The Left’s Intensifying War On Liberalism

Andrew Sullivan on the negative impact of extreme political correctness:

And the paradox of this within the gay rights movement is an astounding one. For the past twenty years, the open, free-wheeling arguments for marriage equality and military service have persuaded, yes, persuaded, Americans with remarkable speed that reform was right and necessary. Yes: the arguments. If you want to argue that no social progress can come without coercion or suppression of free speech, you have to deal with the empirical fact that old-fashioned liberalism brought gay equality to America far, far faster than identity politics leftism. It was liberalism – not leftism – that gave us this breakthrough. And when Alabama is on the verge of issuing marriage licenses to its citizens, it is the kind of breakthrough that is rightly deemed historic. But instead of absorbing that fact and being proud of it and seeking magnanimity and wondering if other social justice movements might learn from this astonishing success for liberalism and social progress, some on the gay left see only further struggle against an eternally repressive heterosexist regime, demanding more and more sensitivity for slighter and slighter transgressions and actually getting more radicalized – and feeling more victimized and aggrieved – in the process.

Which reveals how dismal this kind of politics is, how bitter and rancid it so quickly becomes, how infantilizing it is. Any “success ” for one minority means merely that the oppression has been shifted temporarily elsewhere. Or it means that we dissenters in a minority have internalized our own oppression (by embracing the patriarchy of civil marriage, or structural hegemonic violence in the military) and are blind to even greater oppression beyond the next curtain of social justice consciousness. Or we find out in bitter debates about who is the biggest sinner, that in some cases, are actually more white than we are female; or more black than we are trans; and on and on. This process has no end. And almost as soon as it begins, many people in the gay rights movement or in feminist movement will soon find themselves under attack for not being sufficiently enlightened, and, in fact, for being complicit and even active in others’ oppression. Chait has a great dissection of what Michelle Goldberg has also observed among some contemporary feminists – an acrid, self-defeating, demoralizing and emotionally crippling form of internecine warfare that persuades no one outside the ever tightening circle of true believers.

The Left’s Intensifying War On Liberalism

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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