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E-Pluribus | December 16, 2021
Illiberalism among the young American Right, a woke medical school, and the echo of the French Revolution in modern day progressivism.
A round up of the latest and best writing and musings on the rise of illiberalism in the public discourse:
Sam Adler-Bell: The Radical Young Intellectuals Who Want to Take Over the American Right
The rise of Donald Trump has already produced (or revealed) schisms in conservatism. A recent article at The New Republic by Sam Adler-Bell takes a look (clearly from outside of conservatism) at a number of young intellectuals on the right who have their own ideas of what conservatism should be, ideas that in some cases conflict with traditional conservatism and even reflect some of the illiberal tendencies conservatives point out on the other side.
“Conservatism in 2021 means radicalism,” announced Nate Hochman, a 23-year-old writer at National Review. Describing the posture of his political milieu, Hochman spoke with urgency and without pretense, less eager to impress than to be understood. “We have to think of ourselves as counterrevolutionaries or restorationists who are overthrowing the regime.” He doesn’t mean by violence, necessarily. “But … there’s not a lot left to conserve in the contemporary state of things. There are things that need to be destroyed and rebuilt.”
Whichever denomination they prefer, New Rightists tend to agree that classical liberalism—of the sort embraced by previous generations of conservatives—has a big hole in the middle of it where a substantive concept of the Good should be. “My core belief is just that you can’t be a libertarian,” said Declan Leary, an integralist writer at The American Conservative. “You have to be something.” Leary, who is 22, lacks Hochman’s infectious sincerity; he can be rather droll and speaks in a world-weary tone belied by the occasional postpubescent voice crack. But Leary is no less passionate in his views. “All law is imbued with moral character,” he told me. “Let’s stop pretending otherwise, and just acknowledge which morals we’re trying to legislate … and then commit ourselves to them.”
Not every young conservative shares the New Right’s orientation; some of the people I spoke to for this article dissented vociferously. But even the dissenters tend to acknowledge, if begrudgingly, that the “energy” among young conservatives is with the radicals. “The flavor of today’s politics is populism on the left and right, said Stephen Kent, a 31-year-old libertarian writer and podcaster. “It’s dismantling and challenging systems.” Kent speaks in a plaintive, almost philosophical tone about the failure of his own views to capture the moment: “Young people want radical ideas right now.” And though he believes libertarian ideas can be “quite disruptive to the status quo … the young right don’t see it that way.” For them, libertarianism is synonymous with the laissez-faire approach to economics and morality that dominates Washington, D.C., and has permitted the twin cancers of hyper-individualism and secularism to metastasize through the culture. “I suppose that’s the fault of libertarians,” Kent reflected, regretfully.
Read the whole thing here.
John D. Sailer: Woke Wolverines
Pluribus has featured several articles (most recently one by Sally Satel, item #3 on December 3rd) detailing efforts of some in the medical community to implement a social justice agenda in their chosen field. John Sailer at City Journal reports on developments reflecting this trend at Michigan Medicine of the University of Michigan, a drive initiated by students but fully embraced by the leadership as well.
The school was happy to oblige. It created a Racial Justice Oversight Committee, which released its Action Plan in early 2021. The 24-page document lays out concrete steps based on the students’ demands, steps which were then “endorsed by Michigan Medicine Leadership.” Thus, Michigan Medicine promised to integrate racially divisive ideology into its curriculum. Closely following student demands, the plan calls for a redesign of Michigan Medicine’s undergraduate, graduate, and continuing medical education. The redesign should adopt the new framework “in partnership with health justice education professionals.”
The Action Plan lays out how it will achieve that objective. One of the plan’s “deliverables” calls for hiring outside experts: “Recruitment of critical race theory, health justice education, and intersectionality expert(s) to develop scholarship/update med school curriculum, residency/educator training.” Another calls for expanded faculty training “on how to teach intersectionality, health justice, and critical race theory from materials developed by recruited experts.” The plan even vows to “provide anti-racism, critical race theory, health justice, and intersectionality resident education for residents as applied to medical care and include curriculum based on Ibram Kendi’s Stamped from the Beginning book.” Kendi famously argues that any disparity between groups is, by default, a symptom of racism—a disputed brand of “antiracism,” to say the least.
Inserting such work into the curriculum is unlikely to improve education at Michigan Medicine, but it’s guaranteed to politicize it—and that’s no surprise, given that the Action Plan explicitly advocates injecting politics into the practice of medicine. Another objective calls for “the inclusion of dedicated time and resources to faculty, staff, and learners for leadership/professional development and advocacy.” This implies that the apolitical practice of medicine is not enough; doctors should be activists.
Read it all here.
Michael Lind: How American Progressives Became French Jacobins
While acknowledging that “[a]nalogies can be pushed too far,” Michael Lind at Tablet Magazine nonetheless finds philosophical similarities between today’s progressives in America and the Jacobins of 18th century France. Lind writes that progressives’ penchant for centralization, executive authority, deference to experts, and anticlericalism, among other things, puts them in close company with the French radicals of the 1790s.
[…] The progressives of my acquaintance—mostly intellectuals and activists, not ordinary Democratic voters—favor the federal government by default and tend to view the states and counties and cities as relics of the past and obstacles to sound national policy. When a public policy strikes them as good, their first impulse is to think that it should be mandated for the whole country by Congress (or the president or the federal courts). The notion that something might be a good policy, and yet should not be imposed nationwide, but adopted or not by states or localities as they see fit, is a strange idea to many progressives for whom a federal law or mandate is always the first resort.
Likewise, many progressive intellectuals and activists of my acquaintance would make every judicial case a federal case, if they could. In their view, the federal government can be evil—albeit only when controlled by Republicans. But few if any progressives I know would argue that, if left-of-center Democrats controlled the federal, state, and local governments, there should in principle be limits on the power of the progressive Democratic Congress or White House to overrule the equally progressive and equally Democratic state legislatures and city councils.
While many have argued that the Great Awokening that has swept the American corporate-bureaucratic-nonprofit-media-academic oligarchy, though not the population as a whole, is driven by a kind of sublimated Protestantism, the iconoclastic gestures of the woke left—toppling statues, vandalizing churches and public buildings, censoring books and movies, “canceling” people (who are allowed to keep their heads)—more directly evoke the excesses of the French Revolution. The attempt of The New York Times to push, through the culture and the public schools, the idea that “1619,” the date of the arrival of the first Black slaves in British North American colonies, is the true “founding” of the United States of America, is an example of elite-sponsored ideological iconoclasm and brainwashing comparable to the French revolutionary calendar. Robespierre might have admired the pseudo-religious ritual in which House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer “took a knee” to protest the history of American white supremacy while wearing kente cloth, which along with the daishiki is part of the kitsch culture of the old Black Power movement that fell out of fashion in the 1970s.
Read it all.
Via the Foundation Against Intolerance & Racism, a call for empathy from Douglas Murray for our forebears:
Glenn Greenwald hears echoes of the past from the right now coming from the left:
Not long after “Defund the Police” gained attention and momentum, San Francisco has had enough, and Andrew Sullivan and Michael Shellenberger says it’s none too soon:
And finally, a ten tweet thread (click through for it all) from Peter Boghossian on perhaps a more promising element of prison reform, as opposed to “abolition”: