Identity politics is leading us down a path of intellectual brain drain.
I am a not a conservative nor a member of the GOP. I am not a member of the ‘Alt-Right’, nor do I resent diversity. I am, however, an individual that above all else believes in rationalism, open political discourse and “real diversity”. By “real diversity”, I mean a society that is just as intellectually diverse as it is racially and ethnically. Progressives are right to claim that diversity enriches the fabric of American society, but there is simultaneously a precarious movement within the far left to shun ‘intellectual diversity’ and open political discourse. The meaning of diversity has been liquidated to a superficial realm of intersectionalism predicated on victimhood status. The more intersectional checkboxes one can claim, the more prestige they are granted in the hierarchy of identity politics. If one is from a privileged position of society, then that same person can acknowledge his or her ‘white privilege’ through a strong showing of ‘virtue signaling’.
As a liberal, I wholeheartedly embrace a society that is always striving for greater equality and inclusiveness. As a liberal, I am also becoming increasingly alarmed at the troubling streak of ‘authoritarianism’ within the Progressive Left. While Trumpism deserves severe criticism and we can do entirely better as a nation, the real imminent threat to not only American democracy, but Western society is radical progressivism. For the sake of clarification, there are overlaps between radical progressivism and liberalism. However, radical progressivism can accurately be understood as the ‘implosion of liberalism’ or good old fashioned progressivism unhinged. It is essentially unchecked liberalism, continuously festering, multiplying, reproducing and evolving into an inane state of irrationalism.
I believe in universal healthcare, paid maternity leave and ensuring that we continue to fund social security well into the future. I’m not sure I would call myself a neoliberal, but I also recognize that a market oriented economy is superior to a government controlled one. If that makes me a neoliberal in 2019, then so be it. I also believe in a diverse society, but not because I am into identity politics or because I want to show how ‘woke’ I am. It is because as a white person from the working class (lower middle class), I grew up in a diverse environment and had friends from all backgrounds. More importantly, there was incredible progress made from 1968 to 2008. That same progress during those years is now being unhinged by the anti-intellectualism, fear mongering and irrationality of identity politics. Sure, Trumpism absolutely is fueled by its own brand of identity politics, but there is something muchmore egregious brewing within the sphere of the Progressive Left. Below are some of my observations and thoughts on the matter.
Words like ‘racism’, ‘nazi’ and ‘facism’ have seemingly lost any real meaning in 2019. What was once good old fashioned political correctness has morphed into identity politics. Do you remember back in the day when conservatives would lament political correctness? Looking back, it was sort of endearing how Republicans would get all worked up when liberals insisted that we say things like ‘flight attendant’ instead of ‘stewardess’. But what was once good old fashioned political correctness has manifested into the authoritarian nature of identity politics. Words like racism and sexism are commonly weaponized by the far left as a way to not only limit political discourse, but to deflect the glaring flaws in many of their own ideas. More often than not, when politicians, such as Kamala Harris or AOC are chastised, the response is that such castigation is rooted in the racism, sexism and the controlling nature of white men. But what about in cases when the policies of prominent female politicians of color are called into questions because those same policies are deeply flawed?
Are we no longer allowed to criticize a progressive politician who is also a woman of color? Isn’t that in itself racist and merely pandering to minority groups instead of just treating everyone the same? And if there is the constant threat that one can be labeled a racist or sexist simply by disagreeing, then what have been and what will continue to be the consequences for political discourse in America? Again, we should always be actively condemning racism or any form of discrimination when it actually occurs, but the weaponization of racism, homophobia and sexism by the Far Left as a way to circumvent and ultimately dictate speech hints at a movement rooted in authoritarianism rather than true progressivism.
Identity politics is leading us towards ‘brain drain’ from within. Let’s be honest. We are becoming dumb as a society. Intellectualism is increasingly watered-down to talking points. This dumbing down is also occurring on the Right, but I thought the real intellectuals almost always existed on the Left? What we are witnessing on the political left is the ‘evaporation’ of intellectualism. Where have all the smart people gone? Have they simply lost their minds or are some of them merely too afraid to speak out against a tyrannical movement of ‘authoritative leftism’? It is not only conservative voices who are attacked, but even other members of the political Left in 2019 can now be vilified for daring to question the ‘woke narrative’.
