrorism and hate crimes” — and then withdrew that request?

The argument continues in the piece, but I’ve given the gist. So long as teachers and schools are pushing stuff that divides the children, so long as they repudiate Dr. King’s emphasis on character rather than color, then for that long the Democrats will continue to lose. Every time a kid comes home saying that she’s learned she’s bad because she’s white, the Democrats let a vote slip away.  As Sullivan says:

. . .  if the culture war is fought explicitly on the terms laid out by the Kendi left and the Youngkin right, and the culture war is what determines political outcomes, then the GOP will always win.

Nobody here, least of all me, claims that we should soft-pedal America’s history taught in full honesty: not only its glories but its abysmal failures, including its racism and the genocide of Native Americans. The textbooks and history lesson do need to be honest. But this is America, the “gumbo of diverse ingredients” that Carville describes, and in the end kids need to see it as it is—and was.  What should be taught are the facts, leaving out the ideology of CRT.

At the end Sullivan embraces the “Youngkin version of Republicanism”, saying that “he hopes it lasts.” I don’t, for I think Youngkin, while savvy about parents and schools, has a raft of Republican horrors up his sleeve. Get set for Virginia to pass a Texas-style anti-abortion bill.

The NYT gets a reality check from the elections

November 6, 2021 • 10:15 am

I haven’t yet heard a single political pundit deny that the Democrat’s “cultural agenda” hurt them badly in Tuesday’s elections. And now the Paper of Record has hustled over to the right side of history, which is a bit further Right than it was before.

Greg Mayer sent me this link yesterday with the email header, “NYT editorial board shifts sharply to center; the real left doesn’t like the fake-left progressives.” And ’tis true! It appears that the paper’s editorial stance changed radically with the elections. This alone shows that the paper hasn’t been in touch with political reality for years. But I still don’t trust them.

Click screenshot to read, and note that this is the opinion of the Editorial Board, not an individual, which gives it considerable heft as the paper’s stand.

Read for yourself, but I’ll give a few quotes:

Tuesday’s election result trend lines were a political nightmare for the Democratic Party, and no Democrat who cares about winning elections in 2022 and the presidential race in 2024 should see them as anything less.

Familiar takeaways like “wake-up call” and “warning shot” don’t do justice here because the danger of ignoring those trends is too great. What would do justice, and what is badly needed, is an honest conversation in the Democratic Party about how to return to the moderate policies and values that fueled the blue-wave victories in 2018 and won Joe Biden the presidency in 2020.

Given the stakes for the country, from urgent climate and social spending needs to the future of democracy, Americans badly need a rolling conversation today and in the coming weeks and months about how moderate voters of all affiliations can coalesce behind and guide the only party right now that shows an interest in governing and preserving democratic norms.

I don’t think the Squad is going to like this “coalition” business. But, as James Carville keeps saying, it’s what the Democrats need to do. In fact, I think the slogan below was Carville’s:

Bill Clinton’s mantra from 1992 of “it’s the economy, stupid” is rarely out of vogue, and it certainly isn’t now. But Democrats, looking left on so many priorities and so much messaging, have lost sight of what can unite the largest number of Americans. A national Democratic Party that talks up progressive policies at the expense of bipartisan ideas, and that dwells on Donald Trump at the expense of forward-looking ideas, is at risk of becoming a marginal Democratic Party appealing only to the left.

Yes, and a slice of elite Americana who truly lost sight of what can unite Americans is the fricking New York Times!

Finally, the paper dispels what may be two misconceptions about the election. First, that the passage of Biden’s two huge spending bills will make things right for our party:

Many in the president’s party point to Tuesday as proof that congressional Democrats need to stop their left-center squabbling and clock some legislative wins ASAP by passing both the bipartisan infrastructure bill and a robust version of the Build Back Better plan, the larger social spending and environmental proposal. They believe this will give their candidates concrete achievements to run on next year and help re-energize their base.

But Tuesday’s results are a sign that significant parts of the electorate are feeling leery of a sharp leftward push in the party, including on priorities like Build Back Better, which have some strong provisions and some discretionary ones driving up the price tag. The concerns of more centrist Americans about a rush to spend taxpayer money, a rush to grow the government, should not be dismissed.

The second is related to the first, involving the liberal media’s constant bashing of Manchin and Sinema:

Democrats should work to implement policies to help the American people. Congress should focus on what is possible, not what would be possible if Joe Manchin, Kyrsten Sinema and — frankly — a host of lesser-known Democratic moderates who haven’t had to vote on policies they might oppose were not in office.

Democrats agree about far more than they disagree about. But it doesn’t look that way to voters after months and months of intraparty squabbling. Time to focus on — and pass — policies with broad support. Or risk getting run out of office.

