Discover more from PLURIBUS
E-Pluribus | September 29, 2023
What broke woke; the red-state DEI dodge; and the coming decline of everything-bagel progressivism.
A round-up of the latest and best writing and musings on the rise of illiberalism in the public discourse:
Yascha Mounk: Where the New Identity Politics Went Wrong
Yesterday’s Around Twitter (X) linked to a Yascha Mounk thread about his article recently published by The Atlantic. Mounk takes a deep dive into the history of woke (or “identity-synthesis” as he prefers to call it) to explain how we got where we are today and why, in his opinion, the movement is firmly on the wrong track.
The identity-synthesis advocates are driven by a noble ambition: to remedy the historic injustices that scar every country, including America. These injustices are and remain real. Although social movements and legislative reforms can help address them, the practice of politics, as the sociologist Max Weber famously wrote, is the “strong and slow boring of hard boards.” It rarely provides remedies as quickly or as comprehensively as hoped—leading some to conclude that a more radical break with the status quo is needed.
The appeal of the synthesis stems from promising just that. It claims to lay the conceptual groundwork necessary to remake the world by overcoming the reverence for long-standing principles that supposedly constrain our ability to achieve true equality. Advocates of the identity synthesis reject universal values like free speech as distractions that conceal and perpetuate the marginalization of minority groups. Trying to make progress toward a more just society by redoubling efforts to realize such ideals, its advocates claim, is a fool’s errand.
But these ideas will fail to deliver on their promises. For all their good intentions, they undermine progress toward genuine equality among members of different groups. Despite its allure, the identity synthesis turns out to be a trap.
As the identity synthesis has gained in influence, its flaws have become harder to ignore. A striking number of progressive advocacy groups, for example, have been consumed by internal meltdowns in recent years. “We used to want to make the world a better place,” a leader of one progressive organization complained recently. “Now we just make our organizations more miserable to work at.” As institutions such as the Sierra Club and the ACLU have implemented the norms inspired by the identity synthesis, they have had more difficulty serving their primary missions.
Read it all.
Thanks for reading PLURIBUS! Subscribe for free to receive new posts.
Scott Yenor: How Red-State Universities Evade DEI Restrictions
While Florida governor Ron DeSantis and others in Florida and Texas have made some headway in their war against diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) in state schools, DEI advocates in those states are not taking it lying down. At City Journal, Scott Yenor documents how some DEI administrators in those states are simply going underground to keep the systems in place.
Florida’s and Texas’s reforms stand out as the most impressive of 2023 to date. The Texas bill prohibits universities from operating offices that condone differential treatment of races, promote racial hiring, or conduct diversity training programs. Administrators who violate these provisions can be suspended after a first offense and fired after subsequent incidents. The Florida bill bans monies supporting DEI activities or political activism. Penalties for violations are enforced through administrative rules.
But while Texas and Florida universities are rewriting their rules to bring their practices into alignment with new state law, DEI commissars have signaled their intention to overcome the ban on DEI statements through “holistic hiring.” Even as former Texas A&M president Kathy Banks was promising to obey Governor Greg Abbott’s executive order banning DEI statements, her hand-picked associate provost for diversity, Annie McGowan, was articulating a strategy for obeying the letter of the law but violating its spirit. She told the Texas A&M Senate to discontinue DEI statements but to keep evaluating candidates based on their diversity-related experience and to construct job searches in such a way as to attract and hire DEI advocates.
Florida is still prepping regulations for dismantling DEI offices in public universities. Media reports suggest that the state’s best academics and diversity advocates are being chased out. The reality is different: diversity advocates are, for the most part, disguising themselves and burrowing deep within bureaucracies to wait out the current political environment.
Read the whole thing.
Robert Tracinski: Is ‘Supply-Side Progressivism’ Doomed?
Under Donald Trump, some conservatives have pondered how much conservatism can one downplay or discard and still have conservatism. At Discourse Magazine, Robert Tracinski writes that some on the left are now asking themselves, how much can progressivism surrender and still be progressivism? Tracinski says that even as some progressives figure out that government regulation has its dark side, they are loath to admit that it’s hurting their cause.
The term “supply-side progressive” was coined by Ezra Klein, who laments that “progressives are often uninterested in the creation of the goods and services they want everyone to have.” A lot of us have been saying this for years, but it’s a startling admission coming from the inside. The result, Klein continues, is “cost disease socialism,” which he summarizes succinctly: “If you subsidize the cost of something that there isn’t enough of, you’ll raise prices or force rationing. You can see the poisoned fruit of those mistakes in higher education and housing.”
[ . . . ]
Klein’s best effort to get at the central issue, though, is his critique of “everything-bagel liberalism”: “You might assume that when faced with a problem of overriding public importance, government would use its awesome might to sweep away the obstacles that stand in its way. But too often, it does the opposite. It adds goals—many of them laudable—and in doing so, adds obstacles, expenses and delays. If it can get it all done, then it has done much more. But sometimes it tries to accomplish so much within a single project or policy that it ends up failing to accomplish anything at all.”
In other words, every project has to become an everything bagel. It can’t achieve just one progressive goal; it has to achieve everything, everywhere, all at once. Klein’s first example is California’s attempt to subsidize “affordable housing,” a bagel which has been overloaded with regulations such as a mandate to use small, minority-owned contractors—a requirement that adds expenses and delays to housing construction. His second example is the Biden administration’s attempt to subsidize microchip manufacturing in the U.S., onto which the administration has piled mandates for worker child care and other demands.
The progressives’ mania for achieving every goal through government regulation and mandates prevents them from achieving anything.
[ . . . ]
If we followed the supply-side progressives’ prescriptions, we might become great at building housing for the homeless, but we could still have a thousand restrictions on housing for the middle class. We could complete a wealth of “green energy” projects but still have rolling blackouts because we shut down conventional power plants. We would clear the way for projects that involve properly progressive goals of redistribution, but we would not clear the way for projects that are desirable just because the average person wants to be happy and prosper. Would that really be progress?
Read it all here.
Around Twitter (X)
More in the battle between schools and parents on the issue of gender identity from the Foundation Against Intolerance & Racism (FAIR):
Via Colin Wright, here’s an update on the anthropological kerfuffle from earlier this week:
And finally, it might not replace Goodnight, Moon, but this Ibram X. Kendi book seems destined to become a classic in its own way.