This ought to give conservatives some insight into what the campus left is saying about race and gender. They should ask themselves whether their rage about Williamson is not, perhaps, similar to how underrepresented minorities feel about their experience in many other American institutions. And see if they don’t develop some sympathy for the occasionally vivid expressions of anger that erupt when people respond to minority complaints with “Sorry, that’s just how things are, and also, many of you deserve it.”
As for liberals: Well, guys, check your privilege. Try to really imagine what it might be like to have a conservative identity when cultural products almost all skew liberal. That is, to be one of the few acceptable villains for all the movies and jokes and television shows. To see your viewpoint systematically excluded and slighted. To have your daily life, your beliefs, routinely handled with ignorance and insensitivity.
Then imagine what it would be like to complain, and get eye-rolls from the very same people who talk a lot about privilege and microaggressions. Or worse, get the same tired tropes that majorities always hand the minority: “Gaslighting” (“that thing you just saw happen didn’t happen at all”); sneering explanations that your intellect, morals, or manners make you unfit for elite spaces; or sad shrugs at the impossibility of anything ever changing.
If that happened to you, probably you’d be pretty mad. You might even become occasionally intemperate in your speech. Heck, you might even say “to hell with respectability politics,” and vote for a loudmouthed reality television star whose signature campaign move was telling cultural hegemons to take a long stroll off a short pier.
If we are in total war, it’s not World War II, but World War I, with both sides deeply entrenched, and neither side controlling sufficient strategic resources for outright victory. Which leaves us with two choices: We can keep killing each other without ever really advancing. Or we can seek an armistice, and a generous peace that lets us live together as neighbors rather than enemies.
What would an armistice look like? Serious question. I’m open to this prospect, but I don’t see how we get there.
On the left, at least, the dynamic seems to be turning even more extreme — and against other leftists. A reader points out this piece from the (now Kevin Williamson-free) Atlantic, the gist of which is here in the headline:
The piece goes on to talk about the ins and outs of urban politics, including demographic shifts and cultural changes, have helped bring this about. Some of it is good news! For example, it says that there has been an exodus of blacks from Northern cities to the South, because more and more blacks see opportunities for themselves in Southern cities, which are less expensive, and where the legacies of segregation have abated. And there are cases like Detroit, which was ruled by black mayors for some time, and where a certain number of black voters may well have reasoned that the skin color of the person sitting in the mayor’s chair is less important than whether or not the mayor is competent. Isn’t it, you know, progress that people vote for candidates based on their competence and character, not their race, gender, or sexuality?
That’s not very 2018, it seems. The reader who sent that in says:
This has been a long time coming, and I’m certainly not surprised. I don’t know why a white male would bother seeking the 2020 Dem. Presidential nomination – or anything from State Rep. on up really, that’s party-based on that side of the aisle. A white male that tries to criticize the likes of Kamala Harris or Elizabeth Warren will immediately be met with accusations of sexism, misogyny, and racism (since they’re both minorities, right?) – even if it’s purely a substantive critique, in which case it’ll be called – perhaps the stupidest term in the progressive lexicon – ‘mansplaining.’
Will this potential alienation bring caution and moderation to their discussion? I doubt it. When has the political Left ever moderated itself before doing massive destruction? As you’ve noted lately, they’re even pushing the radical feminists out because of gender ideology. I guess when you have an opponent that’s self-destructing you just let them, but this is going to get uglier before it gets more respectful.
I think this is true, but we know on the Right that our side is caught up in a highly fluid dynamic that’s remaking the landscape over here. The left-vs-right dynamic that McArdle identifies is certainly real, and I appreciate the perspective she brings to the Williamson episode. What complicates it even more is that the dynamic is at work within the two broad political factions as well. On the Right, competence and character had nothing to do with Donald Trump’s winning the presidency. It was mostly about identity politics.
If and when everything boils down to identity politics, no matter whether you are on the Right or the Left, what happens? To continue with McArdle’s metaphor, what if World War I continued while the nations waging it also waged civil war within? Thoughts?