Well, I suppose the NYT could use as its excuse for its past editorial adherence to the Woke Democratic Platform something like this: “How did we know that Middle America embraces the middle of the political spectrum? After all, all our editors, writers, and editorial columnists said otherwise.”  That won’t wash, though, because it’s the business of a paper like the NYT to take the ideological temperature of America. What happened is that the extremists had the loudest voices on both sides. But, as surveys have shown repeatedly, people have been cowed from expressing centrist or contrarian political opinions in public, especially if these folks are on the liberal side but not especially woke. So this time they spoke with their ballots instead of their voices.

You can see the NYT editorial board, which approves of this piece, here. Note that woke editor Dean “Spineless” Baquet, responsible for the paper’s “faculty lounge” atmosphere, is not included on the board.

Is Wokeness moving Brits to the right?

November 5, 2021 • 10:45 am

. . . or so claims Allison Pearson in her Torygraph column below (click on screenshot). Granted, the paper leans right and, according to Pearson’s biography, so does she. But right-wing Americans warned us long before Tuesday’s elections that Wokery was playing into their hands, especially through the nature of their campaigns (viz., Youngkin in Virginia). It behooves us to pay attention.

And so we have the Tory version of James Carville, telling us about a British backlash against wokeness, which of course is just as prevalent in that country as in the U.S.

Pearson recounts several instances of people withholding donations from places like Oxford, Imperial College, and the University of Edinburgh as a way of expressing disapproval of cancellation campaigns. Some of this apparently works; Pearson notes that when Oxford was considering taking down the bust of Cecil Rhodes, charitable donations “collapsed”. As Pearson notes, ” Former students, who thought that a college dating back to 1326 should have the guts to stand up for its history, disinherited Oriel. Rhodes wobbled, but he did not fall. Instead, the college established new scholarships for African students using his fortune to enhance the future, not obliterate the past.

Just two notes, as you can read her piece for yourself—it’s free. Pearson addresses the opprobrium descending on the University of Edinburgh when it renamed Hume Tower:

Dozens of donors have cancelled financial gifts to the University of Edinburgh since it renamed the David Hume Tower over the philosopher’s comments on race more than 250 years ago. The presiding genius of the Scottish Enlightenment, Hume held views which now look either radical and laudably ahead of their time or discordantly ugly. An opponent of slavery, he helped his patron Lord Hertford buy a slave plantation. Guess what, human beings were as complicated and flawed back then as they are now. Edinburgh said it had to act to protect student “sensitivities”. Many alumni disagree. “Hume was cancelled in life by the Scottish universities for failing to fall in line with the religious tenets of his day,” wrote one, “so I admire him in death for having the same effect on the grandees of this new [woke] religion.”

Renaming Hume Tower is a supreme act of stupidity.

And, as I reported before, both Imperial College and Western Washington University are in the process of cancelling the great biologist and educator Thomas Henry Huxley (see here and here).  That’s absolutely unconscionable if you know Huxley’s history (see Nick Matzke’s piece here). Pearson gives a quote that shows that, at least in one area, his thinking was well ahead of his time):

I suspect that graduates of Imperial College London will have a similar reaction on hearing that a building named after Thomas Henry Huxley, the great biologist and anthropologist who determined that birds descended from dinosaurs, is set to be renamed. A report by the university’s chillingly named “independent history group” has recommended that the name Huxley be excised because of his beliefs about human intelligence. The group cites Huxley’s essay of 1865, “Emancipation — Black and White”, which it says “espouses a racial hierarchy of intelligence, a belief system of ‘scientific racism’, legacies of which are still felt today”.

You have to hand it to old Huxley. He cunningly hid his racism by being a leading voice in the movement for the abolition of slavery. Yes, some of his observations make us recoil today. But, yesterday, I looked up that self-same “offensive” essay, and here is a very different sort of paragraph: “We find girls naturally timid, prone to dependence, born conservatives; and we teach them that independence is unladylike; that blind faith is the right frame of mind; and that whatever we may be permitted, and indeed encouraged, to do to our brother, our sister is to be left to the tyranny of authority and tradition. With few insignificant exceptions, girls have been educated either to be drudges, or toys, beneath man, or a sort of angels above him… The possibility that the ideal of womanhood lies neither in the fair saint, nor in the fair sinner; that the female type of character is neither better nor worse than the male; that women are meant neither to be men’s guides nor their playthings, but their comrades, their fellows and their equals, so far as nature puts no bar to that equality, does not seem to have entered into the minds of those who have had the conduct of the education of girls.”

Over 150 years later, I feel almost tearful with gratitude coming across an establishment figure like Thomas Henry Huxley making the case, with such fierce logic and unrepentant eloquence, for my sex to receive the same education as the male. Do you think the Imperial College London’s independent history group weigh Huxley’s remarkable early feminism in its judgment to strip his name from a beloved building?

