The Trump Era is going to be great for watching the Civil War on the LeftTM (and hence this investment advice: buy long popcorn futures). Today’s exhibit is the reaction to Mark Lilla’s New York Times article from last weekend, “The End of Identity Liberalism,” in which Lilla, a professor of the humanities at Columbia University and a self-identified liberal, actually says some sensible things:
But how should this diversity shape our politics? The standard liberal answer for nearly a generation now has been that we should become aware of and “celebrate” our differences. Which is a splendid principle of moral pedagogy — but disastrous as a foundation for democratic politics in our ideological age. In recent years American liberalism has slipped into a kind of moral panic about racial, gender and sexual identity that has distorted liberalism’s message and prevented it from becoming a unifying force capable of governing.
One of the many lessons of the recent presidential election campaign and its repugnant outcome is that the age of identity liberalism must be brought to an end. . .
Well, for this little bit of sense Lilla is being attacked by one of his faculty colleagues, Katherine Franke, who is the Sulzbacher Professor of Law and the Director of the Center for Gender and Sexuality Law at Columbia. Franke, writing in the Los Angeles Review of Books yesterday, begins by comparing Lilla to David Duke, and goes downhill from there in “Making White Supremacy Respectable Again.”
In the new political climate we now inhabit, Duke and Lilla were contributing to the same ideological project, the former cloaked in a KKK hood, the latter in an academic gown. Both men are underwriting the whitening of American nationalism, and the re-centering of white lives as lives that matter most in the U.S. Duke is happy to own the white supremacy of his statements, while Lilla’s op-ed does the more nefarious background work of making white supremacy respectable. Again. . .
Lilla’s op-ed makes an argument for the commonalities between Americans, arguing that we have to move on to a “post-identity liberalism,” refocusing our attention away from identities to broader, more abstract ideas of “citizenship.” “Narrower issues,” like the right to choose a bathroom, should be worked on “quietly” and “sensitively” so as to not scare away potential allies. This argument, put simply, trivializes several generations of civil rights organizing in the service of breathing life into the dying corpse of political (neo)liberalism.
Yeah, because gender-fluid bathrooms are just like the march on Selma. It gets better from there—my favorite part is Franke dismissing Lilla’s praise of feminism as “mansplaining”—but you can take the whole thing in yourself if you are a glutton, or have a decent supply of good whiskey at your elbow as I do right now. (I don’t have it in me right now to dilate the campus left’s fixation with “neoliberalism,” except to say that the one major presidential candidate of recent times who actually channels some of the leftist critique of so-called “neoliberalism” is . . . Donald Trump. Heh.)
Meanwhile, today’s chaser comes from the Washington Post (!!):
Money quote from David Betras, chairman of the Mahoning County (Ohio) Democratic Party:
“Look, I’m as progressive as anybody, okay? But people in the heartland thought the Democratic Party cared more about where someone else went to the restroom than whether they had a good-paying job,” he complained. “‘Stronger together’ doesn’t get anyone a job.”
Pass the popcorn. (And please please elect Keith Ellison to be DNC party chair!)