Home/Rod Dreher/The Left’s Post-Trump Enemies List

The Left’s Post-Trump Enemies List

That didn’t take long. Presenting the Trump Accountability Project:


They’re compiling public lists of these people:

The Post Millennial reports:

“Yes, we are,” answered former Obama administration staffer Michael Simon, citing the Trump Accountability Project. “Every Administration staffer, campaign staffer, bundler, lawyer who represented them — everyone.”

This is totalitarian, straight up. It’s a freaking blacklist! I don’t know yet who specifically is behind this.  A former Buttigieg staffer is claiming to be part of it:

GLAAD, the well-funded gay activist group, has a something called the Trump Accountability Project. I’m not sure it’s the same exact entity, but they are doing the same thing: compiling a blacklist. They say:

The Trump Accountability Project (TAP) is a resource for journalists, editors, and other newsmakers reporting on the Trump administration, which catalogues the anti-LGBTQ statements and actions of President Donald Trump and those in his circle.

They want the media to participate in the witch hunt.

You still think I’m an alarmist withLive Not By Lies?

It’s important to understand the fanaticism of these people, and how persecutorial and prosecutorial they are. Here’s a letter I received today from a graduate student at a major state university. He gave me permission to quote it if I took out his name and other identifying characteristics:

I’m writing mostly in response to your “Ketman and the Left’s Problem” post, which really spoke to me as a closeted conservative Christian in an intensely left-wing milieu. In this year of plague, one positive side-effect is that I’ve been fortunate enough to be back home and not on campus, finishing up my degree via Zoom calls and emailing professors. This should be my last semester, and I’m champing at the bit to be done with the grad school madhouse.

Since I was a little kid, I knew I wanted to be a historian (yeah, I was one of those weirdos), and I went through undergrad with that intention, getting my BA in history at [state university]. I chose my grad school because it had a well-respected group of medieval historians working there, and I was hoping to become a medievalist myself. That dream died around the end of my first year there, and I now want nothing to do with academia aside from perhaps retaining a few academic journal subscriptions. I’m now looking to find work somewhere else where I can use the research and writing skills that I’ve spent so long honing.

What killed that dream for me was the incredibly insular culture of the department at my university and the culture of academia as a whole. Grad school is where your professors train you to become their colleague, and they really let the mask slip once you’re in. As a result, I can confirm (for my neck of the woods) that what you’ve been writing about the inability of progressive academics to grasp the profound differences separating them from the rest of society is true. Before I break down my observations of this academic culture, however, I should make a distinction between the faculty of my institution and the grad students, because there is a very big difference between the two groups. Most (if not all) of the faculty are people of the left, but they are mostly products of an older American left that still tolerated discussion. They might disagree with you (even vehemently), but as long as you can argue your case in a logical and civil manner, they’ll allow it. I have great respect for most of the professors in my department for that reason.

That said, all the professors are (at least publicly) committed to progressive politics and advancing progressive talking points in class. When everyone was still on campus, professors would make snide comments about conservatives and Republican politicians and voters. One professor said in class that he thought evangelicals held too much power in this country (as though evangelical politicians have done anything to reverse the country’s leftward slide). When I took a pedagogy seminar on teaching history classes, the professor advised us to work into our lessons facts that might challenge students’ views. Of course, all of the professor’s examples of that were course readings that would challenge conservative views on things such as gender or religious orthodoxy. Questioning progressive ideas on things like the family and authority was clearly off-limits, and all of us in the class either didn’t think to or didn’t dare try it. In another instance, I (along with many other grad students and professors) was emailed a link to the current issue of an academic journal which is themed around “Activism in the Biblical Studies Classroom” (link: https://jibs.group.shef.ac.uk/current-issue/) by a professor of religious history with whom I’ve worked. If you choose to open the link, you’ll see that it’s all about how to make progressive activists out of one’s students.

Replies to the email were uniformly positive, and one professor even said that they would try and put some of the ideas contained therein to use in their classes. In a class on papal history, we read a book on the subject by an author with ties to Trump and his legal defense during the Russian collusion probe (the book wasn’t that good, but hey, I’m not the one with the doctorate and the publishing deal), and when we discussed it in class, plenty of dismissive comments about this “conservative culture warrior” (my professor’s words) were to be heard. Almost all of the faculty have very few good things to say about the very conservative and largely rural region in which the university is located, and a few of them are openly disdainful. There’s a real sense of “these people are ignorant peasants, and it’s up to us to drag them into the light whether they like it or not.”

The grad students, however, are much worse. There is a very strong contingent of self-proclaimed socialists among them, including a few students who have derided the Democratic Socialists of America for not being far-left enough. Most, however, are progressive technocratic liberals who see no enemies to their left. In our group chats, I see regular hysterical denunciations of Trump and the Republicans as fascists, racists, misogynists, and all the usual insults. I hate to admit it, but the Kavanaugh hearings and the impeachment trial brought about a sense of Schadenfreude in me upon seeing their reactions to things not going their way. One student even went so far as to post the personal information of a woman associated with a far-right group that was planning to hold some sort of demonstration in town, asking the rest of us if we should report her to her employer (of course barely anybody showed up for the event, which I wouldn’t have even known about had it not been shared in the group chat; pictures on social media suggested that the police officers monitoring the rally outnumbered the actual participants).

