The lesson from the rejection of Neera Tanden

The failure of Neera Tanden’s nomination has led to charges that she is a victim of the cancel culture conservatives deplore. Nonsense.

Tanden hasn’t been de-platformed. She’s free to go Twitter and indulge in all the name-calling she wants.

No one is trying to injure Tanden’s ability to make a living. She’s free to take a high-paying job at some woke corporation or well-endowed think tank.

Rejection for a top government job isn’t cancellation. And it’s normal for a presidential nominee (or two) to be rejected by the Senate, even by Senates in which the president’s party holds a majority of the seats rather than only half of them. This Fox News article, relying heavily on Tevi Troy’s analysis, discusses the history of such rejections.

The modern list of failed nominees includes John Tower (himself a former Senator), Zoe Baird, Kimba Wood, Tom Daschle (a former Senate Majority Leader), Linda Chavez, and Andy Puzder. No one ever suggested that these nominees were “cancelled.”

Tevi points out that the rejection of nominees has had long-term implications for how future nominees are judged. In Tanden’s case, says Tevi, the long-term implication will be a “Twitter test.” Nominees can expect tough sledding if they have engaged in personal attacks on sitting Senators, and maybe on other public officials, as well.

Cenk Uygur claims that Tanden’s rejection means “if you ever criticize the powerful, we’ll end your career.” Nonsense.

Tanden wasn’t rejected for criticizing the powerful (nor is her career at an end). She was rejected for engaging in crude name calling. Obviously, there’s nothing wrong with criticizing Mitch McConnell, for example, and no nominee will be rejected for doing so.

Calling McConnell “Moscow Mitch” or saying that “vampires have more heart than Ted Cruz” is different. Let’s leave that kind of attack to intemperate bloggers, not aspirants for high government positions.

Skylar Baker-Jordan says that “Tanden’s position as chair of the centre-left think tank the Center for American Progress meant that it was her job to attack Republican policies and decisions at the time.” Right. To attack policies and decisions. But Tanden didn’t stop there. She attacked character through name calling worthy of a ten year-old on the playground.

If Tanden’s rejection causes people in her position to criticize political opponents by attacking the substance of their positions, rather than through crude character assassination, the effect will be altogether salutary.