I’m That Guy who occasionally “corrects” someone who attributes social justice and critical race theory to liberals. I reply, “not liberals, progressives,” because there’s nothing liberal about it, at least from my perspective. Liberals support free speech and due process. Liberals believe in equality, not equity. Liberals stand for principles, not the ends justify the means.
Having fought too hard for these things all my life, I’ll be damned if I’ll stand idly by while the name that neo-cons fought so hard to sully is taken by the illiberals on the left. Of course, that doesn’t make me appreciated by the social justice warriors, particularly the baby lawyers and, even more specifically, the baby public defenders for whom anything shy of full-throated support of critical race theory make me a Nazi sympathizer.
Just as I refused to be silenced by the neo-cons for my reprehensible support of civil rights, I’ll no more cave into the tyranny of the woke. As a criminal defense lawyer, being called bad names is nothing new. It no more hurts my feelings now than before.
But critical race theory is seductive to liberals who don’t put too much thought into their views. It shares similar outcomes, to end racism and promote the vague ends of morality, decency and justice. Drawing fine lines requires both a good deal of effort in thinking about why beating people in the name of equity isn’t the same as overcoming racism. Plus, most people don’t feel strongly enough to endure the outrage mobs should they express a cogent view that fails to adore the progressive icons of the moment. Who needs that crap?
When Trump announced that the federal government was going to end public monies from being used to promote critical race theory, there was a roar of approval from two very distinct areas. The first were the racists, people whose view was that white privilege was not only a thing, but a good thing because, well, it’s good for white people. But there was a second group, hardly in favor of racism but definitely antagonistic toward social justice and critical race theory because of its illiberalism.
Were they right to applaud Trump because the enemy of your enemy is your friend? Cathy Young explains why this was the wrong path.
But if one agrees that these trainings are bad and often toxic, even if some of them aren’t quite as terrible as reported — at best, studies seem to show that they are ineffective — does that mean Trump’s order to stamp them out in the federal workforce is a victory?
There are several good reasons the answer is no.
There is a very strong tendency to view the world in binaries these days. You’re either for something or against it, and if you’re against it, you must be similarly joined at the hip with all the other evil people are against it, because of course you are. But isn’t there a broad gap between those who believe in the authoritarian left and the authoritarian right?
Getting Trump to lead a pushback against misguided anti-racism training is like getting Harvey Weinstein to lead a pushback against #MeToo overreach. In other words, it can only tarnish the effort and drive many potential allies to the other side. To quote the title of the book by #NeverTrump Republican Rick Wilson: “Everything Trump touches dies.”
Trump may be personally racist, as evidenced by the stories told by unethical rat bastard Michael Cohen, although I doubt Trump cares enough about race that he wouldn’t flip on a dime if he thought it would get him re-elected or make him a buck. But he’s still Trump, the vulgar, amoral, deceitful ignoramus we elected. That doesn’t mean everything that happens during his regime is inherently bad, but that anyone who thinks that anything positive that happens, blind squirrel notwithstanding, makes Trump any less ugly misses the point. Even when something useful happens on his watch, he’s still Trump.
But Trump’s still the president, and so he can actually do something as opposed to shooting finger guns at the woke. Doesn’t that count for something?
This doesn’t mean, as Rufo suggested in response to my criticism on Twitter, that opponents of far-left ideology gone mainstream should have no strategy beyond “write another thinkpiece explaining why wokism is bad.” Training programs that promote stereotypes or stigmatize white males under the guise of advancing diversity, or require employees to embrace a political viewpoint, are almost certainly vulnerable to court challenges. Hearings in Congress or in state legislatures could also play a role in exposing toxic ideology in anti-racist clothing.
In the battle for the hearts and minds of America, and particularly its youth, Liberals like me are losing the battle. We demand too much, actual thought rather than shallow belief in their secular religion. Can we expose the toxicity of critical race theory without embracing Trump? Perhaps the better question is whether we can move the zealots away from their blind faith if we do.
But any meaningful action would almost certainly require an alliance with liberals who oppose identity politics and “wokism.” An alliance with Trump is likely to have the opposite effect.
Any hope of bringing the woke around will not only fail by associating liberal ideals with Trump, but will engender a backlash that will likely evoke a knee-jerk resort to even more authoritarian entrenchment, and likely well deserved.
The result would certainly not be a defeat of political correctness, but further polarization and entrenchment on both sides: an increasingly militant cultural left versus an increasingly nasty and brutish Trumpian right, rooted not in the principles of individual liberty and morality but of a white, far-right version of identity and grievance politics.
Liberals may not tolerate the untenable and irrational, and fundamentally illiberal, weapons of the left to ram their outcomes down our throats by use of swarms of outraged gnats, violence and their incoherent rhetoric of hate, but we have far less in common with the “nasty and brutish Trumpian” right. We didn’t spend all those years fighting against racism and intolerance, and for civil rights, even for the Nazis of Skokie, to forfeit our principles for the sake of expediency.
Nobody said it would be easy to be a principled liberal, especially when we find ourselves playing monkey in the middle, but even if Trump isn’t completely wrong about critical race theory, he’s still Trump.