Of course not. The Inquisition seeks villains to burn retrospectively at the stake not human beings with the full complement of vices and virtues. They should christen Imperial’s Huxley building the Pol Pot Year Zero building, in memory of the cultural vandals who took him down, and be done with it. Come to that, how long will the college be allowed to call itself Imperial? Bit insensitive, isn’t it?

Now that is good writing, and appropriately snarky.

Pearson is warning about the effect of Wokeness on financial support of Universities, but this could hold for politics, too. Right now the UK has a Tory prime minister whom I don’t like at all, but if UK Wokeness keeps up, the Tories may continue to reign.  Here’s her ending:

The self-righteous young mob thinks it can get universities to grovel with the threat of being cancelled. My generation is learning to beat them at that game: we just cancel the direct debit.

And it could work with votes and politics as well.

h/t: Paul

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.

Republic Youngkin wins governorship of Virginia; country is doomed

November 3, 2021 • 5:45 am

This race was neck and neck to the bitter end—and the end is bitter. Republican candidate Glenn Youngkin defeated Democrat Terry McAuliffe in the Virginia gubernatorial race. Youngkin is a businessman with no political experience, but that didn’t matter: he leveraged Trump’s (lukewarm) support as well as issues around school “wokeness” to unify the G.O.P. Although the votes haven’t all been counted yet—that would be on Friday—the AP was confident enough of Youngkin’s margin that it called the election for him only a few hours after the polls closed yesterday.

Here are the figures from CBS News as of 5:30 a.m.

In case you can’t do subtraction, Youngkin won by 2.2%.  This is especially disheartening because Virginia has been a reliably blue state for a decade, and was getting more so. Now we’re back to square one.

More bad news (at least temporarily) from New Jersey: the incumbent governor, Democrat Gov. Philip D. Murphy, who was predicted to win handily, is in a too-close-to-call race against his Republican opponent Republican Jack Ciattarelli. And there are a million more Democrats than Republicans registered in that state! But there’s still hope. Here are the NJ votes, also from CBS:

The good news:  Democrat Michelle Wu became mayor of Boston, the first Asian-American and first woman to hold that post, and in New York City Democrat Eric Adams became the mayor, heavily supported by the black and Hispanic community.

But all this shows not only the polarization of America, but the slipping hold that out-of-touch Democrats have on the populace, something that many people have warned about in recent weeks. What is going on? Biden isn’t doing that poorly, despite his low approval ratings, and I’m confident that his two big bills, which will benefit working people, will pass.

I’m not a pundit, but there’s a clue in these two excerpts from the CBS report:

Exit polls indicated that just over half of voters said parents should have “a lot” of say in what is taught in their child’s school. In the final weeks of the campaign, Youngkin capitalized on McAuliffe’s response during a debate on whether parents should be able to opt their children out of reading certain books if they disapprove of the content. “I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach,” McAuliffe said. Youngkin quoted McAuliffe repeatedly on the campaign trail and in ads. It resonated with Youngkin’s supporters  — 8 in 10 think they should have “a lot” of say in their children’s schooling. Only a quarter of McAuliffe voters agreed. Pre-election polls found this issue energized many Republicans. Slightly more Youngkin voters selected education as their top issue, compared to McAuliffe backers.

. . . In Minneapolis, voters rejected a ballot measure that would have dismantled the police department and created a new Department of Public Safety. In the city’s mayoral race, embattled incumbent Jacob Frey led in the first round of ranked-choice voting, according to the Minnesota Secretary of State’s office.

. . . In Buffalo, incumbent Mayor Byron Brown, who lost the Democratic primary to Democratic Socialist India Walton, ran a write-in campaign against Walton. A poll last week by CBS Buffalo affiliate WIVB had Brown leading by 17 points, and he appeared to be leading by 10,000 votes as of Tuesday night, according to WIVB.

A writ- in Democratic is beating the official Democratic candidate! Crikey!

The conclusions, as James Carville and Andrew Sullivan (and many others) have been telling us: the Democrats are out of touch with mainstream Americans, and the party’s movement toward the “progressive” Left—with its attendant crazy wokeness—has turned off the average Joe and Jane. This is just my guess, and of course it plays into my own prognostications, which is why I favor this explanation. But there are certainly many reasons the Republicans did so well.

But one thing is for sure: this should make us plenty worried about the return of Trump in 2024, as well as the midterm elections next year.If Democrats don’t learn a lesson from this, if they don’t stop the progressive craziness, if they don’t do something about immigration, then we liberals will be screwed, with all three branches of government in Republican hands.

My solution: make James Carville the chief strategist of the Democratic Party. He knows how to deal with the wokeness that’s causing our downfall.

To cheer yourself up, listen to Michelle Wu’s victory speech in Boston (13 minutes):