CRB: Which side are you on?

Just in time for summer reading, the spring issue of the Claremont Review of Books has arrived. Subscribe here for the heavily subsidized, ridiculously low price of $19.95 and get immediate online access thrown in for free. If you enjoy books and politics, the CRB is the best magazine going. If you enjoy reading about books about politics, ditto.

Courtesy of our friends among the CRB editors, I took an advance look at the new issue last week and selected three pieces to have placed online as a preview for Power Line readers. I selected them in part to give a sense of the variety on offer in the issue and in part because of my interest in the individual pieces, but that still left a lot in the issue for you to explore on your own. As always, I thank the editors for allowing us to make these pieces available to our readers.

Bill Voegeli has become one of my favorite contributors to the magazine, of which he is also a senior editor. Bill is the author of the invaluable books Never Enough: America’s Limitless Welfare State and, most recently, The Pity Party: A Mean-Spirited Diatribe Against Liberal Compassion.

To the new issue Bill has contributed the essay “Which side are you on?” It is a long, winding consideration of the phenomenon of political correctness, triggered (warning!) by Jonathan Chait’s New York cover story of this past January taking up the issue from the left. Can liberalism rescue us from political correctness? Bill takes us on a ride that I find of interest from beginning to end. I asked Bill if he would briefly comment on Kirsten Powers’s treatment of political correctness as an introduction to his CRB essay. He responded by comparing her approach with that of Chait’s as set forth in the essay:

Conservatives have been denouncing political correctness for a long time … and to little avail. The “man-bites-dog” principle, however, dictates that when a prominent liberal condemns political correctness, people will notice. Thus, one reason The Silencing: How the Left is Killing Free Speech has received a good deal of attention in the month since its publication is that Kirsten Powers considers herself a liberal. “Liberals are supposed to believe in diversity,” she writes, “which should include diversity of thought and belief.” But that attitude has become the exception, not the rule, now that “an alarming level of intolerance emanates from the left side of the political spectrum toward people who express views that don’t hew to the ‘settled’ liberal worldview.”

Twenty years ago, Powers worked in the Clinton administration and wrote for the American Prospect. More recently, though, she has proclaimed her Christian faith and become a Fox News commentator. Even though she usually provides a left-of-center perspective in that capacity, her own departures from the settled liberal worldview have allowed some on the Left to dismiss her and her book.

For conservatives who read New York magazine’s Jonathan Chait, by contrast, never is heard an encouraging word. So when the author of a 2003 article that began, “I hate George W. Bush,” wrote one earlier this year titled, “Not a Very P.C. Thing To Say: How the Language Police Are Perverting Liberalism,” people took notice … and many of them got very angry. The shouting match was, of course, entertaining, but also important, raising questions about the nature of liberalism and its relationship to illiberal and anti-liberal leftists. At CRB, we felt the subject merited thorough exploration; the result is my Spring 2015 essay, “Which Side Are You On?”

If you have any interest in the subject, I think you will find Bill’s essay worthy of your consideration.