The dire consequences of such a toxic environment is resulting in ‘brain drain’ from within. In other words, American society and ultimately Western society is not ‘progressing’, but imploding. The real intellectuals and truly creative and talented individuals are being alienated in favor of those that ‘check off the boxes’, say the right things or can claim a high ranking status in the hierarchy of intersectionalism. The present functions on the achievements, sacrafices and deeds of the past, but the consequences of indentity politics, if not already, at one point are going to become quite noticeable. And what about those engineers, doctors and scientists that have moderate or conservative views? Are we also going to purge the most talented and skilled technicians because they don’t hold the correct political perspective?
The ‘fringe’ is more than just a fringe and is essentially running the show. In the words of Eric Weinstein, the fringes on both the Left and Right have become terrifying while the ‘cowardly center’ takes a backseat. Personally, I am more critical of the far political left for two reasons. One, because I am a liberal, I want to see honest and geniune liberal principles upheld. Secondly, if we are not careful, we are going to unleash a wicked reactionary movement from the far right. A movement which is likely to turn violent. I’ve had a couple of good left-leaning, yet rational friends say to me, “identity politics and all that cultural stuff is just fringe politics and nothing to worry about”. If this were 2007, I would agree, but the situation has changed substantially during the past decade. The fringe is no longer the man-hating fat chick with blue hair that works in a record shop. The ‘fringe’ in 2019 often works in a white-collar environment, dresses professionally, has a 401K and is organized. The ‘fringe’ in 2019 has the financial and political clout to not only influence, but to essentially seize control of the Democratic party and hold political discourse hostage. Within the realm of the political Left, what used to be considered the ‘fringe’ is now making a strong case for hegemony.
The rise of progressive Identity politics has correlated with a new brand of comedy, which can be referred to as ‘anti-comedy’. How long do we have to pretend that Amy Schumer is funny or that Steven Colbert is still worth watching? Comedy is supposed to touch upon something deeper within the inner workings of our souls. It is intended to poke holes, expose, and analyze the painful nuances of life. True comedy is brutally honest. Comedy is a tool and a mechanism that allows us to come to grips with the absurdities of life. It serves as an outlet for our darkest, most perverse and heinous thoughts. It is also a space within our society that needs complete exemption from any notion of political correctness. If the comedian wants to be crass, disgusting, perverted, cynical or overly offensive, he or she needs such liberty in order to truly perform the art of comedy. However, comedy has suddenly been kidnapped by ‘anti-comedy’. Whereas we used to go to a comedy show to escape the nuances of life, it is becoming common to now be lectured to by the standup comedian. The stage is no longer a space for art, but a political platform to espouse ideas of the Progressive Left. Ideas in which the ‘anti-comic’ is unqualified to discuss, yet feels emboldened to do so by a false sense of confidence and self-righteousness.
They say that those who decry identity politics are really in opposition to inclusiveness. This is a strawman argument. A common rebuttal to those that critisize identity politics or intersectionalism is that people like myself are actually just oppossed to diversity, equality and ultimately ‘threatened’ by minority groups moving up the social ladder. This is an absurd argument on so many fronts. Surely there is a small percentage of Americans in 2019 that are xenophobic and racist. However, this certainly is not the norm and the real argument against identity politics is that this growing movement of anti-intellectualism is creating dire rifts within American society. The problem of identity politics is that it is not progressive, but actually regressive and is leading us to a precarious future. It should also be noted that is not strictly an American problem, but a larger issue within Western culture.
Making straight white males the enemy is not the solution and is also an irrational argument. The woke narrative is hellbent on making the ‘straight white male’ its antagonist. The population of the United States is still roughly 65 percent White and if we include white Latinos, that number is more like 70 percent. To be objective, there are undoubtedly radicalized, young White men on the outer fringes of the far right and the government should be using all of its resources to identity these individuals. However, the narrative of the far Left consistently subscribes to the notion that the root of American society’s problems in 2019 can be narrowed down to ‘white male privileged’. Are there privileged white males in the United States? Absolutely, just as there are plenty of priviliged white females. But there are also different types of white people and varying socio-economic classes among white people. Let’s say that half of the white population is privileged. That still leaves 30 to 35 percent of the overall population that is white, yet not privileged. In other words, these are members of the working class (lower middle classes) and lower classes. Many whites of the working and lower class are also more likely to have genuine interactions with other racial and ethnic groups on a daily basis. Many of these same white families have members who are of mixed race.
Without question, we should be quick to condemn white supremacy and xenophobic speech. But the vast majority of straight white males in 2019 do not condone nor embrace either of these perspectives. Moreover, there also seems to be a campaign on the far left to confuse straight male masculinity with sexism, homophobia and anti-womenism. But is our society really going to be better off if we demasculinize and ultimately feminize our men? Why can’t a man be masculine, yet also a gentlemen, brave and respectful of women? And why should his skin color matter? A good man, regardless of his skin color or sexual orientation should be appreciated the same way that a good woman should be cherished. And if we really want to have honest and genuine discussions, it is statistically more likely for Black and Hispanic men to express homophobic or transphobic views.
