By Christopher Harper
Even classic liberals are starting to understand just how dangerous the left has become.
In a recent cover story, the classic liberal magazine, The Economist, raised comfortable questions about the “illiberal left.”
The analysis takes a few jabs at Trump and the right, but the central thesis focuses on how liberals and leftists have less and less in common.
“As young graduates have taken jobs in the upmarket media and in politics, business, and education, they have brought with them a horror of feeling ‘unsafe’ and an agenda obsessed with a narrow vision of obtaining justice for oppressed identity groups. They have also brought along tactics to enforce ideological purity, by no-platforming their enemies and canceling allies,” the magazine notes.
“Superficially, the illiberal left and classical liberals like The Economist want many of the same things. Both believe that people should be able to flourish, whatever their sexuality or race. They share a suspicion of authority and entrenched interests. They believe in the desirability of change.
“However, classical liberals and illiberal progressives could hardly disagree more over how to bring these things about. For classical liberals, the precise direction of progress is unknowable. It must be spontaneous and from the bottom up—and it depends on the separation of powers so that nobody nor any group is able to exert lasting control. By contrast, the illiberal left put their own power at the center of things because they are sure real progress is possible only after they have first seen to it that racial, sexual, and other hierarchies are dismantled.”
The magazine chooses Ibram X. Kendi, a self-proclaimed “anti-racist,” as the poster child of what’s wrong with the left. Kendi, a National Book Award winner, is the director of the Center for Antiracist Research at Boston University.
“[H]is blunderbuss approach risks denying some disadvantaged children the help they need and others the chance to realize their talents,” the magazine argues. “[I]lliberal progressives think that equity requires the field to be tilted against those who are privileged and reactionary. That means restricting their freedom of speech, using a caste system of victimhood in which those on top must defer to those with a greater claim to restorative justice.”
The Economist makes no bones about its call for liberals to battle leftists.
“The ultimate complacency would be for classical liberals to underestimate the threat. Too many right-leaning liberals are inclined to choose a shameless marriage of convenience with populists. Too many left-leaning liberals focus on how they, too, want social justice. They comfort themselves with the thought that the most intolerant illiberalism belongs to a fringe. Don’t worry, they say, intolerance is part of the mechanism of change: by focusing on injustice, they shift the center ground.”
It’s noteworthy that these classic liberals see the problem. Is Joe Biden beholden to the center or the left? As he gets shouted down from the left, it seems he shifts more that way than to the center.
I hope the liberals ignore the entreaty to push back the leftists. To me, liberal or leftist has become a distinction without much of a difference. Both philosophies are bankrupt.