Protesters fill the street during a women's march that brought tens of thousands Saturday, Jan. 21, 2017, in Seattle. Women across the Pacific Northwest marched in solidarity with the Women's March on Washington and to send a message in support of women's rights and other causes. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

The Left Covets Power Above All Else

With the Women’s March concluding, many of us on the right are laughing at the outrage among certain leftwing circles over the March as transphobic or harmful in some way to the trans community. As liberals trot out the trope about men being unable to have opinions on abortion since they cannot get pregnant, they are hurting the feelings of men who have decided to become women. The ability of the left to eat their own over stuff like this never ceases to amaze. But on it goes and on it grows. In that regard, I hope you will read the piece below from a friend who gave me permission to post it here. It is on point.


A distinguishing feature of the modern left is the remarkable variety of its totems and the increasing rapidity with which they change. One need look no further than the ideological bona fides required of its presidential candidates: what Barack Obama professed in 2008 is now unacceptable; what Bill Clinton affirmed in 1996 is hopelessly retrograde; and what Jimmy Carter believed — particularly in his 1978 restoration of Jefferson Davis’s citizenship — must be ruthlessly exorcized from society. A sort of progression (these are “progressives” after all) is retroactively imposed upon the sequence, but in reality it is almost wholly unpredictable. If at the apogee of the working-class left at midcentury, or the at the valorous heights of the civil rights struggle, you told AFL-CIO or SNCC rank and file that in half a century their successors would fervently work for — to pick just one example — the rights of men to pretend they are women and vice versa, no one would have believed it. How did we proceed from the rights of labor and racial equality to that? Yet here we are, and we only know two things about what’s next: we have almost no ability to forecast what it will be, and it will come all of a sudden.
This fast and merciless progression seems anarchic, purposeless, and fratricidal, especially as certain elements of the left are cannibalized for failure to keep up, or for emerging on the wrong side of a newly imposed totem. Witness, for example, the current intra-left flareup against “white feminism,” on the grounds that white feminists are fairly often racially insensitive or worse; or the wholesale elimination of the white working class, bedrock of the labor movement, from the left’s ranks in the last election cycle; or the war on Catholic social teaching and services despite Catholic bishops’ earnest efforts across generations to accommodate nearly every social-left fad of the modern era. What does it benefit the movement to subtract from and suppress its own? As it happens, there is great benefit if the operational metric of success is properly understood.

That metric is power.

To think the fratricide is all mere self-damaging violence is to misunderstand the mechanism. The constantly shifting ontologies and loyalty requirements are in fact a tremendously effective mechanism of group discipline and control. Because it is impossible to know what’s next in the cavalcade of newly obvious truths, it is therefore impossible to safely and confidently adhere to any particular truth at all. Consider the individual who believed that marriage is a union of one man and one woman, just as President Barack Obama did up through spring 2012. This is now unacceptable bigotry, of course, and our individual will think twice before unreservedly endorsing that sort of thing again. What, after all, is the next domino to fall: perhaps marriages may involve more than two people? The reaction is to future-proof the self, assuming a sort of intellectual defensive crouch that does not necessarily proclaim anything beyond the orthodoxy of the moment, but does maintain open pathways toward that orthodoxy’s (very near-future) overthrow and replacement. The point of the exercise is not to inculcate particular views of marriage (which we invoke here as just one example of many fast-moving orthodoxies) but to habituate the individual to those changes. Once you have a mind ready and prepared to accept radical revision of basic ontological propositions on short notice, you have a mind prepared for whatever purpose you desire. This is power.

Another effect of the mechanism is to promulgate the left’s orthodoxies into spheres beyond themselves. Again, the rapidity and unpredictability of the thing drives the phenomenon. You can’t know if something nonpolitical — by which we mean presently untouched by the orthodoxies — will abruptly become political, but you do know that being caught on the wrong side of that process is a figurative death sentence, for reputation and livelihood. Therefore we again see future-proofing in action: the defensive mechanism is to pre-politicize nearly everything, infusing all facets of life with the orthodoxies in the hopes that it will maintain the good graces of the left at large. An example close to home is the Sustainable Food Center in my own neighborhood. They do good work, and maintain a lovely community garden nearby that the kid loves. They are, basically, gardeners. And yet, last year they decided to subject their entire staff to anti-racist training: “Racism is a subject that is difficult to talk about,” they declare, “uncomfortable to confront, and absolutely necessary in addressing the work that we do regarding food access here in Austin.” Now, let us acknowledge that there are issues of race and class in foodways! But again, the thing this is about is not actually the thing this is about. A gardening collective doesn’t need anti-racist training. Gardens aren’t racist, and a squash or a snap pea from a bigot is the same as from a practitioner of toleration. It is not a political thing except in the classical sense. But it is politicized, in the modern sense, because it is the safest course. Again, we see the discrete elements reacting according to the imperatives. And we see something else: the promulgators of the orthodoxies have others do the work for them in insinuating those orthodoxies across every sphere of life. This is power.

Finally, the rapidity and unpredictability of the change imposes upon the subject a constant anxiety, and therefore a constant need to check and monitor the sources of new orthodoxies. In classical totalitarian-left societies, this was achieved fairly easily, by attentiveness to the Party or the Leader and their organs. Those societies also tended to value the appearance of consistency, as grimly satirized in Orwell’s “1984,” requiring a continual re-write of history to conform to the orthodoxies of the moment. The modern left has advanced well beyond both, disposing of the need for a single controlling authority and a consistent or coherent history. (This doesn’t mean the imposed retroactive narrative doesn’t exist and doesn’t have utility, because narrative always does: it simply means there is no singular figure with any need to save face according to that narrative.) In its place is a dispersed variety of sources and drivers for new orthodoxies, some of it organic and more of it intentional. The future-proofing here takes two forms: the individual must engage with those communities and learn their ontologies on their terms; and must also abdicate his or her judgment to them. This is power.

The picture we see, then, is of a mechanism that through rapid and unpredictable change, enforced through social and material means, produces a citizenry that is off-balance, anxious, attentive, and willing to outsource moral and intellectual judgments to an inchoate but nevertheless real band of external authorities. The narrative that makes it acceptable is labeled “progress,” but it is simply about power. What is achieved is a sort of democratic totalitarianism, a self-policing society, retaining all the displays of certitude but none of the substance. It is a remarkable achievement, and even its opponents — who may be the only ones to see it clearly — should acknowledge it as such. This is what they have constructed, and it works, and it may win.

This is power.

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Erick Erickson

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