They’ve also made it clear that any questioning of the LGBT movement will result in shunning, with one student actually being shunned for foolishly admitting that they had absentee-voted for a Republican candidate running for senate in their home state because said candidate was “against the existence of LGBT people.” You can’t argue with these people, who honestly see no irony in their criticisms of medieval and early modern heretic-hunters as they try and root out heresy within their own ranks. Reflecting on this away from campus and their blend of hysteria and narcissism, I’ve come away with the impression that it’s the Puritans of Plymouth Colony, not the Jacobins, who are the true ancestors of today’s progressive zealots. The rigid legalism, the zombified narrative of oppression that lives on even after they’ve won institutional power (remember why the Puritans wanted to come to the New World in the first place?), the striving for utopia (ever on the horizon: just one more election, one more policy), it’s all there. Whether we want to admit it or not, there’s something very American in the way they operate – it’s been with us since the beginning.

There are a few closeted conservatives like me in the department, but we’ve learned to keep our mouths shut, and just nod along. Sometimes, though, when we can talk privately, we share our concerns and our displeasure regarding academia and the department. Misery loves company, after all! Funny enough, I initially heard about some of these students from other students gossiping about them and their “wrong” beliefs. Some others I figured out from the occasional conservative shibboleth uttered in a class or in the grad student break room. Nevertheless, I try to be friendly with everyone in the department, and I’m decent friends with more or less everyone that I’ve worked or had class with. I don’t talk politics except with the other conservatives and one of my liberal friends who is tired of identity politics and is suspicious of the trans movement. In fact, it’s that liberal who is my best friend in the department since we have shared tastes in most other things (I hope you take some comfort in knowing that not all young people choose friends based on ideology).

This is the mindset within many elite institutions. One of the things that has become so clear to me over the past few years of writing about Wokeness is how blind people my age (Gen X) and older are to the radicalism of the post-Boomer left. If I didn’t have regular contact with academics and others who work in progressive-heavy professional environments, I would assume that the institutional left was like the kindly liberal professors I had in college back in the 1980s — the kind of people who would never stand for things like the Trump Accountability Project blacklist. Those people are dying out. Emily Abrams and her generation are the present, and the future.

John M. Ellis, a professor at UC-Santa Cruz, writes in the WSJ:

In this election season it’s almost impossible to find pro-Trump bumper stickers or signs anywhere in my town. The reason is not lack of support but fear of vandalism, or worse: People nationwide have been physically assaulted and even threatened with loss of their livelihoods for no other reason than that they plan to vote as one half of the country does, and political goals are now commonly pursued by violent means. With this our civilization seems to be regressing to a more primitive stage of its development—a time when disputes were settled by force instead of rules, and before the First Amendment guaranteed the right to speak freely on the social and political issues of the day.

That’s bad enough in itself, but worse yet is that this social regression began on college campuses, of all places, before spreading to the national culture. On one-party campuses, radical-left faculty have established a political orthodoxy that student mobs enforce, and the political culture of the nation is poisoned as those students take home with them their professors’ habit of seeing opinions that differ from theirs as an evil not to be tolerated.

The left-wing political orthodoxy is also taking the place of traditional civics. Recent graduates know much less about U.S. government than older Americans do. In 2018 the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation gave a sample of Americans a test based on the exam for U.S. citizenship. Only 19% of people under 45 passed, while 74% of those over 65 did, meaning even elderly people who learned the material more than 40 years ago can summon it from memory better than recent grads. Similar studies have found a regression in knowledge of U.S. history. Today’s universities are presiding over a nationwide reversion to civic illiteracy. That’s a disaster for the country, but it suits campus radicals. A well-informed citizenry would hardly wish to be governed by people whose ideological kin have reduced so many countries to economic and political deserts.

America’s universities were once the leading edge of an advanced culture, reinforcing and expanding the country’s best features. They steered differences of opinion away from rancor and toward well-regulated, informed debate. They welcomed eccentric opinions, expanded the boundaries of thought and learning in every sphere, prepared students for citizenship by rooting them in their society’s government and history, and trained students for nonpartisan service in the specialized professions an advanced society needs.

None of that persists today. Far from being the leading edge of an advanced culture, the universities drag America back toward a more primitive state. They have contempt for the restraints and rules that define society, such as political neutrality in nonpolitical institutions. For radicals, politics takes precedence over everything, and every field within social science and the humanities eventually degrades into a mere channel to spread progressive orthodoxies.

Ellis concludes that the public should recognize that universities are poisoning our civic space, and “cut them off.” Read it all if you have a WSJ subscription. 

Where do you think the anti-Trump blacklisters come from? They’re going to collect names, store them online, and make these names available to fellow progressives when it comes to hiring, for example. Do you not think that the people educated in these universities, and moving into positions of leadership in corporations and other institutions, will not want to use these data to keep Deplorables out? Come on.

The people who are closeted in these spaces, like the grad student who wrote the e-mail, are sending us a message about how American elites think, and the kind of future they are planning for us. There’s a reason that people who once lived under communism, the people I talked to for Live Not By Lies, are freaked out by what’s happening: they get it. They can feel it in their bones. They are not surprised by things like the Trump Accountability Project. You shouldn’t be either.

UPDATE: Blacklisting. Widespread blacklisting. Destroying careers:

about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. A veteran of three decades of magazine and newspaper journalism, he has also written three New York Times bestsellers—Live Not By Lies, The Benedict Option, and The Little Way of Ruthie Lemingas well as Crunchy Cons and How Dante Can Save Your Life. Dreher lives in Baton Rouge, La.

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