E-Pluribus | January 3, 2023
How many sides does history have anyway?; the poisoning of American politics; and an explosion in discrimination complaints in 2022.
A round-up of the latest and best writing and musings on the rise of illiberalism in the public discourse:
William Deresiewicz: There Is No Right Side of History
Progressive William Deresiewicz does little to hide his contempt for some of the individuals and ideas on the opposite side of the political spectrum, yet as he writes for The Free Press, he finds claims about being on “the right side of history” contemptible as well.
The phrase [“the right side of history”] embodies a specific view of history, the idea that the course of human events—with whatever stops and starts and temporary setbacks—traces an inevitable upward path. The notion dates back to the nineteenth century, if not earlier: to Hegel and Marx, to the liberal or “Whig” historians, to the Progressive movement itself. "The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice."
[ . . . ]
I should say that I am a progressive myself. Not that I believe in the progressive view of history, but that I am politically progressive—at least in the economic, Bernie Sanders sense. But I have lived long enough to know that history is perfectly capable of slamming into reverse and backing up at 50 miles an hour. It happened with Ronald Reagan. It happened with Vladimir Putin. It happened with Trump.
Yet who’s to say what constitutes “reverse”? Who’s to say where history is headed, even in the long run? To take but one example: In The Great Exception, the historian Jefferson Cowie argues that the New Deal and its progeny—the liberal heyday from FDR to LBJ—was not the norm from which we’ve lamentably swerved. It was itself an anomaly, the result of a unique and unrepeatable confluence of circumstances. The norm, he says, is what preceded and followed it. “It might be more accurate to think of the ‘Reagan revolution,’” Cowie writes, “as the ‘Reagan restoration.’”
As for “history will judge”—the moral side of the progressive myth—it is no less a delusion. “History,” of course, means the future, and “judge” means condemn. But to say that the future will condemn x or y is to assume that the future will look like “us”—that by the time the future rolls around (whenever that may be) everybody will agree with us.
Read the whole thing.
SUBSCRIBE FOR FREE:
David French: Activism and Apathy Are Poisoning American Politics
David French (newest New York Times columnist David French, that is) writes at The Dispatch about two pervasive threats to American politics: activism and apathy. As politics invades every corner of American life, those who are consumed with it and those who are sick to death of it can be a toxic combination.
[E]xtreme perception gaps exist [between Democrats and Republicans] on issues involving race, sex, religion, and guns. The message is consistent and clear, our opponents are much less extreme than we think they are.
Why are we so wrong? As with any complex social phenomenon, there’s no single explanation. Media is certainly part of the answer. It turns out that “the more news people consume, the larger their perception gap.” The media is so efficient at highlighting extremism that it misses the morality and ideology of the vast majority of Americans.
But there’s another answer, one that’s much less comfortable than simply blaming the media (again) for (another) failure. I’d submit that a toxic combination of activism and apathy are poisoning American politics.
[ . . . ]
[W]hy single out activism and apathy? The activists represent the small minority of Americans who focus intensely on politics. A very small minority do this professionally; a somewhat larger group are political hobbyists. But members of both groups often consider politics their purpose.
Read it all.
Ari Blaff: Civil-Rights-Discrimination Complaints More Than Doubled for the Education Department in 2022
There was a time when complaints to the government over “civil rights” and “discrimination” usually came from the Left. Ari Blaff at National Review reports, however, that in 2022, such complaints at the Department of Education doubled from the prior year and at least part of the reason is a shift in strategy by conservative groups.
Statistics released by the Department of Education reveal that the Office for Civil Rights received a record-breaking number of discrimination complaints in the last fiscal year, between October 2021 and September 2022.
During this period, the federal agency logged roughly 19,000 complaints, doubling the number received during the previous fiscal year and shattering the 16,000 cases registered back in 2016, the New York Times reports.
[ . . . ]
While many complaints focused on hate crimes and some were related to certain high-profile cases in Arizona and Iowa, the majority of discrimination complaints came from students with disabilities. Indeed, an analysis of over two decades of Education Department data indicates that disabled students are the largest claimant group, according to EducationWeek.
Additionally, left-leaning civil-rights groups such as the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, the NAACP, and the Legal Defense Fund have used civil-rights-discrimination suits to challenge educational institutions for failing to uphold inclusive learning environments. In particular, former president Donald Trump’s appeals for creating a “1776 Commission” and molding a “patriotic education” system galvanized many of these organizations’ activities.
More recently, conservative nonprofits have adopted a similar approach. With the 1619 Project’s growing popularity, and the seeping of identity politics into elementary education, conservatives have begun to turn to the Education Department’s complaint mechanism as a means of challenging the cultural zeitgeist.
Read it all here.
Jesse Singal on the continuing decline of the ACLU:
And via the Foundation for Individual Rights & Expression, who among us had “scavenger hunts” on a list of mental health threats?
And finally, also via the Foundation for Individual Rights & Expression, some (lowercase) common sense from Thomas Paine for the new year: