The Death of the Liberal

Political correctness is what happens when reason dies.

A recent poll found that 51 percent of Democrats supported criminalizing hate speech. It also found that the same number of self-described liberals supported its criminalization.

Liberal self-identification has hit its highest mark in decades while the ranks of the moderates have declined. And while the idea that the liberal and the moderate are opposites may be a troubling one to those who still think of liberalism in classical terms, the modern liberal is really a leftist in denial.

When William Voegeli writes in the Claremont Review about the crisis of political correctness, it is about a clash between liberals and leftists that no longer really exists. The liberal backs the same censorship agenda as the leftists that Voegeli discusses.

And under his control, the Democratic Party has signed on the dirty dotted line.

When a majority of self-described liberals support abrogating the First Amendment, then the term has no real meaning. It certainly no longer represents, what Jonathan Chait, a self-described liberal who wrote a critique of political correctness, described as, “A classic Enlightenment political tradition that cherishes individuals rights [sic], freedom of expression.”

Even the complaints about political correctness from those like Chait have less to do with universal principles than with white leftists defending their positions against the racial attacks of identity politics. Or as Chait says of political correctness, “Its most frequent victims turn out to be liberals themselves.”

There isn’t a conflict between liberals and leftists over political correctness. Instead there’s a conflict between older white establishment leftists and younger minority social justice activists over their relative power and positions within the left. This conflict is being fought using the rules of identity politics which are deliberately structured to delegitimize and silence white men.

This is yet another evolution of the term ‘political correctness’ whose history both Voegeli and Chait trace. It’s not the political correctness experienced by an employee fired after a social justice warrior lynch mob pounces on him on social media and, if the 51 percent of Democrats and liberals had their way, tried, sentenced and sent to jail. It’s an internecine leftist power struggle.

Can Chait really expect that a majority of liberals will support criminalizing hate speech while the speech of professional progressives remains protected from the Mau-Mauing of identity politics?

Voegeli rightly points out that, “Liberals tell radicals that they agree with their goals, but working within the system—letting liberals negotiate the deal—is the only way to get even a portion of what liberals and leftists seek together.” But is Obama a radical or a liberal? Obama works within the system, but only to the extent that the system meets his goals. When it doesn’t, he stops negotiating and issues executive orders. Then he launches a media pressure campaign and does what he wants anyway.

Obama uses the language of the liberal, referencing civil rights, FDR and American history, while governing like a radical. And as Voegeli also points out, that’s not a new phenomenon, when FDR made “your typical hashtag campaign fanatic” resemble “a bashful centrist”. Americans don’t like radicals. More Americans would refuse to vote for a Socialist than for a Muslim or gay political candidate. But the Socialist can still win as long as he pretends to be a liberal moderate rather than a radical leftist.

The hybrid leftist-liberal works within the system when it comes to rhetoric, but not in reality. Obama tours the country giving speeches in which he implores Congress to do something or work with him while he ignores Congress and rules unilaterally. But Obama wouldn’t be getting away with this if his attitude didn’t reflect the hypocrisy of how self-defined liberals actually think and act.

A handful of liberals like Jonathan Turley and Alan Dershowitz have been willing to call out Obama’s abuses of power. They are notable mainly for raising topics of process that the rest mostly ignore.

The dynamic of the liberal and the leftist became outdated when the leftist began dressing up like the liberal while the liberal slummed at receptions for Black Panther members. And then the leftist had a liberal façade and a radical core and so did the liberal. The difference between them was that the leftist knew that his façade of moderation and tolerance was a disguise while the liberal didn’t.

Instead of liberals, there are two types of leftists pretending to be liberals; those who have been lying to Americans and those who have been lying to themselves. Both have gone around the country and the university with their “inner totalitarian”, as referenced by this site’s motto, screaming to get out.

“Liberals believe (or ought to believe) that social progress can continue while we maintain our traditional ideal of a free political marketplace where we can reason together as individuals,” Chait wrote.

But it’s a question of defining what social progress is. If social progress is legal equality and a country where a black man can be president, then seemingly we have quite a lot of it. But if social progress is instead the perpetual conflict of identity politics with an intangible white supremacy that Voegeli writes about, then social progress is a zero-sum game. Minorities cannot rise without attacking white people.

This form of social progress is really political repression and it can’t take place in a free political marketplace. When Obama talks about racism being in the country’s DNA and permeating every institution, he’s expressing a zero-sum identity politics understanding of social progress.

If the system is fundamentally unjust, then process doesn’t matter. If slavery has tainted everything, then what grounds are there for clinging to a Constitution written by dead white men? Why defend the First Amendment against outraged demands by young activists for a better society through censorship?

Chait talks a lot about American liberalism, but not what it’s based on. He defends it as if it sprang out of thin air and created a better society. But if American liberalism was a radical revolution that created a better society; why not let the radicals of today create an even better society by overturning it?

The old liberals understood the debt they owed to the Constitution. They knew that America was a journey, not a destination. The new liberals clumsily place their personal inconveniences within the framework of principles whose origins they are unwilling or incapable of defending. They echo the same memes about America being an unfair and unjust society, but expect their readers to exclude the principles, like the First Amendment, that make their existence possible from that verdict.

Then they belatedly realize that they have spent years whipping up hateful mobs ignorant of such fine distinctions and who lack the intellectual and moral tools to do anything except listen to the radicals.

American liberalism died when the liberals decided that outrage mattered more than reason. They turned to every radical cause that called on their empathy without measuring it against their morals or their principles. Political correctness became a conservative insult, rather than a liberal one, when liberals ceased to object to censorship and dogma. They became politically correct totalitarians.

Political correctness is what happens when reason dies, ideas go unchallenged and become beliefs. Debate is banished as offensive and insensitive. Dissent is suppressed to protect the unquestionable rightness of the cause. Society closes down and turns repressive. Conformity sets in and even minor differences lead to violent xenophobic reactions, emotional outbursts and the creation of safe spaces.

Radical leftists didn’t do all this. Liberals helped them do it. As Voegeli writes, “Liberals and radicals share a basic understanding about what they loathe and about what the world will look like when they succeed in removing its injustices.”

Political correctness is what that world looks like. It’s a world of hysterics who have developed an elaborate vocabulary that is part Marxism and part therapy manual to avoid listening to other people. It’s a world where justice is synonymous with power and injustice is synonymous with dissent.

It’s a world in which a majority of Democrats and liberals agree that the Bill of Rights must go.

The liberal is dead. In his place is a leftist with his true inner totalitarian self screaming out loud.

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