In a New York Times column yesterday, Bari Weiss made what could be a very risky move. She acknowledged that the Progressive Left marches hand in hand with some really hateful people. In doing so she’s possibly making herself a target for those who reflexively defend the Left’s haters.
Weiss claims to have voted for both Democrats and Republicans, but from her analysis it seems pretty clear that she’s no centrist.
The image of this fearsome foursome, echoed in more than a few flattering profiles, was as seductive as a Benetton ad. There was Tamika Mallory, a young black activist who was crowned the “Sojourner Truth of our time” by Jet magazine and “a leader of tomorrow” by Valerie Jarrett. Carmen Perez, a Mexican-American and a veteran political organizer, was named one of Fortune’s Top 50 World Leaders. Linda Sarsour, a hijab-wearing Palestinian-American and the former head of the Arab-American Association of New York, had been recognized as a “champion of change” by the Obama White House. And Bob Bland, the fashion designer behind the “Nasty Women” T-shirts, was the white mother who came up with the idea of the march in the first place.
What wasn’t to like?
A lot, as it turns out. The leaders of the Women’s March, arguably the most prominent feminists in the country, have some chilling ideas and associations. Far from erecting the big tent so many had hoped for, the movement they lead has embraced decidedly illiberal causes and cultivated a radical tenor that seems determined to alienate all but the most woke.
She goes on to expound upon the extremist associations and hateful views of the Women’s March cast of characters. The piece is written as if this is all newly discovered information for her. Hopefully she’ll keep digging because the Women’s March is not unique in embracing radicals. (One of the biggest haters out there has his own show on MSNBC. Al Sharpton helped foment riots over the racially motivated rape hoax by Tawana Brawley, but he still has credibility on the Left for some reason.)
Weiss does point out that the Democrats very nearly elected an anti-semite, Congressman Keith Ellison, to be their party chairman. She makes quite a few very good points in her column. Like many on the Left however, Weiss embraces a false moral equivalence.
I can already hear the pushback. What’s a few impolitic tweets and photos compared to the horror show of this administration? Save your outrage for the transgender ban in the military, for the lies that spew forth daily from the press briefing room, for the cuts to Planned Parenthood, the shady business with Russia, and, and, and.
But the nightmare of the Trump administration is the proof text for why all of this matters. We just saw what happens to legitimate political parties when they fall prey to movements that are, at base, anti-American. That is true of the populist, racist alt-right that helped deliver Mr. Trump the White House and are now hollowing out the Republican Party. And it can be true of the progressive “resistance” — regardless of how chic, Instagrammable and celebrity-laden the movement may seem. Recall that only a few months ago, Keith Ellison, a man with a long history of defending and working with anti-Semites, was almost made leader of the Democratic National Committee.
I am obviously no apologist for Trump or the alt-right but characterizing the Trump administration as a “horror” and a “nightmare” for making transgenderism one of the multitude of reasons—including ingrown toenails and flat feet—one can be rejected by the military is extremist language that only helps the Left justify its haters. Lies from the press briefing room (like “If you like your plan, you can keep your plan”) are not unique to this administration, and cutting Planned Parenthood is a policy difference with which you may disagree, but one of the above qualifies as “hate.”
Disagreement is not hate, no matter how much the Left tries to convince us otherwise. “Hate” in a political sense is more accurately called bigotry which I believe was best defined by G.K. Chesterton as “an incapacity to conceive seriously the alternative to a proposition.” This describes the attitude of nearly every leftist with whom I’ve ever attempted to discuss ideas. People on the Left often seem to think that accusations of hate or racism are key to winning a debate. In reality those things are only good at stopping a debate you’re unwilling to participate in honestly.
I won’t argue that there isn’t an element of white nationalism and racism among Trump’s support because I’ve seen it myself. Are they as bad and in equal proportion to the Left’s people who support cop killers and terrorists? (I think the anti-semitism probably cancels out in any comparison between the alt-right and the far Left.)
Weiss should acknowledge that the Right is currently quite divided over Trump because of issues like that and many others. Read RedState, The Weekly Standard, National Review, etc. There are many voices critical of Trump, his character, and his policies that depart from authentic constitutional conservatism. Ms. Weiss seems to be rather alone on the Left in being critical of the skeletons her own side is hiding in the closet.
I do applaud her courage in challenging her fellow travelers on the Left though. I hope she keeps investigating and writing about this topic and isn’t penalized by the Left for not marching in lock step.