The ‘Overton Window’ is closing. What is considered to be acceptable to say seems to be shrinking on a daily basis. It was just a few years ago, that the Left was merely shunning those on the far right, but in 2019, the ideas of even moderates and left of center liberals are now often labeled as racist, homophobic or sexist. Even more alarming is the fact that it is becoming increasingly difficult to accept the viewpoint of anyone that doesn’t subscribe wholeheartedly to the ‘woke narrative’. When we become overly sensitive as a society and actively seek out language, comments or actions that can be deemed ‘offensive’, we severely limit speech and discourse to the point that we are rarely having meaningful conversations. We have essentially raised an entire generation of millennials that are seemingly ‘waiting to be offended’. But genuine conversations cannot take place unless we are willing to engage in topics that are inherently offensive and controversial. We need space within civil society to openly discuss often vastly complex issues without the fear of being called a racist, bigot, homophobic, sexist, transphobic or whichever label is conveniently used by the outrage mob to silence intellectual discussion. When we shrink the overton window, we are really engaging in a movement towards anti-intellectualism and censorship.
‘Intellectual Diversity’ is becoming a scarcity on American Universities. Many of America’s top universities have invested vast amounts of resources to promote racial and ethnic diversity across their campuses. Some universities, including Yale, have even gone so far as to have created an entire department dedicated to diversity and inclusion. Without question, increased diversity in America’s top universities is a net positive as it is more representative of US demographics in 2019. But the movement of inclusion has also come at the great expense of sacrificing intellectual diversity. Increasingly, academia is becoming an entrenched bubble of progressive ideas. Proponents of those same ideas, including professors, administrators and student activists, vigilantly seek to shut down any sort of opposing argument. This might be good for overly sensitive types, but it is detrimental for the institutions of open, democratic society.
The problem is not that college campuses have become too liberal nor that we need more conservative voices. The danger is that the university in democratic society should be a space for discussion and open political discourse. In 2019, it is not only conservative voices that are being purged, but even moderate to left- leaning intellectuals that question the Far Left or seek to offer an alternative perspective. The American university in 2019 is becoming a space of mob rule mentality, irrationalism and one fixated on pandering to group identities. Yes, diversity should be embraced, but the individual and what that individual has to say and think must always take precedence. One should not be circumscribed by his or her group identity, but defined by his or her thoughts, actions and character, all of which are developed at a young age.
Political operatives are using identity politics as a way to weaponize race, which ultimately serves a very Machiavellian approach to grab power. While there is a certain percentage within the progressive base that truly believes that their universe is virtuous, just and righteous, there seems to be a new class of ‘progressive’ politicians that are pandering to the ideas of the far-left agenda in order to get elected, maintain a seat of power or augment their position within the Democratic Party. While there is a tendency to inaccurately pin the Machiavellian tag strictly on conservatives, there is plenty of Machiavellian behavior festering within the political echelons of the Progressive movement. Considering the imminent takeover of the Democratic party by the Progressive Left, former moderate Democrats have suddenly become ‘woke’ and the already progressive leaders seem to be doubling down on their own radicalism. From a Machiavellian perspective, it is completely understandable. After all, power is often rooted in perception.
Where do we go from here?
I think what we really need to be asking ourselves is, “how long are going to let this go on before we stand up and reject the insanity of identity politics?” Unfortunately, it might be a while before there is a congruent movement across America to defy the anti-intellectualism and authoritarian nature of radical leftism mostly because we are so politically fractured as a nation. The divide is more complex than to just say far-right Trump supporters versus the woke crowd of the far left. We have a whole swath of rational liberals, while openly condemning Trump, who are in many cases unable to openly criticize the ideas of the Progressive Left out of fear of being called a racist, sexist, homophobic or transphobic. Anyone can openly criticize Trump without consequence. But if a rational liberal or pragmatic conservative dares to speak out against the ‘progressive narrative’, there could be real consequences to pay depending on one’s organization and title. In 2019, one could lose his or her job, which means losing out on a pension, benefits, insurance and the coziness of professional life. Again, this article is not meant to condone Trumpism or advocate for the virtues of conservatism. But as a society, we need to recognize that political discourse, intellectualism and even humor is being held hostage by the authoritative nature of the Progressive Left. One can make a legitimate case that Trump is unqualified to be president, but what is festering on the Progressive Left is far more dangerous.